Finnish birds plan to build nests in China
Updated: 2012-06-15 02:49
By He Wei in Shanghai (China Daily)
Rovio Entertainment Ltd, the maker of Angry Birds, outlined a series of China-related business plans on Thursday, including opening activity parks and retail outlets, as part of its quest to get a billion fans for its popular mobile game.
Its commitment to the country has also prompted the Finnish company to "incorporate quite a few Chinese elements" in its new game, Amazing Alex, to be released in July, said Peter Vesterbacka, the company's chief marketing officer.
Two Angry Birds activity parks will be launched in the coming autumn.
One will be in Haining in Zhejiang province, and the other, smaller in scale, will be in the Sino-Finnish Center at Tongji University in Shanghai.
The park in Haining is being financed by the city's government, while the park in Shanghai is being financed by the local government of the Finnish city of Espoo, where Rovio is headquartered.
"This is just the first step for us. We are planning to bring hundreds of Angry Birds activity parks to cities throughout China to encourage healthy, active and educational play," said Henri Holm, senior vice-president of Rovio Asia.
Meanwhile, the first Angry Birds retail outlet outside Finland will be open in Shanghai on July 3, followed by another one in Beijing a week later.
Vesterbacka said that the company plans to open outlets in 100 cities across the nation over the next 12 months.
The brick-and-mortar stores are the latest attempts to engage Chinese users after introducing Angry Birds spinoffs through e-channels on Tmall.com, China's largest business-to-customer site in February.
Online revenue has been "encouraging", Vesterbacka said, without giving figures. By introducing physical stores, Rovio wants to show its appreciation to Chinese fans by serving them even better locally, he added.
Another example of Rovio's expanding brand presence in the country is to partner with Coca-Cola China in an online campaign that invites the public to support Chinese athletes at the upcoming London Olympics.
The Web-based mini game allows players to enjoy special Angry Birds Coca-Cola-themed levels and collect "drumbeats" to cheer for the Chinese athletes.
The game, which has been downloaded more than 140 million times in China, has rapidly gained popularity as it is relatively simple and not time consuming.
Rovio's sales jumped 10-fold to around $100 million last year as gamers flocked to download its titles. Consumer products, which include merchandising and licensing, generated around 30 percent of its revenues.
During Rovio's Shanghai office launch event last year, Vesterbacka said the operation will be conducive to "laying a solid foundation for future acquisition activities". According to Reuters, it is preparing for an initial public offering in either New York or Hong Kong.
He said the company now has a good cash flow to finance its activities and is primarily focusing on designing games.
Rovio's moves have shown clearly how closely it is following in the footsteps of The Walt Disney Co, by creating memorable animated characters and a profitable product line, said Sun Mengzi, a games specialist with IT consultancy Analysys International.
"Because users don't spend a lot of time on casual games, it is important to transform their current success into long-standing, physical figures that you can reach in your everyday life," Sun said.
But she cast doubt on its ambitious plans due to widespread piracy in China. "Many users just want birds that look like those in the games, no matter whether they are authentic or not."
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