Rovio to design versions of Angry Birds for China

Rovio Mobile, the developer of the Angry Birds game, plans to release Chinese versions of its hit product later this year, as it hopes to turn the game brand into China’s biggest entertainment franchise, an executive said Thursday.

The Finnish company said on Wednesday that worldwide downloads of the game had reached 140 million.

Angry Birds first started as an Apple iPhone app launched in December 2009, and has since become one of the most popular mobile games on the market. About 50 to 60 million downloads of Angry Birds are for use in Android devices, according to the company.

Rovio now sees a major opportunity in China’s gaming market, said Peter Vesterbacka, chief marketing officer for the company.

The company is targeting 100 million downloads of the Angry Birds game in China this year. This target is achievable if one considers China’s vast number of mobile phone users, he added. According to the country’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, China has 889 million mobile phone users.

“100 million really is a small number for China,” Vesterbacka said on the sidelines of the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing. “We are not being that ambitious.”

Downloads of the Angry Birds game in the country have already touched 10 million, he added.

Rovio intends to attract China’s users to the game by releasing Angry Birds on a variety of platforms such as PCs and lower-end feature phones.

Rovio is setting up a team in China for game development, while also looking for partnerships with Chinese companies and distributors.

“We want to be more Chinese than most Chinese companies,” Vesterbacka said.

Rovio plans to take advantage of the popularity of Angry Birds to build it into a broad entertainment franchise, that will include merchandising, comics and an animated TV show. The company wants to try this model in China as well, where Angry Birds is already one of the most copied brands in the country, Vesterbecka said.

“We are very serious about China,” Vesterbecka added. “We want to be the leading entertainment brand.”

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