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June 14, 2012

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City roost for Angry Birds?

Rovio Entertainment Ltd, the Finnish company behind the mega-popular Angry Birds game has big plans for China.

Co-founder and chief marketing officer Peter Vesterbacka says the company hopes to build a number of activity parks in China "in the not too distant future."

And it is believed that the first of these could be at Shanghai's Tongji University.

Yrjo Sotamaa, chairman of a Finnish design week event to be held at the university in October, said yesterday that Rovio, the event sponsor, would be launching an Angry Birds park as part of the program.

Sotamaa said an official announcement would be made on Friday during a visit to Shanghai by the mayor of Espoo in Finland.

However, Chen Boyi, general manager of the China division of Angry Bird, said: "We don't have any announcements at the moment but we will keep you posted with more news in the future."

Plans for a theme park in Haining City in east China's Zhejiang Province have already been announced and negotiations are under way with a number of Chinese cities, Vesterbacka said.

The world's first Angry Birds activity park opened in Finland in April. Vesterbacka's philosophy is to make the parks part of the neighborhood, just like a school, grocery store or library.

"Instead of building one massive amusement park, we're planning to build hundreds, maybe even thousands of activity parks here in China," he said.

The Angry Birds game, in which players catapult birds from slingshots at evil pigs on their mobile devices, has become a big hit in China, turning the country into the second largest market for Rovio after the United States.

The company opened its first overseas office in Shanghai late last year.

Rovio has been expanding its business beyond games and now sells plush toys, books and clothing. It even sold mooncakes featuring Angry Birds during the mid-Autumn festival last year.

Last month, the company revealed that its merchandising and licensing revenues accounted for about 30 percent of its sales in 2011. Vesterbacka said the entire value-added chain, rather than the game alone, had created the worldwide success of Angry Birds as a brand.

"We built the fastest-growing brand in the world using a game called Angry Birds. We already have a very strong presence in the physical world. So it's not just a game any more," he said.

Angry Birds' merchandise is highly pirated in China, but Vesterbacka sees that as a positive sign.

"We're happy about the fact that we're the most copied brand in China - that's a good start. Then we would like to sell our licensed products," he said.

Rovio announced last November that China would be the first country to have Angry Birds retail stores. Vesterbacka said the company was working on creating a nice shopping experience for its Chinese fans, and promised some "interesting developments."


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