First 'Angry Birds' Stores Will Open in China This Year

At TechCrunch in Beijing, CMO Versterbacka Talks About Pirating the Pirates in Nod to Local Copycats

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Rovio Entertainment, the creator of the "Angry Birds" mobile-phone games, will open its first retail stores this year in China, its fastest-growing market.

The company aims to hit $100 million in retail sales in China in the first year of store operations, Chief Marketing Officer Peter Vesterbacka said at the TechCrunch conference in Beijing today. He didn't provide possible locations or say how many outlets the Espoo, Finland-based company plans to open.

"Angry Birds" has multiple game versions in which players use a virtual slingshot to fire birds at structures populated by green pigs. Rovio sells merchandise including stuffed toys, flip-flops and Halloween costumes through its online store.

"China is our fastest-growing market, so we are taking it very seriously," Mr. Vesterbacka said. "We want to be more Chinese than the Chinese companies."

The company is tailoring games to appeal to the local market, such as the recent "Moon Festival" version timed for the Mid-Autumn celebration last month, Mr. Vesterbacka said.

"Angry Birds" is the most-copied brand in China, the executive said. The company is taking inspiration from pirate merchandise, including mylar balloons featuring unlicensed characters from the game, for ideas on products to introduce, Mr. Vesterbacka said.

Digital Trends reported that Mr. Vesterbacka even took a bunch of the unlicensed Angry Birds balloons on stage with him at Techcrunch. "These balloons are created by our friends here in China," he told the audience. "We get a lot of inspiration from local producers, so I'm going to take these back and tell our guys, 'please copy these products and make them real.'" His idea of pirating the pirates got a big laugh from the assembled crowd, according to Digital Trends.

An "Angry Birds" game, in which players use a slingshot to fire birds and knock down pigs, has become a theme-park attraction in Hunan Province.

Merchandise makes up 10% to 20% of the business, and stuffed toys are selling a million units a month, Mr. Vesterbacka said in a Bloomberg Television interview this month. The "insanely profitable" company may sell shares to the public as early as next year and is probably worth more than $1 billion, he said at the time.

Bloomberg News

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