Rovio Entertainment Ltd. is pulling back the slingshot and preparing to bombard China. The maker of the global phenomenon Angry Birds game just announced that it will open several theme parks in China "in the not too distant future."
Rovio's official investment in China might leave many actually in China asking, "You mean they weren't here already?"
"Angry Birds Should Start Getting Upset About IP Infringement" was the title of a post one year ago on China Hearsay, a blog written by a Beijing-based IP/IT lawyer and law professor, Stan Abrams. Abrams noted the sheer abundance of Angry Birds merchandise on the streets in China, adding that he "would be utterly shocked" if any of the products were licensed.
Indeed, Angry birds cell phone cases, t-shirts and car seat covers. Outside every park on Sunday is a balloon vendor, a selection of Angry Birds birds are always part of the offering. The trademark infringers are so bold that one Shanghai-based snack company was found to have registered the Angry Birds trademark in China.
Of course, the crowning irony of Rovio's announcement about opening theme parks is that China already had an Angry Birds theme park. A report last year in the China Daily noted that the Changsha park had transformed Angry Birds "from virtual to reality, visitors can launch tangible angry birds into evil green pigs. An industry insider said that the theme park might inspire new marketing strategies for video game developers."
Never did the China Daily, the state's official English language newspaper, mention that the extensive Angry Bords park was unlicensed. The first ever official Angry Birds park opened just a few weeks ago in the Sarkanniemi Amusement Park in Finland, where Rovio is headquartered.
"Instead of building one massive amusement park, we're planning to build hundreds, maybe even thousands of activity parks here in China," cofounder and CMO Peter Vesterbacka told Chinese reporters.
It's more than theme parks though. Now that Rovio has decided to go into China it seems to be doing it whole (exploding) hog. A wise move considering China is now the company second largest market. By last September, 40 million in the nation were playing the game. A month ago, Rovio entered negotiations with China web giants Baidu, ihoo360, and Sohu.com to explore new ways to reach Chinese Internet users, such as seeing ads placed in-game.
Earlier this year, Rovio worked with Baidu to launch a special edition "Year of the Dragon" version of Angry Birds. A month later, it opened an official Angry Birds merchandise presence on China's eBay-like Tmall.
Rovio's team-up with China's web engine and platform providers has incredible potential. A new survey by Google and Ipsos Research found that 54 percent of Chinese consumers prefer using their mobile devices over watching television.
As for all of China's Angry Birds counterfeiting, Vesterbacka says Rovio has taken a very philosophical and — important in China — non-confrontational approach. "We're happy about the fact that we're the most copied brand in China," he told reporters. "That's a good start."