Creator of Angry Birds in talks to venture into China [Times of Oman]
(Times of Oman Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) HONG KONG: Rovio Entertainment, creator of the 'Angry Birds' mobile-phone game, has said that it's in talks with Chinese companies including Baidu and Sohu.com to work on winning players in the world's biggest Web market.
The discussions involve possible new methods of Internet distribution in China, Henri Holm, senior vice-president at Rovio Asia, said in an interview in Hong Kong, where he is based. The Finnish company is also in similar talks with Renren, after starting work with Tencent, Sina, Youku and Qihoo 360 Technology, he said.
Rovio has recorded more than 100 million downloads for the 'Angry Birds' game in China, helped by demand from users of phones running Google's Android operating system, and Apple's iPhone and iPad devices. China's biggest Internet companies such as Baidu and Tencent are expanding services to diversify from businesses focused on personal computer users.
"The number of smart devices is growing exponentially" in China, said Holm, a former executive at mobile-phone maker Nokia. Downloads of the game will increase 'dramatically' in the Asian nation this year, he said, declining to provide a forecast.
Rovio, based in Espoo, Finland, last month introduced a new edition of 'Angry Birds', and in February started offering a version for Facebook users. Tencent, Sina, and Renren operate social-networking services in China, where Facebook's website is restricted. Baidu is owner of the most-popular Chinese search-engine.
Rovio sees an opportunity for companies to place ads targeted at 'Angry Birds' users as they play the game, according to Holm.
Top of the chart "Advertising is one of the ways we can monetise," Holm said. In China, the majority of 'Angry Birds' users play the free version of the game, where advertising can be placed, he said. Sales of 'Angry Birds'-themed merchandise account for most of Rovio's revenue in China, Holm said. Rovio plans to open its first retail store in the country this year, after starting a 'mock-up' outlet in Shanghai in 2011, where purchases couldn't be made, he said.
Rovio sells merchandise such as stuffed toys and coffee mugs through its online store, as well as retail partners in China. 'Angry Birds' players use a virtual slingshot to fire birds at structures populated by green hogs. The touchscreen game zoomed to the top of the chart in Apple's online app store in 2010, before Android-based versions were introduced.
Rovio may offer an 'Angry Birds' game that can be played on Web browsers running the HTML5 technology in China, Holm said. Only about 10 per cent of Internet users in China have access to the technology now, he said.
Rovio is 'working towards' an initial public offering (IPO), though the location hasn't been decided, Holm said. The sale won't happen this year, he said. Last year, the Finnish firm raised $42 million from investors including Accel Partners, a shareholder of Facebook, and Skype Technologies co-founder Niklas Zennstrom's Atomico fund. China had 513 million Internet users at the end of 2011.
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