Rovio Entertainment Ltd, the maker of the popular game Angry Birds, announced recently that it will open its first overseas operation in Shanghai, marking a clear step to further penetrate the Chinese market that has witnessed thriving business growth during the past year.
The move will help the Finnish company gain a greater share in the largely neglected feature phone (mobile devices that do not use an advanced operating system) sector and lay a solid foundation for future acquisition activities, said Peter Vesterbacka, chief marketing officer.
“Rovio chose Shanghai as the first location for an international office because of its unique position as one of the most creative and technologically advanced cities in the world, and also because Rovio wants to show its appreciation to Chinese fans by serving them even better locally,” said Vesterbacka at the launch event.
The new operation, located in an animation center in Shanghai’s Baoshan district, is set to be fully operational by the end of 2011 with some 20 staff members. It will be a multifunction operation, handling the research, marketing and sales of Angry Birds-related products.
The bird-slinging game has rapidly gained popularity in China, as it is characterized by simple game play and little commitment in terms of time, gearing towards a mass audience. Nearly 40 million people have downloaded the game in China.
Currently, Rovio has around 10 business partners in China, ranging from the telecommunications provider China Mobile Communications Corp to the social networking site Renren.com and the search engine Baidu Inc.
An agreement between Rovio and VoDone Ltd, a Beijing-based video and telemedia service corporation, will pull millions of Chinese feature-phone users into the Angry Birds orbit.
China has 1 billion mobile-phone users and 86 percent of them own a feature phone. “That said, this niche market will basically serve everyone and will make it possible for an even bigger audience to play the game,” said Zhang Lijun, chairman of VoDone.
Zhang said his company will include Angry Birds in its game platform, and upgrade the system to make it applicable to 80 million feature phone users. From next year, an annual 30 million new handsets will come with the game already installed.
“Hopefully, Angry Birds will become the first entertainment brand to have more than one billion fans globally. And occupying the feature phone segment is absolutely a big part of the plan,” said Vesterbacka.
He also expressed a wish to acquire emerging companies, notably Chinese counterparts, which could bolster Rovio’s growth.
“Every day we are considering buying another company, and that is what we are looking at here in China. We are determined to acquire and hire top-end talent in China,” Vesterbacka said.