TAMPERE, Finland (AP) — At Rovio, the future is Angry.
The Finnish gaming company behind Angry Birds — with more than 1 billion downloads to date — is now spreading its wings beyond the virtual world.
It has already launched plush toys, lunch boxes, clothing, stationery, food and drink items, a Formula 1 driver sponsorship deal and a jewelry line. Rovio this week announced it would launch an Angry Birds-branded debit card in Russia in partnership with a local bank. Next up: Angry Birds Land, one of the highlights of a theme park opening next month in the Finnish city of Tampere.
"All of our products are doing great," says Ville Heijari, Rovio's VP of Franchise Development. "The moon cakes we sold in China during last year's mid-Autumn Festival have done especially well."
The Rovio office interiors are exactly what you'd expect from a brash online startup: a central lounge area with couches and overstuffed Angry Birds cushions, the open-plan kitchen where employees are encouraged to mingle and exchange ideas, walls covered with larger-than-life Angry Birds characters, TV screens showing download charts, and a flock of Angry Birds toys perched on almost every flat surface.
There's no way employees or visitors — who must sign a non-disclosure form before being allowed inside — can forget which birds laid the golden eggs that fund the company.
Rovio had barely a dozen employees during the 2009 launch of Angry Birds, which features a colorful cast of avian characters who are launched by catapult, and smash their way through a series of defenses created by their Pig enemies, who have stolen eggs from the Angry Birds nest.
The latest incarnation of the game — Angry Birds Space — was downloaded 50 million times in the first 35 days of release, and currently sits at number two in the iPhone and iPad paid download charts.
Now, Rovio employs more than 350 multi-national staff, with offices in two Finnish cities, Shanghai and later this year Stockholm.
In 2011, some 30 percent of Rovio's €75.4 million ($106.3 million) total revenue came from merchandizing sales and licensing deals. Executive Vice President of Consumer Products Harri Koponen says pitches for new products come from "our fans, of course our employees, industry people who are working with us."
Finland has become something of an early testing center for Angry Birds products which could be rolled out around the world. The most visible of these is Angry Birds Land at Sarkanniemi Amusement Park.
The center-piece of the development is a sprawling adventure trail for children — combining climbing frames, slides, rope ladders, tunnels and a climbing wall. A soundtrack with character noises and music from the games is played around the area.
"I think it's in a way a dream come true," says Miikka Seppala, Sarkanniemi's CEO.
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