‘Angry Birds’ May Slingshot Into Starbucks in Retail Expansion

‘Angry Birds’ May Slingshot Into Starbucks
Animation graphics from the computer game Angry Birds are seen at the headquarters of Rovio Mobile Oy in Espoo, Finland. Photographer: Henrik Kettunen/Bloomberg

“Angry Birds” game creator Rovio Entertainment Oy is working on alliances with Starbucks Corp. and other retailers to reach new customers and sell a wider range of products.

Rovio, whose smartphone game has been downloaded more than 350 million times, is in discussions with Starbucks about in-store promotions, Wibe Wagemans, a senior vice president at the Espoo, Finland-based company, said in an interview. Rovio may offer virtual goods and set up electronic leader boards in stores to tout top-scoring “Angry Birds” players.

The company is trying to convert its digital success into a real-world empire by selling “Angry Birds” books, stuffed animals, T-shirts and other gear. Rovio also is planning a movie version of the game. It’s part of an effort to diversify sales and attract more customers ahead of an initial public offering, which the company says may take place within the next few years.

“It’s tying in the real world with the virtual world,” Wagemans said. “Retailers get new customers who’ve not been to their stores yet, and repeat customers.”

Having leader boards encourages customers to play “Angry Birds” on their devices at the store, so they can see their scores spotlighted, he said. The game involves using a slingshot to fire birds at enemy pigs, who build increasingly elaborate fortifications.

Starbucks Partnership

Starbucks, the world’s biggest operator of coffee shops, declined to comment on any talks with Rovio.

“While we are always looking for great partnerships to better meet the needs of our customers, at this time we have no announcements regarding any work with Rovio Entertainment,” the Seattle-based company said in an e-mailed statement.

Rovio is expanding into new areas as the market for mobile and social-networking games intensifies. While “Angry Birds” is one of the best-selling applications for smartphones and tablets, new competitors emerge daily. Among paid apps, “Angry Birds” has been bumped from the top of the U.S. iPhone download charts by Firemint Pty Ltd.’s “Spy Mouse.”

Rovio, which offers merchandise on its website, already sells 1 million stuffed animals a month, Wagemans said. He declined to discuss financial results. The company raised $42 million in funding in March, and has held talks about another investment that would value Rovio at about $1.2 billion, people familiar with the matter said last month.

Barnes & Noble

Rovio began running “Angry Birds” leader-board promotions at Barnes & Noble Inc.’s U.S. locations this year. It also sells merchandise through the bookstore chain, as well as Toys “R” Us Inc.

“Angry Birds” is now seeking to crack the market for social-networking games, where Zynga Inc. dominates. Rovio has a game for the Google+ service, and a version for Facebook Inc. is in the works, Wagemans said.

Getting the game on Facebook could shake up the market, said Elizabeth Shaw, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., a research firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“I’d definitely predict a big splash,” Shaw said. “It would definitely rev up competition.”

Rovio has versions of the game for personal computers and the Roku streaming service, and it’s looking to bring it to more television-connected devices, Wagemans said.

Users of Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-book readers who stop by the bookstores can get a free virtual item -- a Mighty Eagle. The bird, which normally costs 99 cents, appears in the game and helps players advance to the next level.

Tens of thousands of people have received Mighty Eagles in stores, Wagemans said. And more than 10,000 people have spent more than 30 minutes playing at Barnes & Noble locations, boosting the stores’ foot traffic, he said.

“There are retailers out there who have a lot to gain by increasing the time spent at their location, and increasing the money spent there,” Wagemans said.

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