Rovio is turning the rampant piracy of Angry Birds merchandise in China to its advantage, TechCrunch reports.
At the Disrupt conference in Beijing, Rovio CEO Peter Vesterbacka walked on-stage holding a clutch of illegal Angry Birds balloons that he purchased on the street.
"There are a lot of Angry Birds products out there, but most of them aren't officially licensed," he said. "Angry Birds is now the most copied brand in China, and we get a lot of inspiration from local producers."
Not only does Rovio use these illegal products and designs as inspiration for its official lines, but also the obvious demand for the Angry Birds brand influenced its retail strategy.
"Right now, we've proven that there's demand, and we're going for 100 million downloads this year for Angry Birds, and again the same demand for the physical products."
"The way we look at it is, of course we want to sell the officially licensed, good quality products, but at the same time we have to be happy about the fact that the brand is so loved that it is the most copied brand in China."
"It's great for us to see the demand, and that's why we're building our own stores here. And actually we're building our first stores here, and not in Helsinki... We hope to have quite a few over the next 12 months."
China is the second biggest market for Angry Birds products behind the US, but it is growing far more quickly, and Rovio is determined to recognise that consumer demand in its future strategy.
"We actually expect to do a lot of services, a lot of products, here first. It's a different approach to some of our competitors. We want to be more Chinese than the Chinese companies."
Angry Birds Is currently at 50 million downloads in China, and Vesterbacka expects to hit 100 million by the end of the year. With global downloads now approaching 500 million, China is playing a vital role in making Angry Birds "the fastest growing brand ever" - "much faster than Google, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, and so on," Vesterbacka added.
He also reiterated the idea that Rovio is no longer a games company - "more like a Disney than an Electronic Arts" - and its ongoing plans to grow Angry Birds across the entertainment spectrum, including toys, cookbooks, animated shorts, and feature films .
However, Vesterbacka acknowledged that the Angry Birds animated film is "two or three years" away from completion, and openly expressed doubt about releasing it in cinemas.
"Who knows if they will even hit the theatres, because distribution on the movie side is changing. Right now, we have pretty massive distribution power through our game. We probably have more distribution power than any of the Hollywood studios."