While some companies might be upset that its games being pirated on a major scale in one region of the world (or their brand being copied blatantly for merchandising), Rovio is not one of those companies. Responding to evidence that its Angry Birds brand was being stolen in various ways, Rovio CEO Peter Vesterbacka took the stage at the recent Disrupt conference in Beijing, gleefully showing off 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."
His point in displaying these unlicensed knock-off products on stage was to show that its brand is very popular, and despite rampant illegal copying of its games and its physical products, Rovio will be able to make money in the region. The company claims that it uses these illegal products as inspiration for its official lines, and the demand has 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," said Vesterbacka. "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."
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 recognize that consumer demand in its future strategy.
"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," he continued. "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 has enjoyed 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 key role in making Angry Birds "the fastest growing brand ever" – "much faster than Google, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, and so on," Vesterbacka added.