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Prices make feathers fly for Angry Birds' merchandise

By He Wei  (China Daily)

14:36, August 20, 2012

An Angry Bird-shaped electronic device on show at the Macworld Asia 2012 expo in Beijing. Its producer, Rovio Entertainment Ltd, set an ambitious target of a billion fans for the popular game via its Shanghai-based brick-and-mortar store, but sales have not been as encouraging as the Finnish company expected. (Photo/China Daily)

In comparison with its sizzling debut as a mobile game, the opening of the first Angry Birds retail outlet in China was more of a damp squib.

Its producer, Rovio Entertainment Ltd, announced an ambitious target of a billion fans for the popular game via brick-and-mortar stores but sales have not been as encouraging as the Finnish company expected, at least in the first three weeks following the grand opening in July.

On the underground floor of the Grand Gateway mall in one of Shanghai's central business districts, Xujiahui, a small group of high school girls walked into a three-dimensional version of the virtual world.

As well as colorful soft toys such as red birds and green pigs, the store sells a wide variety of Angry Birds merchandise including iPhone cases, shirts, bags, toys and, of course, games.

However, the girls decided to leave after just five minutes. No other customer was inside the shop before they entered.

"Those products are not cheap at all, especially when you compare them with the price online," said Pan Yankai, a 16-year-old who used to play the game a lot.

And by "online", she was not referring to Rovio's official e-store on Tmall.com, the country's most influential business-to-customer site, but the pirated spin-offs flooding other websites.

It is true. An Angry Birds-themed T-shirt costs 259 yuan ($40) in the store and an iPhone case sells for 138 yuan. Fakes can be bought through unauthorized channels at a fifth to one-third of the price of authentic ones.

Peter Vesterbacka, the company's global chief marketing officer, has declined to reveal the sales figures of online stores and brick-and-mortar shops. But he said the Shanghai store marks the first in a chain of 25 scheduled to open in the country by the end of this year.

The company showed its commitment to China by establishing its first overseas operation in Shanghai, where the research, marketing and sales of Angry Birds-related products is conducted.

"We are delighted to be fully operational in China. China has great potential for growth but just as exciting is the opportunity to build a creative franchise, a marriage of virtual and real life, that is special for China and exciting for our Chinese fans," Vesterbacka told China Daily.

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