Reportedly, some version of of the Angry Birds digital game franchise has been downloaded 100 million times in China. That's a lot of foul-feeling fowls and frantic flying fun. With all this brand recognition and, we can only assume, Angry Birds addicts, the next logical step for the Angry Birds franchise in China is branded Angry Birds retail stores.
One of the primary motivations for Rovio Entertainment to get into the retail game is to claim some retail territory that has been stolen by pirated Angry Birds products. So the plan is to open up to 600 Angry Birds stores in China within the next two years in order to saturate the market with official Angry Birds merchandise and drive the pirates out of business.
Certainly if you're going to be aggressive in the brick and mortar retail playing field, China is a good place to do that. But certainly if you are a digital game-making company going into the retail business for the first time, China might not be the best place to do that.
The strategy seems a little bit more revengeful than logical. To think that saturating the Chinese retailscape with Angry Birds retail stores will deter pirate product manufacturers and pirate product purchasers is to give the pirate mentality a bit too much credit.
There is undoubtedly a huge amount of room in the global marketplace for Angry Birds branded products - and TV shows, and movies, and theme parks. But I wonder if the Rovio folks have noticed that the retail trend is moving away from brick and mortar stores and moving towards Internet and mobile shopping, which are the two playing fields where the Angry Birds team has great expertise and presence already.
Taking the pirates out of the marketing mix, I'm not sure if the Rovio strategy is the best for the company in the long-term. Undoubtedly the Angry Birds retail explosion will gain plenty of attention in the short-term. But as more shoppers turn their attention away from the streets and strips and malls where the Angry Birds stores reside, Rovio is going to find itself with a lot of commercial leases that it probably never needed to sign in the first place.
Hopefully there is someone on the Rovio retail team who has been paying attention to the Apple Stores, the overhauled Disney Stores, and all the retail operations that are copying them both. Angry Birds addicts have an interactive relationship with the brand already. Birds and pigs sitting on retail shelves are not going to engage Angry Bird fanatics for very long.
Instead of doing 600 stores in a mediocre way, it would be great if Rovio created six destination flagship stores using their own brand of brilliance in a way that would blow the Apple experience away like a Big Brother Bird hurled through a Mustache Pig crate.
The Angry Birds product saturation could then occur in the retail playground that knows no boundaries - on computers and phones. Apparently that's where the Angry Bird customers like to play anyway, so why not meet them where they live?