Depending on your point of view, it is either a well-meaning attempt to encourage computer game addicts to exercise outdoors, or a hard-nosed business plan intended to make a multi-million euro company even richer.
And if the makers of the Angry Birds mobile app franchise have their way, the discussion could soon be played out in a city near you.
As part of its dominance of the online computer game sector, Finnish firm Rovio has announced plans to open Angry Birds “activity” theme parks across the globe. The move, being compared with the development of the Disney franchise, is still in its early stages, with Scandinavia, Britain and Asia the initial market targets.
The first sites will open in Finland next month, with more planned in China and Indonesia before the end of the year.
Despite cynics’ claims the development is just another way to ensure high profits based on a single product, the firm’s chief marketing officer, Peter Vesterbacka, insisted it will encourage children to exercise outdoors. “The game is played by two-year-olds and their grandparents.
“Hopefully, with these activity parks, they will do a little exercise. We think we will see thousands of these across the planet,” he said, adding that an unnamed US retail chain has been signed up to sell Angry Birds merchandise.
According to the Finnish firm, the planned “activity” theme parks will act as adventure playgrounds and include slides, roundabouts and climbing frames based on the characters in the game, which has been downloaded 700 million times and is the fastest growing product on Facebook.
If the sites eventually get the go-ahead, they will attempt to further encourage children and their families by giving visitors “power-ups” which would be automatically downloaded and mean their version of the game is updated.
The firm building the theme park equipment, Lappset, has confirmed it is in talks with local councils in Britain, although there are as yet no plans in place for a similar development in Ireland.
The popular computer game, which allows the player to use a slingshot to catapult birds at green pigs hidden in fortresses, was first released as a smart-phone app on Apple’s iPhone in 2009.
While Rovio continues to describe itself as “a tiny company from a tiny country”, in the subsequent three years it has increased its staff numbers from 50 to 300 and moved out of central Helsinki to larger headquarters.
On the verge of collapse at the start of 2009, the company’s value last year stood at almost €900m.
Among other expansions planned by Rovio are Angry Birds films, with David Maisel, the head of Marvel Comics, who was executive producer on Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, set to contribute.
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