By Georgina Prodhan
LONDON, March 21 The maker of the hit mobile game Angry Birds has struck a deal with Wal-Mart Stores Inc to embed clues to a new version of the game in merchandise sold in Walmart stores, hoping to lure Angry Birds fans through the doors and shoppers to the game.
Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, will stock limited-edition T-shirts, plush toys and snacks containing clues that unlock bonus levels of Angry Birds Space, which will be available beginning on Thursday in app stores, from where users download software applications.
Rovio, the Finnish start-up behind the world's most downloaded mobile game, has ambitions to become a global entertainment brand. Its marketing chief told Reuters Tuesday it would team up with a major U.S. retailer.
The deal gives Rovio a lift in reaching U.S. consumers and is the latest step by Walmart to appeal to tech-savvy customers. Last week, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based chain teamed up with movie studios to offer customers at 3,500 stores the option to store their DVDs in digital form on Wal-Mart's Vudu Internet streaming site for $2 or more.
The company's value has been estimated at $9 billion, little more than two years after it first launched Angry Birds for the iPhone. The game has been downloaded more than 700 million times, and is the fastest-growing game on Facebook.
Walmart said it would offer the first of four special "golden eggsteroid" clues to its more than 13 million Facebook fans starting on Wednesday. The remaining clues will be in the merchandise that is set to appear in stores on March 25, such as Angry Birds Space Fruit Snacks.
"Only Wal-Mart can deliver the reach across America for this type of program and we wish our fans luck as they seek out our hidden clues," Rovio's marketing chief, Peter Vesterbacka, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Rovio already has a similar agreement with bookseller Barnes & Noble Inc, in whose stores it has dedicated areas where shoppers can buy Angry Birds merchandise and earn game credits.
Barnes & Noble has about 691 bookstores across the United States. Rovio's deal with Wal-Mart covers more than 3,000 of the chain's stores.