x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Angry Birds to be slingshot into 1,001 Nights with Arab take on hit game

Angry Birds developer plans a Middle East version of the game and local activity park having clocked up 22m downloads in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The Angry Birds smartphone games have amassed more than 22 million downloads across Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait. AFP PHOTO / LEHTIKUVA / VESA MOILANEN
The Angry Birds smartphone games have amassed more than 22 million downloads across Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait. AFP PHOTO / LEHTIKUVA / VESA MOILANEN

The squawking Angry Birds are to be slingshot into the setting of One Thousand and One Nights as the developer of the hit smartphone game plans a version for the Arab world.

The Angry Birds series has amassed more than 1 billion downloads globally since its launch in 2010, including 21.8 million across Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait.

With the Middle East ranking in the fastest-growing regions for the Angry Birds titles, its Finnish developer, Rovio Entertainment, is now thinking of localising the game for the regional market.

It is also considering opening an amusement park in the region.

"We are studying the region – there is a long Arabic history and lots of interesting stories that need to be told in the region, like One Thousand and One Nights," said Harri Koponen, Rovio's chief operating officer. "We are always developing more local content – we have been focusing on themes recently."

To date, the Angry Birds game has been downloaded 14.4 million times in Saudi Arabia, 3.7 million times in Kuwait and another 3.7 million times in the UAE, according to Rovio.

"We have a lot of fans in the region – from the downloads, the merchandising. You can go to the stores and you can see the goods. It is a visible sign that it is growing," said Mr Koponen.

The company is also in talks to open a theme park in the region, based on the game and with a focus on health and exercise.

"We have an agent working here now, we are talking with possible developers," said Mr Koponen. "The focus has always been on game development – that is the core of our business. But we are an entertainment company. We have games, consumer products, animation – we are launching a feature movie, we are doing activity parks and education. Learning, health and education is also important."

Globally, the Angry Birds game surpassed 1 billion downloads early last year, a growth rate Mr Koponen said had exceeded expectations. Game players use a slingshot to launch different types of "angry birds" to destroy pigs that have been eating their eggs.

Mr Koponen said greater growth in downloads was expected with the launch this month of the BlackBerry 10 (BB10) mobile phone, which supports the game. BlackBerry still enjoys a high market share in the Middle East, and its devices account for about 20 per cent of the smartphone market in the UAE. With the BB10 launch, Angry Birds will become available to users who do not own Android or Apple's iOS devices.

"The key thing is for us to be available on all platforms and not just on mobiles, but on consoles and TVs," said Mr Koponen.

Last year the franchise generated US$125 million for Rovio (Dh459.1m), but as yet the company has no plans to go public.

thamid@thenational.ae