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It's going to be a big week for Rovio, which has become one of the world's most valuable gaming companies thanks to its ultra-popular Angry Birds franchise. On Thursday, the latest Angry Birds game, Angry Birds Space, will make its way to app stores around the internet.
But for players looking to maximize their Angry Birds Space experience, a trip to the local Walmart may be in order.
That's because Rovio has partnered with Walmart to sell limited edition merchandise, including apparel, soft toys and snacks. Hidden within this merchandise: game clues that Angry Birds Space players can use to unlock secret bonus levels within the app.
According to Rovio CMO Peter Vesterbacka, "We wanted to give our fans a unique retail extension to Angry Birds Space that rewards them for their eagle eyes. Only Walmart can deliver the reach across America for this type of program and we wish our fans luck as they seek out our hidden clues."
Walmart has over 3,000 stores across the United States and some 13m fans on its Facebook Page, and as Reuters notes, Angry Birds games have been downloaded more than 700m times. That makes the Walmart-Rovio relationship a powerful one, at least on paper. The concept: Rovio can potentially help drive Angry Birds Space players into their nearest Walmart in search of clue-containing merchandise, and Walmart can potentially drive its customers to app stores after they purchase Angry Birds merchandise. Win-win.
This isn't the first time a major digital gaming company has partnered with a major offline brand in an effort to create an interesting online-offline dynamic.. Zynga, for instance, sells prepaid cards at retailers like Target and Best Buy, and in 2010 forged a marketing partnership with General Mills to put Zynga virtual currency redemption codes into packages of lettuce.
While the efficacy of these deals probably varies, the Rovio-Walmart arrangement certainly won't be the last such deal and we can expect the trend of major online brands working with major offline brands to get stronger as companies learn what works and what doesn't.