By Tero Kuittinen Angry Birds, Rovio's blockbuster series, just hit 1 billion downloads globally in May, about two and a half years after its debut. Rovio has recently constructed a remarkably rich product ecosystem around its games, ranging from calendars to play parks. Now a new Angry Birds jewelry line is debuting with a decidedly upscale slant. The launch product is a silver ring designed by a noted Finnish designer Kristian Saarikorpi. Mr. Saarikorpi has earlier worked as the head designer at Tillander, a house playfully described as Scandinavia's Tiffany. He was recently named Finland's Goldsmith of the Year. It's an unusually sophisticated pedigree for the mobile game merchandising business -- and it reflects the global ambitions of the start-up company behind the new product line. Primesmith, the next-gen jewelry company collaborating with Rovio on the accessory line, is based in Fiskars, Finland. Fiskars has gained a tiny measure of global fame as the home of some of the most famous scissors designers in the world. The goal of Primesmith is to help various digital franchises to branch out to real world merchandising via quality jewelry. One target group will be popular characters from Facebook games and mobile apps. Rovio's recent co-branding success with plush toys and fashion items has created a flurry of copycatting as game brands from CityVille to Fruit Ninja are scrambling to launch their own toy lines. But while its rivals play catchup, Rovio is forging ahead, moving from toys and coffee mugs to products like de luxe baby clothing -- and silver jewelry.
The flagship, limited edition Mighty Eagle ring is priced at an ambitious $290, placing it squarely in a high-end niche most mobile app tie-in products do not target. Rovio has emphasized that Angry Birds games have unusually broad demographic appeal -- this high-end jewelry line may be one test of how powerful the brand appeal is among high-income, older professionals. A few years ago, Hello Kitty jewelry items costing more than $200 had trouble connecting with US consumers, but turned out to be a substantial hit in Japan. It could be argued that this creepy, mute cat has narrower demographic appeal than the aggressive avians. "Rovio guards the image of the Mighty Eagle character jealously", Mr. Saarikorpi points out. "Just as in the games, only a portion of the powerful bird is depicted on the ring -- his shape is never shown in full." After the limited edition Mighty Eagle ring, Primesmith is already preparing to roll out cheaper product lines better suited for mass market, including pendant and bracelet charms priced around $50. The range reflects Saarikorpi's intention of creating strong 3D shapes for the characters formerly locked to 2D environments. The upcoming jewelry items depicting pigs will add touches of drama and comedy to the jewelry ensemble that will grow to feature earrings, bracelets charms, bangles and brooches.