The Angry Birds have landed…on credit cards that is. Roughly a week after American Express and Zynga announced the launch of the Farmville Prepaid Card, it came to light that the wingless flying wrecking balls that have captured consumers’ hearts through the popular Rovio cellphone game and a number of notable endorsement deals will now grace MasterCard credit cards.
The only problem is that the first incarnation of the Angry Birds Credit Card will be issued in Russia, not the United States. Rovio, the games Finland-based developer, and Internet Retail Solutions (IRSOL), a leading Russian online retail company, recently struck a deal with Promsvyazbank, the 10th largest financial institution in Russia, to produce an initial batch of 100,000 cards, which will be available to the bank’s customers on June 4.
“Angry Birds is extremely popular both globally and in Russia as it brings positive emotions and fun to the entire family,” said Alexander Semenov, CEO of IRSOL, in a statement announcing the partnership with Rovio. “Our philosophy – to endeavor to make our customers happy with every small detail - is similar to that of Rovio, so we are especially excited to represent Angry Birds.”
While no such deal has yet been reached with a US bank, you shouldn’t feel too bad. Reports have it that the card, which charges a $10 first-year annual fee and $15 per year thereafter, does not offer much aside from snappy branding and discounts on Angry Birds merchandise (on which consumers around the world spent a cool $106 million last year alone).
Indeed, Angry Birds has become a global sensation, but it’s still fair to wonder, why credit cards and why only Russia?
Since Angry Birds launched in December 2009, it has been downloaded over one billion times. That popularity, combined with the amount of money the game’s fans are willing to spend on branded materials, is all the reason a credit card company needs to slap some furious fowl on its plastic. The move will undoubtedly garner increased attention and new customers for both Rovio and the bank issuing the cards.
Russia’s credit card market is also far less competitive than that of the United States, and branding could honestly be the deciding factor for a Russian consumer trying to decide between two offers. With more available options in the United States, consumers have been conditioned to gravitate toward the cards that will save them the most money on their biggest expenses. Suffice it to say that Angry Birds-related spending is (fortunately) not a major expense category for anyone.
In addition, Russia is a hotbed for Angry Birds popularity.
“We have been looking for a partner in Russia for several months,” said Claes Kalborg, Rovio’s senior vice president of licensing, in a statement. “This is a very important market for us as it already has the largest internet audience in Europe.”
The game has been downloaded 13.6 million times in Russia, says IRSOL CEO Alexander Semenov, and 5% of the game’s users are located in the country, according to AppAppeal.com, a website that reviews and compares smartphone applications. However, that only makes Russia the third largest haven for Angry Birds fans out of the 37 countries for which App Appeal lists usage statistics. The United States actually ranks second, delivering Angry Birds 13.2% of its users, and India comes in first, as it is home to 18.5% of Angry Birds users.
Perhaps Rovio has plans to swoop into these larger markets, but I suppose we will just have to wait and see. Regardless, the card’s terms will have to be significantly improved for you to care where it ends up landing.