By Georgina Prodhan
LONDON (Reuters) - The maker of the hit mobile game Angry Birds has struck a deal with Wal-Mart <WMT.N> to embed clues to a new version of the game in merchandise sold in Wal-Mart stores, hoping to drive Angry Birds fans into the stores, and shoppers to the game.
The world's biggest retailer will stock limited-edition T-shirts, soft toys and snacks containing clues that unlock bonus levels of Angry Birds Space, which will be available in app stores from Thursday.
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 on Tuesday it was teaming up with a major U.S. retailer.
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.
"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.
Wal-Mart said: "This is just one of many exciting partnerships Wal-Mart is forging to give our customers access to exclusive content."
Angry Birds players will also be able to get clues from Wal-Mart's Facebook page, where it has 13 million fans.
Rovio already has a similar agreement with bookseller Barnes & Noble <BKS.N>, in whose stores it has dedicated areas where shoppers can buy Angry Birds merchandise and earn game credits.
With more than 3,000 stores, the Wal-Mart deal will be bigger.
(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan; Editing by Hans-Juergen Peters)