Angry Birds developer Rovio Entertainment inked an exclusive deal to create mobile games based on children’s characters The Moomins, with the company highlighting the popularity of the brand in the lucrative Japanese market.

The deal is between Rovio, Moomin Characters and Gutsy Animations. Moomin Characters owns the copyright to The Moomins and related IP, while Gutsy Animations was behind the Moominvalley 3D TV series.

Under the six-year contract Rovio will be able to develop games for a range of platforms featuring the characters alongside exclusive rights to mobile games. The parties have an option to extend the deal by a further six years on expiry of the initial term.

The mobile gaming giant simultaneously announced it had become a minority shareholder in Gutsy Animations as the result of a €2.5 million investment and a convertible loan for an equal sum.

Announcing the deals, Rovio noted the Moomin characters had “very high brand awareness, particularly in Japan, which is one of the biggest gaming markets in the world”.

Rovio CEO Alexandre Pelletier-Normand (pictured) added the deal diversified its IP portfolio and was a “key step in our consistent growth strategy”.

Work on the first game is already underway with a soft launch expected by the end of this year.