Executives from Activision, Bioworld Int’l, Curve Digital, MCV and Sony Interactive discussed the burgeoning potential of gaming brands.
EUROPE–Gaming presents one of the biggest areas of untapped content for consumer products, with a host of popular characters and brands that come with a built-in, highly engaged fan base.
Up until recently the products that were created for brands in the gaming space, were either direct peripherals like gaming headsets and controllers, or logoed apparel, said Stuart Dinsey of game publisher Curve Digital.
Dinsey was part of the Licensing Academy keynote session “Gaming – Dispelling the Myths,” which took place Tuesday afternoon and also featured Seth Barton of MCV, Mark Howsen of Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe, Ashley Maidy of Activision and Richard Radford of Bioworld International and was moderated by Steven Ekstract of License Global magazine.
The panelists agreed that the merchandising of gaming brands has come a long way in recent years, but still presents a huge opportunity, particularly for more lifestyle-driven product.
“In the early days it was tempting to just slap the game logo on a bunch of products. Some consumers would buy that, but over the years we've developed an active style guide process where we focus beyond the key assets of the game and become fans ourselves," said Dinsey, who referenced a recent line of “Uncharted” products that featured a beer brand that only exists in the game, offering a kind of “secret message” to fellow fans.
From Maidy’s perspective, video game brands have an advantage because they are already at retail with their software and peripherals. Bringing other products in line with the core game items is an easy next step for retailers.
She still believes though that having strong characters is key, whether you’re in the gaming space or any other form of entertainment. For example, Maidy said that Activision’s character-based brands have a depth and breadth of reach at retail that non-character brands such as “Candy Crush,” while still successful, just can’t match.
And the strong characters that populate many of today’s most in-demand gaming titles, have naturally led Activision, along with other game publishers, into other avenues of entertainment from films to TV to web series. So much so that Activision now refers to itself as an entertainment company.
“The game is the driver, eSports is the multiplier and linear content is the expander,” said Maidy.
eSports itself is the fastest growth area for Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe, said Howsen, with opportunities similar to that of traditional sports.
Meanwhile, retro gaming properties are also gaining in popularity, and in some cases present an easier entry point to the genre than newer gaming brands, said Radford. Retro brands can be seen by some retailers as a safer option to new, untested IP, and consumer demand is high.
“I think just like in other entertainment genres, gaming is beginning to benefit from a generational loop,” said Barton, who talked about sharing brands from his childhood with his own kids.