While the dust has more than settled for attendees of the 2015 Las Vegas Licensing Show, those fortunate enough to make it to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) are still experiencing its aftershocks. Visitors were treated to a number of major software and hardware launches at what appears to have been a hugely successful show. Overall, it is inspiring to see how games continue to demonstrate their status as major entertainment platforms; a viewpoint I believe is shared by visitors of both E3 and Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay. Newly established consoles, such as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, are paving the way for the next generation of franchises, whilst further blurring lines between the movie and gaming universes.
A year ago, in my summary of the 2014 Licensing Show, I predicted that the importance of video games in the licensing space was only to grow larger, and as expected, this year’s exhibition floor did not disappoint at all. Major players such as Microsoft, Activision, Sony and Electronic Arts were all present, with Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise dominating the hall entrance with signage promoting its upcoming feature-length movie. In addition, a considerable group of gaming industry professionals attended the show as visitors, on route it appears, to Los Angeles Convention Center and the impending E3 expo.
It might not come as a surprise, therefore, that a large portion of the news reported from the aisles of Las Vegas Mandalay Bay was directly related to video games and their dominant position at the show. Several leading franchises revealed extensions into lifestyle driven categories, with Bethesda Softwork’s Skyrim and BioWare’s Dragon Age both launching capsule collections for e-commerce store, ThinkGeek Solutions, in collaboration with New York based accessories licensee, RockLove Jewelry. Similarly, BAFTA-winning action and adventure game series, Fable, announced an art book partnership with independent publishing house, Titan Books, and automotive racing game success, Forza, has teamed up with clothing manufacturer, C-Life Group, for a range of men’s and boys’ apparel. Overall, the licensing world seems mesmerized with new media properties, as evident in their dominant position on the exhibition floor as well as in the extraordinarily high attendance at the show’s first-ever ‘Digital Media Summit.’
The following week at Los Angeles Convention Center, E3 offered visitors its own plethora of interesting announcements. Nintendo, who had planned to reveal additions to its toys-to-life figurine collection, amiibo, was beaten to the punch by an unfortunate pre-show leak. Nevertheless, the company still managed to capture attendees’ attention by announcing an innovative collaboration with American game publishing giant, Activision. In what many an enthusiast would call a “best-of-two-worlds” combination, the new cross-over partnership will see Nintendo amiibo characters make an exclusive guest appearance in the soon-to-be-launched Skylanders instalment, ‘SuperChargers.’
As Tinderbox now represents a number of titles under the Microsoft Studios Xbox umbrella, I am fortunate enough to meet and interact with inspiring games industry professionals on a more or less daily basis. On numerous occasions, I have found myself in an exciting (gaming related) Licensing Expo meeting, only to be told “‘wait for our upcoming E3 announcements and we’ll catch up following that show.” It seems to me that the video games industry increasingly understands the value of licensing, appreciating its importance in building a franchise’s popularity in the offline world. At the same time, there does not seem to be a limit to the opportunities for video games as brands in the licensing space, with consumer products built upon these franchises in hotter than ever demand. Nonetheless, it is clear that technological advancements and new software releases are still driving the development of product and as such, next year’s set-up (with E3 preceding Vegas) is likely to result in an even better and more productive Licensing Show.
Dan Amos is Head of New Media of Tinderbox, the dedicated digital division of leading global brand extension agency, Beanstalk.
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