Having worked on some of the hottest titles in gaming including Overwatch and Metal Gear Solid, this new licensing firm give us their take on the future of the sector.
With experience at Metal Gear Solid and Castlevania publisher Konami, Sandra Arcan and Su-Yina Farmer broke off from the company last year to form Bits + Pixels a bespoke licensing agency specialising in their passion: video games. We sat down with the pair to discuss the industry, their place within it and what the future holds for the video games licensing space.
What is the ethos of Bits + Pixels?
Su-Yina Farmer: Bits + Pixels is a licensing agency that specialises in video game properties. We are dedicated to ensuring deeper brand engagement and far-reaching awareness through intelligent, creative and innovative licensing programmes and stand out collaborations. As gamers and passionate advocates of the games industry, we know that understanding the fanbases and delivering ranges that are coveted, collected and worn with pride are paramount; our motto is making ‘cool things for great games and great fans’!
What brands/franchises have you worked with?
Sandra Arcan: I’ve previously worked across the whole Konami portfolio, with a particular focus on the Metal Gear Solid franchise, which has an incredible 30-year heritage and one of the most loyal fan bases I have come across. Some of the stand out projects for me included an 80s themed clothing range with its very own neon ‘1984 Collection’ logo, which was first unveiled at MCM London in a fully 80s inspired pop-up shop! During that event, we also unveiled an awesome Triumph x MGS custom motorcycle which created fantastic coverage across gaming, fashion and custom motorbike press.
You come from a licensing/retail background. In your experience how does working within video games differ from other forms of media?
Arcan: One of the key differences is the audience. It's not unusual for gamers to spend hundreds of hours on their favourite titles; so they become completely engaged and immersed, knowing everything there is to know about the brand. There is also always an ongoing dialogue between development teams and the gaming community, which is very much two-way, this adds to the feeling of being invested. So we’re very aware that the fans we’re creating product for is very passionate and vociferous, and that they will notice a lazy approach to product development. When a game, whether a blockbuster hit or a cult indie title, has that loyal following, there is always demand for cool product so it's just about finding the right partners to get the right stuff into the hands of the fan base.
Have you worked with any esports brands? What can you tell us about this experience?
Arcan: Esports is clearly booming, with revenues estimated to reach $1.5 billion by 2020. We are currently working on Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch, a game which is already very prolific within the esports tournament scene. Whilst we are currently concentrating on growing the traditional licensing programme, we know there are some very real opportunities with esports brands to partner with all manner of FMCG and sports brands as you have the attention of some of the most invested players.
Can you tell us about some of your biggest campaigns to date? Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Farmer: We are working on the massively popular game Overwatch by Blizzard Entertainment, which enjoys a player base of 30+ million and appeals to an extremely broad audience. Gamers from 12 years old to veterans in their 40s are playing the game and Blizzard’s methods of story-telling outside of the gaming sphere (such as webcomics and high-end animations), enable even those who do not play to enjoy its rich universe and characters.
We have great ambitions for Overwatch; we know there is a huge appetite and have plans to get this brand into mainstream retailers with quality lifestyle ranges. A gorgeous homeware collection is in the works and we cannot wait to see this on shelves. We are also working with Capcom on high-impact collaborations across their top IPs including Monster Hunter, Street Fighter and Resident Evil, as well as on a stunning and original indie title called Echo, by Danish developers Ultra Ultra. For Echo, we are looking at some original fashion collaborations because the aesthetic is so strong and unique.
What do you see as the future for the games licensing space?
Farmer: The days of slapping logos on t-shirts are over; consumers connect so deeply with gaming brands that they demand more intelligent references, fashion friendly apparel and merchandise which feels authentically part of the gaming experience. As we move more into digital distribution, consumers will look to merchandise for physical manifestations of their favourite games. The appetite for gaming merchandise is huge and growing exponentially with every new generation brought up on this medium, driving the licensing industry to be more prolific, trend savvy and creative – it’s a really exciting place to be right now.
The spaces where we see gaming brands will continue to move into mainstream retailers. High profile brands including lifestyle, fashion and luxury will increasingly harness the strength of gaming IPs – it’s already happening with the likes of Vans x Nintendo and this brand synergy is something we specialise in at Bits + Pixels. We want to help raise licensing in this space to the next level, inspired by the creativity, fun and innovation the medium is known for. This means wholly understanding the gaming brand and its audiences, being more trend-savvy, thinking a little more outside the box and doing the unexpected, whilst maintaining a commercial approach. The next ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Marvel’ phenomenon will originate from a video game brand.