Game On: Anna Knight talks the rise of gaming at BLE

In 1934, Beatrix Potter created the first ever piece of licensed merchandise based on that plucky, fluffy little countryside hero Peter Rabbit and, so, the licensing industry was born. At 83, it’s quite the veteran. Video games, on the other hand, are but a mere whippersnapper of a business: they didn’t even enter the mainstream consciousness until 1977 with the arrival of Pong. How three squares and a white line could be THAT addictive is still baffling. But for many people, it was.

Forty years later and games and gaming are quite different beasts thanks to advances in technology: they are more realistic (better graphics chips and developer engines), faster (fibre optic broadband and 4G), more immersive (AR and VR), more accessible (thanks to the free to play (F2P) market and smart devices) – just MORE everything. 

The gamer demographic is also very different in 2017 compared to 1977. No longer the mainstay of 13-20-year-old boys and men, games are played by all sexes and ages and the industry has worked hard from a content and marketing standpoint to be as accessible and all-embracing as possible. Smart phones and F2P games like Candy Crush from BLE exhibitor King have created a new legion of women gamers and PlayStation sponsored London Pride last weekend with the hashtag #forALLthegamers. As a result, the games industry now has a global gaming audience of around 2.5 billion* – a huge fan base, which is only getting bigger thanks in part to the stratospheric rise of eSports and the steadily increasing impact of extended reality technologies such as AR in last year’s smash hit Pokémon Go.

Games are played by all sexes and ages and the industry has worked hard from a content and marketing standpoint to be as accessible and all-embracing as possible.

Anna Knight, BLE

At the last count, the global games industry was valued at over $100 billion* and it is very much holding its own against film and television: it’s had its own BAFTA Awards ceremony for over a decade now. And yet, when it comes to video games and licensing, that relationship is still pretty much still at first base. There have been some fantastic brand extension programmes. From a brand point of view, Angry Birds and Minecraft, to name just two, have been recent licensing phenomena with merchandise including everything from duvet covers and birthday cakes, to books and mobile phone cases. And from a retail point of view, Uniqlo has nailed it on several occasions working with Japanese gaming behemoths including BLE exhibitors Capcom and Sega, as well as Nintendo, on limited edition tee-shirt ranges.

Given the creativity, fan base size and growth forecast the games industry commands, it’s surprising it remains such a relatively untapped marketing licensing-wise. Yet it does, and that’s why we’re seriously stepping up the gaming content at this year’s event, including a gaming-themed keynote on Tuesday 10 October, working with Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe as our key gaming partner and launching the Gaming Activation Area: a showcase and demonstration area, which aims to educate visitors on the journey of a video game IP from screen to store, including a very cool mock store to help retailers who are yet to dip a toe into the world of games merchandise to see what they’re missing out on, and to provide more experienced retailers with some inspiration for future buying and display decisions.

Anna Knight is brand director of Brand Licensing Europe, the definitive event for the licensing industry in Europe. This year, BLE takes place 10-12 October at Olympia London and is free for all licensing professionals to attend. To find out more about the event and why you should visit, please go to

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of and ToyNews. Hutchins has worked his way up from Staff Writer to the position of Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both ToyNews and, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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