Probably the biggest name in video gaming, Sony has been quietly building its presence in the licensing space, too. We find out more ahead of BLE.

THE BIG INTERVIEW: David Evans, European Licensing Manager, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

Firstly, can you just give me a brief overview of SCEE’s structure in terms of licensing?

It’s an exciting time for the business as we’re breaking new ground within the company – the licensing division has only existed internally within SCEE for the past two years. We’ve made huge strides in that time, generating triple digit growth that has been largely led by our kids brand Invizimals, which has taken off in a big way across Europe and of course Little Big Planet – LittleBigPlanet 3 will be launching in November this year. The licensing team sits within our Commercial Development department. I lead the licensing team here in London from our central head office, which includes Claire Coopland who assists me on the day to day running of our business. We work very closely with our game studios responsible for each individual gaming franchise to ensure they are involved in product development from the very early stages as their creative input ensures the consumer products are in-line with the original video games.

How advanced is the licensing programme for Invizimals and LittleBigPlanet currently? Which partners are on board and in which categories?

We are building the foundation of the licensing programme for Invizimals. Panini were the first partner to come on board with stickers and collectibles and have been an excellent case study for the brand as they have sold over 44 million sticker packs and 31 million trading cards to date in Europe. We then signed IMC Toys as the global toy partner at the end of last year and initial sales have been very strong. On LittleBigPlanet, We have agreed a deal with NECA for toys and collectables, a strategy guide with Brady Games and Bioworld will again be creating lines of fashion apparel, gifts and accessories with GBEye working with us on posters, badges and giftware. Also on LBP we have launched a range of apparel with Insert Coin.

When will the first products hit retail?

For Invizimals, Panini product launched in Spain in 2013 and then to France and Italy during summer 2014, while IMC product launched in Spain spring 2014 and rolled out to Italy and France later in the year. LBP product will be in store from November 2014 around the game launch.

The toy line from IMC includes augmented reality elements – can your explain more about this?

The toy range kicked off with a range of mini figures which feature augmented reality – the toys come to life via a free app on smartphones and tablets. The collectable line of 24 mini figures can be scanned into a virtual collection via the app so the creatures can battle on a mobile/tablet device. In addition, IMC launched larger ‘Mega Figures’ and a Z-com bracelet. For Christmas two different Playsets are in-stores with further products planned for 2015.

How important was it for the toy line to reflect the world that consumers experience in the video game? Was this one of the key challenges?

Given the Invizimals game on PlayStation Vita features Augmented Reality is was important for us to integrate this AR experience into the toy line in some way. Kids love the magic that AR brings as they can see their toys come alive on their screen.

Can you tell us more about LittleBigPlanet 3?

Of the new IP we’ll be launching at BLE, LittleBigPlanet 3 is one of the most recognisable. SackBoy, of course, is very well-known and will be a strong hook for licensing, but the game developers also wanted to come up with new characters and LBP3 so will introduce Toggle, OddSock and Swoop. The new characters are of course to enhance the game itself but having new characters in the franchise gives us more potential for licensing, too.

Are there other CP categories that you are looking to move into? If so, which ones are you targeting next?

We have a number of key product objectives for 2014/2015. For Invizimals we will be focused on signing new partners across apparel, accessories, games and publishing. Our focus for LittleBigPlanet at BLE is to talk to companies about opportunities in the rest of Europe, particularly for gifts and apparel for which LBP3 is especially suited and we’d also be interested to talk about any publishing opportunities.

What would you most like to have achieved by the end of 2014 and longer-term?

Our key objective is increase the awareness of SCEE as a real player in the licensing business and of course to keep building our key franchises and sign key categories around software launches. We also have plans for the PlayStation brand itself as a fashion/lifestyle opportunity so will be showing selected licensees our ideas at BLE 2014.

Looking at SCEE’s wider portfolio, which other brands are you looking to develop CP programmes for?

The PlayStation brand will be a major part of BLE for us. We’ll be taking a nostalgic look back at our original logo and console design with some celebratory merchandise. The PlayStation brand is iconic and we’re already working with Bioworld and Rubber Road to produce a range of gifts, apparel and accessories based around the console design. We’ll also be dipping into our archive of original PS games such as Lemmings and WipEout! Also in our line-up will be The Last of Us from our first party development studio, Naughty Dog who have also produced Unchartered 4: A Thief’s End, which is set for release in 2015.

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