Tinderbox talk the new frontier of video game licensing (Video Games Month)

Can you tell us about Tinderbox’s portfolio of properties?

Whenever I’m asked this question I have two realisations – 1) I’m working with games that I’ve obsessed over for years as well as having sunk hours and hours into! 2) Video games truly are the dominant form of entertainment and it’s great to see their growth in the licensing industry.

Under the Microsoft Studios umbrella, Tinderbox represents several studios/franchises including the 16- year cultural touchstone Halo, which continues to extend far beyond the core video game through comics, novels, animation and film. Critically acclaimed race title Forza, considered an authority in motorsport, will see lifestyle consumer product extensions following the announcement of Forza Motorsport 7 coming this September. Cult-classics such as 90’s fighting title icon Killer Instinct remastered for the Xbox, and PC and British studio Rare’s 30-year back catalogue will see long-awaited consumer products — expect to see retro fan favourites such as Battletoads, Banjo Kazooie and Viva Pinata extended into a wide range of categories in 2017! Crackdown explodes onto Xbox One X this November, supported by a range of products, and last but by no means least, the highly anticipated and E3 standout title Sea of Thieves developed by industry legends Rare Studios already has a crew of licensees ready to launch product alongside the game. Our Microsoft portfolio is growing all the time and with Xbox One X coming this year I’m expecting our current titles and those we’ve not yet announced to bring even more consumer products to the fans.

In addition to Microsoft, most recently Tinderbox has begun to support Activision’s Call of Duty, a truly massive franchise known to gamers and non-gamers alike. Call of Duty was 2016’s No.1 top-selling console videogame franchise worldwide for the seventh time in the last eight years, and continues to be a pop culture juggernaut worldwide. Tinderbox will be extending Call of Duty into a broad range of categories and distribution channels throughout Europe, with several partners launching this November.

Halo has an extremely dedicated fan base, how has fan reaction been to your Halo products?

Over its 16 years, Halo’s fan base has continued to grow and broaden as original players become parents themselves. I obsessively played Halo 2 and now my own son obsessively plays Halo 5. Parents maintain their Halo fandom and now new younger generations of Halo players are fans of the Master Chief also. The team at 343, the developer behind the Halo franchise, has a direct dialogue with the fan base and this to me is one of the most fantastic things about video games — the sizeable, engaged and dedicated communities they create. Because of this, every partner we bring into the Halo programme has purpose and serves to support the long-term strategy of the franchise. The fan base can see this and more often than not, the product coming to market is something they’ve been crying out for. A good example is our childen’s apparel partner, Blues; through Blues, we are finally bringing Halo t-shirts to the younger Halo audience for the first time! The fan reaction to this has been great as parents that want to share their Halo fandom with their children can now do so. The extensive range from Mattel that caters to the adult collector and the younger fan alike is another example of satisfying Halo’s diverse audience. I’m looking forward to sharing with the Halo community the new categories and partners Tinderbox has secured for the Halo franchise. 

Sea of Thieves is a unique title, what do you think this game will bring to the table for gamers?

Sea of Thieves is a truly awesome IP to work on not only because it is unique but because I can foresee the hours of footage that will be uploaded by content creators enjoying this fantastic game. The YouTube community is already clamouring to get its hands on Sea of Thieves. It’s built for the community, encouraging players to explore its vast world with their crew and create their own epic pirate stories. The Xbox E3 briefing showed examples of how playing with friends on Sea of Thieves will undoubtedly create some of your most memorable (and funniest) gaming moments to date.

Tinderbox is working closely with the team at Rare to create a consumer products programme that complements the long-term strategy for Sea of Thieves. We have a growing number of licensees whose products will help develop and reinforce a story yet to be told.

The YouTube community is already clamouring to get its hands on Sea of Thieves. It’s built for the community, encouraging players to explore its vast world with their crew and create their own epic pirate stories.

Dan Amos, Tinderbox

What does 2017 hold for Call of Duty in the licensing space?

2017 is set to be a huge year for Call of Duty. The franchise is one of the most iconic in video game history, coupled with a highly anticipated launch in November, Call of Duty WWII. Core fans are eager to get their hands on the new game, but in addition, there is a new audience that includes casual gamers who see the appeal of the franchise owed to its incredible visuals and blockbuster story. As a result, Tinderbox is receiving interest across lifestyle categories and retail interest that extends far beyond gaming and specialty. Several new licensees secured by Tinderbox will be launching product alongside this year’s Call of Duty release with more to come in 2018 and beyond.

Are there any more upcoming projects or partnerships you can tell us about?

2017 will be a busy year for many of our licensees and gaming clients. Apparel and accessories programmes across the majority of Tinderbox’s gaming clients will launch later this year through various retail channels. In addition, we have a number of publishing partners who will soon be announced, with scheduled launches in 2017 and early 2018. New licensed products for Call of Duty, Sea of Thieves, Halo and Crackdown will be both support game launches as well as offer consumer products to the core fan base.

Anything to add?

I’m excited for the future of video games — to see the Xbox One X finally in people’s homes and how its power will be used to drive console games development. I’m looking forward to seeing the new IP announced at E3 develop in the lead up to launch, games like EA’s Anthem, which looks incredible. I’m excited to see our clients’ licensees bring new products to the fans and support their own launches this year and next. And finally, I’m excited to see the continued rise of video games in pop culture both as an art form but also as a preferred choice of entertainment. Video games are art and games developers are artists; it’s great to see this recognition in the mainstream. The increased presence of video games in the licensing industry serves to increase this recognition. I’m confident that video game franchises will continue to broaden their appeal and their consumer touchpoints as a result.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of Licensing.biz 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 Licensing.biz, and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@biz-media.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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