The lure of the brand
Potential players will always flock to a product with a recognisable name, but the cost has to be justified.
There has always been a debate to be had about the value of licensed products against generic titles.
Yes, a recognised brand can be a big draw to potential players. However, there is a price to be paid for the licence so the return on investment has to be right. So choosing the right brands is the key to the whole thing. According to Lester Travasso of Sega, one of the main things the company looks for when considering a licence is instant recognition. “We look for something that will draw the players in to play the game,” he told InterGame. The brand has to be strong enough to be of interest to the player, he said. “There has to be a benefit to the licensor as well though. In many instances we are dealing with new brands that are looking to expand their reputation, so it works both ways. “When we look for licences, we already have an idea about the particular product concerned and then seek out a brand that will be matched to it. Some of these brands may be of particular relevanc to the industry we are in, while others may be more universal in their nature”.
It is, of course, true to say that Sega is, in itself, a massive global brand. So often it is the brand that approaches Sega with a view to a mutual partnership rather than the other way around. “When this happens, of course, we have a decision to make,” said Travasso. “Sometimes we can appreciate that a tie-up would work for us and we say yes. Other times we perceive that the partnership would not be beneficial and we tell them no. However, it’s good to know that we we can benefit the licensor as well as the other way around”. There are challenges in working with licensors however. “The brands often have very strict guidelines about what can be done with their products. Obviously, they are proud of their brands and want them to be perceived in a certain way. “So it is vitally important that we are sympathetic to their needs. This obviously creates very specific challenges for our designers, especially when the brand is a high profile one. It is no easy task, but Sega’s designers are experienced in this field and well up to it”.
The newest licensed titles from Sega are Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, Mission Impossible: Arcade and House of the Dead Scarlet Dawn, while other brands such as Daytona USA and Transfomers have performed extremely well over recent years. “All these brands promise to be strong products for many years ahead,” said Travasso. “When we took on the Mission Impossible licence, we knew straight away that it had to be a video game rather than redemption. Anyone who has seen any of the films will know that they really push the limits. Sometimes these decisions are quite easy to make”.
There are a number of advantages of licensed products over generic ones but the main one is the fact that you are buying into a brand and the goodwill and marketing spend that goes with it, also for Bandai Namco’s James Anderson. “You get instant recognition from the market.”
So what do you look for when seeking out a brand? “There are a number of things we look at. We start by listening to market feedback via our sales team and doing research into current market trends. We also liaise with some of the leading brand owners in the world to hear what they have planned for the future.”
There are challenges though. “There is always a challenge in finding the right brand – at the right point in its life cycle – that suits the product for the market,” said Anderson. “Once we have secured the brand we need to work to the licensor’s style guide to develop and produce the product in line with the guidelines. We also have to work with the brand owners in terms of marketing and using their assets, etc.” In terms of machines from Bandai Namco, the latest product is the Red Zone Rush machine that was first shown at Iaapa 2019. This machine has the Nfl Players Association licence and players have to try to push American footballs off the edge of the play field to win tickets.
Other branded games are: Raw Thrills’ “Nerf”, launched in the summer of 2019; Adrenaline Amusements’ “Hot Wheels” was launched at Iaapa 2019 and the in Europe at the Eag 2020; Andamiro’s “Jurassic World Island Escape”, launched in 2019; Apple Industries’ “Marvel Adventure Lab” saw Apple do an amazing job working with Marvel (Disney) to bring a product that allows the players to be in their own comic book cover or story. Players go into the booth and select the comic they want to be in and have their picture taken and then the machine “cartoonises” them into the comic.
This year Namco have renewed the Pac-Man licence for prizes with our head office, because is actually the 40th anniversary of Pac-Man this year and as a group of companies we had a number of plans to celebrate this around the world. Needless to say, with the Covid-19 these are not happening at this time.