Video games become more successful with each passing year. Video game companies are currently working two ways. They are developing successful licensing programs based on their own intellectual properties. While, at the same time, video game companies are working with licensors to bring a brand’s experience to a home console. Patrick J. O’Brien and Lee Rawles take a few moments to talk about Electronic Arts’ (EA) success both as a licensee and a licensor in the world of video games.
Paul Narula: Electronic Arts (EA) has a number of intellectual properties that have translated into strong branded products. Why do you feel that EA brands work in licensing?
Patrick J. O’Brien: EA offers unique worlds, characters, and stories in franchises such as Mass Effect, Alice, and Dead Space. We also have a very powerful bond with consumers who have a strong affinity for the brands. Remember, most of our games are evergreen properties. There are ongoing communities, new content releases on a regular basis, and so forth, so we are constantly communicating with our fans. To state the obvious, they “interact” not only with our products, but also with our community managers and us. We actually ask them what type of brand extensions they want.
P.N.: What product categories have brought EA the most success?
P.O.B: Our titles are so different, both in content and demographic appeal, that there is no one simple answer to the question. Peripherals and gamer accessories make sense across virtually every title. However, we have been working with Toy Island to license out the EA name for kids’ products and that has been a success. It is essentially kids’ sporting equipment with a “training element.” That is just one example. Many of our other titles have strong characters and worlds, which are geared toward the traditional gamer, so there we are finding success in apparel, collectible figures, posters, novels, and comics.
P.N.: How have new gaming avenues, such as the mobile platform, helped EA expand its brand awareness?
P.O.B: New avenues such as online gaming, social network gaming, and mobile gaming, help us reach new consumers who play different types of games on those platforms. It has also helped us reach our core gamers in more ways. Our FIFA Superstars game on Facebook, for example, is the first big EA-branded social game. Created by Playfish, it is a whole different way to play FIFA soccer, and within weeks of launch, it had 1.7 million monthly active users.
P.N.: What are gamers looking for in a licensed game?
Lee Rawles: First and foremost, it must be a good game. The game must stand on its own, before you even consider the pedigree of the licensed brand. Second, the game must provide an authentic experience within the context of the licensed brand. For example, I would look at EA Sports games such as NFL Madden Football and FIFA soccer, which have obtained huge cultural relevance and die-hard fans. There are also our Hasbro games that capture the essence of Hasbro’s brands while adapting them to fun new family platforms such as the Wii.
(In 2007, EA partnered with Hasbro to produce console, mobile, PC, handheld, and online games for the casual gaming market under the EA Hasbro label, featuring Hasbro brands. The deal also grants Hasbro the rights to produce toys for select EA properties.)
P.N.: What’s next from EA?
P.O.B: You will be seeing a range of licensed products coming out of EA over the next few months. Dead Space, for example, has a robust offering that will be hitting with the launch of the game in January. There will be figures, apparel, and headwear from NECA; an animated feature-length DVD from Film Roman; a replica “Plasma Cutter” from Epic Weapons; a graphic novel with IDW; a novel, Dead Space: Martyr with Tor, which we announced and launched at Comic-Con; and an online merchandise store with Treehouse that we launched in June.
On the licensed games front, Madden NFL Football, our 22nd iteration, released on August 9 to wide acclaim. Monopoly Streets, an innovative, 3-D reinterpretation of Hasbro’s Monopoly brand ships this fall. Harry Potter Deathly Hallows launches this holiday.