Real Deal

McFarlane to Roll Out CupHead Construction Sets

McFarlane Toys and CupHead have signed an agreement to bring the CupHead video game to life in the form of construction sets.

Cuphead is a run-and-gun action game heavily focused on boss battles and inspired by cartoons of the 1930s. In worlds of hand-drawn cel animation, players guide Cuphead or his pal Mugman on their journey to pay back their debt to the devil. Along the way, they’ll acquire new weapons, learn new moves, and discover hidden secrets.

To date, Cuphead has sold more than two million copies worldwide. The game has been celebrated for its arcade-action gameplay, signature art style, and award-winning soundtrack featuring almost three hours of original jazz, early big band, and ragtime music. The game has won more than 20 major awards, including Xbox One’s Game of the Year and Special Achievement in Animation at the 45th Annual Annie Awards.

McFarlane Toys will stay true to Cuphead’s hand-drawn 1930s art style.Each Construction Set will focus on Cuphead, Mugman and the game’s iconic bosses, incorporating scenes from across Inkwell Isle, where the game takes place. The Construction Sets will range from around 100 to 300 pieces. The line will be previewed at the McFarlane booth at San Diego Comic-Con this weekend.

New Agents Jump Aboard for The Smiley Company, Rubik’s

The Smiley Company is enjoying a wave of success and has signed on 8 new agents from around the world this quarter with more set to happen soon.

New agents include Infiniss (South Korea), Doce (Chile), Signet (South Africa), Brights (Greece), AMV Licensing (Peru, Ecuador & Bolivia), Plus Licens (Russia), Haven (Australia), and One RDM (Indonesia).

“Last year, agents increased their share of our revenues from less than 5 percent of total sales to 15 percent thanks to the arrival of Barth Montarello who is supporting their sales teams and regularly visiting big retailers with them,” says Nicolas Loufrani, founder and CEO of the lifestyle brand. “Our aim is to now grow the agent share of our business to 25 percent by the end of 2019. We’ve also opened an office in Singapore headed by Marie Kopp, who used to work with Disney, to bring additional support to our APAC agents as the region is growing very fast for us. We are very proud to announce these new agents to our global Smiley and Rubik’s Licensing agent partner alliance.”

New partners are set to help grow existing new global markets and expand Smiley and Rubik’s in South Korea, Chile, South Africa, Greece, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Russia, Indonesia and Australia. “This will give Smiley and Rubik’s the opportunity to expand into new fashion and product categories,” says Montarello, sales director of U.S. and licensing agents for The Smiley Company. “This increase in agents is a clear sign that Smiley and Rubik’s continues to be a popular must-have choice for consumers around the world.”

Spin Master Acquires Fuggler

Spin Master announced the acquisition of the rights to Fuggler, the collectible plush doll line.

Originating in the UK, the fugly Fuggler monsters began to gain a cult following due to their quirky and off-beat nature. Each character features a unique toothy smile or grimace, eyes and a signature butt-on hole.

There are more than 50 unique Fuggler characters to collect, available in nine- and 12-inch sizes. Rare characters can be discovered by checking for glow-in-the dark teeth and eyes. Fugglers are available now at Target, GameStop and Hot Topic as well as additional specialty retailers for a target MSRP of $14.99 USD to $24.99 USD.

“Seizing upon opportunities such as Fuggler, that leverage our competitive strengths and brand portfolio, are a key part of our overall growth strategy. We look to build innovative brands that resonate emotionally, have strong global brand appeal and differentiation,” says Ben Gadbois, Spin Master’s Global President and COO. “We found the unconventional appeal of Fuggler inherently innovative and aligned with our mission to push the boundaries of innovation, creativity and fun. Fuggler will benefit from our global distribution infrastructure and world-class team who will create more disruptive ways for Fuggler to connect with the consumer.”

Microsoft Named Walmart’s Preferred Cloud Provider as Part of Digital Growth Strategy

Walmart has entered a strategic partnership with Microsoft to further accelerate Walmart’s digital transformation in retail and make shopping faster and easier for customers around the world. Through this partnership, Walmart has chosen Microsoft as its preferred and strategic cloud provider tapping into the full range of Microsoft’s cloud solutions.

Walmart is already using Microsoft services for critical applications and workloads and is now embarking on a broad set of cloud innovation projects that leverage machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data platform solutions for a wide range of external customer-facing services and internal business applications. The technology will significantly accelerate Walmart’s ability to execute in three key areas, according to the company.

The investment in Microsoft Azure is a continuation of Walmart’s cloud journey and extends across Walmart’s family of brands and international businesses – allowing them to leverage Microsoft’s public cloud to:

  • Capitalize on depth and breadth of Microsoft’s compute capacity
  • Ability to seamlessly manage workloads in an elastic environment
  • Leverage expanded access to new toolsets to innovate faster
  • Drive a more cloud native environment and therefore continue to manage cost

In a five-year agreement, Walmart has selected the full range of Microsoft cloud solutions, including Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365 for enterprise-wide use to help standardize across the company’s family of brands. As part of the partnership, Walmart and Microsoft engineers will collaborate on the assessment, development, and support phase of moving hundreds of existing applications to cloud native architectures. To grow and enhance the online experience, the company will migrate a significant portion of and to Azure, including its cloud-powered check-out, enabling Walmart to grow with rising customer demand and reach more global markets.

Amazon Web Services Renews, Secures New Partnerships

21st Century Fox has also extended its strategic relationship with AWS, selecting the cloud provider for the vast majority of its key platforms and workloads. The media company is also leveraging AWS’s machine learning and data analytics services to create a consistent set of digital media capabilities across its brands. As part of a broader cloud transformation, 21st Century Fox has already reduced its data center needs by 50 percent and moved more than 30 million assets (approximately 10 petabytes of content) to Amazon Glacier and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). Continuing this transformation, 21st Century Fox will use AWS as the primary platform to deliver over 90,000 titles on demand for key brands such as FOX, FX, National Geographic, 20th Century Fox Television, 20th Century Fox Film, and FOX Sports.

In addition, 21st Century Fox has implemented an advanced company-wide approach to data collection, processing, and instrumentation using AWS’s technologies. With this approach in place, 21st Century Fox is now leveraging AWS services, such as Amazon S3 and AWS Glue, to unify assets across the enterprise; Amazon Redshift to analyze data quickly; and Amazon Kinesis to collect, process, and analyze real-time, streaming data to gain deeper insights from the volume and variety of data ingested. This is facilitating the creation of new data products, and the deployment of artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques across the organization.

Video game and software development corporation Epic Games, creator of the blockbuster cross-platform game Fortnite, continues to invest in AWS as its choice in infrastructure to build new games and enhance the in-game experiences for its more than 100 million online players around the globe. Since its inception, Fortnite has been powered by AWS, leveraging AWS’s performance and scalability to support the millions of concurrent players that engage each day. The leading game developer runs its worldwide game server fleet, backend platform systems, databases, and websites on AWS, and will leverage the breadth and depth of AWS’s services, including analytics, machine learning, and containers, to continually improve gameplay.

By using AWS, Epic Games is able to scale up to meet the demands of these players and expand its services globally with minimal effort. For example, Epic Games recently ran an event on AWS where the company invited all Fortnite players to join the game and watch a one-time global event that lasted for only several minutes. The event generated a rush of players into the game that was unprecedented for Epic Games, and the capacity that AWS provided enabled the company to run that event without any serious problems, ensuring game servers were available to all who wanted to participate. In addition, Epic Games is using AWS analytics services such as Amazon Kinesis Streams and Amazon Elastic MapReduce (Amazon EMR) to ingest and analyze the billions of events generated by the game and social media interaction so that the company can assess design decisions, identify player sentiment, and adjust key elements of the game. Epic Games will also be able to simplify the management of its infrastructure during peak times using Amazon Elastic Container Services for Kubernetes (Amazon EKS), and is looking to leverage the Amazon ML Solutions Lab to incorporate machine learning into its games.