Franchise-building has become a huge deal for the publisher.
By Robert Marrujo:: There's a reason you're seeing a ton of Overwatch and Call of Duty merchandise in stores, lately: Activision is building up its franchises well beyond the confines of the video games they call home. Speaking with GameIndustry.biz, Activision's Tim Kilpin, CEO and president of the company's Consumer Products Division, revealed how they're making efforts to expand their games into as many different types of markets and product offerings as possible.
"We call these 'the franchises of the future'... it's a new way to think about franchises and how you go to market with them. It's about going beyond the title, so to speak. It's a change of philosophy," Kilpin said. Indeed, it wasn't long ago that Activision's collective stance on mass media beyond its games was much different than it is now. Back in the day, the company wanted consumers to focus on content created directly by them and weren't thinking beyond making video games, let alone Netflix shows and an abundance of keychains.
Kilpin expounds even more in the interview about the topic:
"We truly are thinking and planning around these things as franchises. Call of Duty, Overwatch, Destiny... they are long lived, robust, complex, multiplatfom franchises. Not only is it a game, but it has the opportunity for linear storytelling content, it has the opportunity for consumer products and it has the opportunity for esports - well, some of them do.
"We are not going to do it for the sake of doing it. We will only do it where it makes sense. If there is an opportunity to tell a story that reaches beyond where we've been in the game... today, it happens with Overwatch through the short-form content. For that game, there is an audience and an appetite for the storytelling that go beyond just what happens in the game. So we want to take advantage of that."
As a kid, I remember how hard it was to find any sorts of toys that were based on the video games I loved. When McDonald's came out with its lineup of Super Mario Bros. 3 toys for its Happy Meals, I was thrilled and played with them endlessly. Finally, I thought, I can reach out and hold Mario, make adventures with him beyond the ones in my head. Some people scoff at tchotchkes like those and others, but to gamers, heck, to people, there's an undeniable, important sense of comfort and joy that these items bring. Kilpin and his staff seem to be thinking along those lines:
"If there is a franchise that people have an affinity for, that is aspirational in some way, with an engaging story or universe, such as Harry Potter or Overwatch, then people want to surround themselves with it. That takes the form of multiple consumer product opportunities that goes beyond just a few action figures. There are retailers that are doing more to service that fan. GameStop has publicly said it will be giving a much greater proportion of their shelf space to merchandise.
If you have a great universe, those that love it want to wear it, or have a Funko on their desk, or a novel on their book shelf. We actually have a robust book publishing business, particularly on Warcraft and now on Overwatch. People are collecting stories in about the most old-fashioned way going. There is a tangible quality to bringing these franchises to life in 3D. The challenge for us is to do it in a clever, engaging and fun way, at the right value."
The remainder of the interview is a very good read and bodes well for fans who want to see more of their favorite games and characters represented in different mediums. Activision is clearly very ambitious about its plans for the future and the places that its various properties can go.