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Licensing for Mobile Games Opens Up to New Players

What else do Brittney and Betty have in common?

The mobile game licensing paradigm is changing. Although powerful gaming apps like Angry Birds still rule the roost, new players are getting into the game—not just licensees who turn digital properties into non-digital products but also licensors who license their own property for apps and mobile games.

While retail sales of licensed video games/software fell -26.4% to $2.93 billion from 2013 to 2014, mobile game apps are being eyed as a growth area. The average royalty rate for brands licensed into the category increased to 10.5% in 2014, up from 10.4% in 2013. The increase is driven primarily by film- and sports-based properties, but as the category is diversifying, other property types that typically enjoy higher rates are threatning to skew the equation.

Notable Digital Debuts of 2015

Although the new players came from a variety of sectors, most of 2015’s debut deals involved licensing of three particular property types:

Entertainment/Character: Entertainment properties licensed for mobile games for the first time in 2015 included

  • Classic cartoon characters Popeye and Betty Boop (King Features);
  • TV shows no longer broadcast like “Dexter” which was licensed by Showtime and CBS Consumer Products for a hidden object game,  and “Sons of Anarchy” licensed by Fox Digital Entertainment to Orpheus Interactive an interactive game; and
  • Game shows like “Two Tribes” licensed by BBC Two for an app.

Publishing: First-time publishing properties licensed for mobile game and apps included

  • Kids’ book classics like Roald Dahl’s Twits translated into an app for the first time under an arrangement among Penguin, Aardman Digital and the author’s estate;
  • Comic book heroes like Flash Gordon and Phantom (King Features); and
  • Vintage best-selling novels like Ken Follet’s “Pillars of the Earth” (Daedalic Entertainment).

Celebrities: Celebrities taking the plunge into mobile games in 2015 came from a range of backgrounds, including digital celebrities like YouTube sensation PewDiePie who released his first video game on Apple’s App Store and Google Play. The music sector was also represented by, among others, Motorhead (Haemimont Games), Shakira (Rovio) and Britney Spears (Glu Mobile).


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