Eye on Early Electronic Entertainment

As the first video games to achieve mainstream popularity back in the late 1970s and early 1980s approach their 40th anniversaries, many are the focus of licensing initiatives that highlight their retro appeal. These vintage-styled items are likely to resonate both with the games’ original fans and with young video gamers attracted to their old-school look.

Examples include:

  • Space Invaders (introduced in 1978). Celebrating its 40th birthday next year and represented by CPLG, this Square Enix/Taito property has been the focus of a number of retro-style collaborations in the past few years, including with Outdoor Products for backpacks, Romain Jerome for watches, and Fred Perry for apparel and accessories. It also rejoined with Hello Kitty for a collection of co-branded items.
  • Intellivision (1979). Agent Licensing Works recently launched a merchandise program on behalf of Intellivision Productions, with T-Line Design on board for t-shirts, sweatshirts, headwear, underwear, swimwear, and other apparel featuring game-box imagery. Mattel was the system’s original marketer; it also created a number of game titles (licensed and otherwise) for the platform, as did a variety of outside developers.
  • Pac-Man (1980). Bandai Namco introduced a Pac-Man Retro style guide at Licensing Expo this year to give its licensees more imagery to work with. The guide’s artwork is inspired by the original arcade games and by the associated vintage collectible goods. Bandai Namco is also pairing with the Smiley Company for a limited-edition collaboration combining Pac-Man with Rubik’s Cube, another 1980s favorite. The items feature vintage artwork and hashtag phrases.
  • Super Mario Bros. (1981). First launched within Donkey Kong, Super Mario—along with its fellow retro Nintendo properties (Zelda, Kirby, Donkey Kong, and others)—is being featured on a t-shirt collection at Uniqlo that highlights 25 winning designs from a fan-art contest. Meanwhile, some of Nintendo and Super Mario’s other recent (mostly non-retro-themed) activities include a travel gear collaboration with LeSportsac; a shopping cart promotion at Target to support the new game release, Mario Kart 8; an upcoming gaming zone at Universal Studios Japan; and the 2017 Summer of Play mall tour.
  • Tetris (1984). The Tetris Company and its French licensing agent, Home Made Licensing, signed MLP for a line of night and daywear featuring classic designs, to be distributed in fashion boutiques and “geek and gamer” shops. Other recent deals for the brand include a range of electronic games for different platforms and new agents in territories such as Japan and Canada.
  • Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (1985). Brandgenuity launched a licensing program for the new Netflix series based on this property, now owned by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, as well as the classic computer game (which itself had a TV spin-off, on PBS). The agency is also representing HMH’s even more classic interactive educational gaming property, Oregon Trail (1971).

Many of these properties are the focus of ongoing licensing efforts, with the retro collections or products comprising just one component of the broader program.

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