Playing Games

Many entertainment/character licensors have had difficulty extending their properties into branded video games successfully. But they increasingly need to be in the video game space, since that is where their fans, of all ages, spend a lot of their time. One way to achieve this goal without as much risk is to integrate their properties into an existing video game, whether console or casual, often for a limited time. This can occur in a variety of ways, such as by offering bundles of digital items (e.g., skins, avatars, or apparel); creating in-game events; developing crossover story arcs; and the like.

Crossovers between entertainment properties and video game titles have been ongoing for some time. But it seems as if there has been a burst of activity since the pandemic began, thanks in large part to the increased fan engagement with gaming that occurred during that period. And, even as many consumers find themselves with less time for hobbies like video gaming as they start to go back to many aspects of their pre-pandemic lives, the announcements of new crossover ventures keep coming.

Just in the past two months:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean is currently being featured in a story campaign, “Sea of Thieves: A Pirate’s Life,” within the Sea of Thieves video game, in a collaboration between Rare, Xbox, and Disney. The campaign is free to play within the third-season update of the game.
  • The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are being incorporated into Brawlhalla, a free-to-play platform-fighting game developed by Blue Mammoth. Components include an in-game event, a new game mode, map art, effects and attacks, animated avatars, and more. The crossover is a partnership between ViacomCBS and Ubisoft. Many of the features will continue to be purchasable and playable after the initial in-game event ends. Kung Fu Panda was also part of an “Epic Crossover” in Brawlhalla earlier in the year.
  • Fast and Furious is being highlighted in game bundles within Rocket League in advance of the June 25 release of the ninth feature film in the series, through a collaboration between Psyonix and Universal Games and Digital Platforms. The franchise has been featured in Rocket League previously as well. Cars from the film appear in the free-to-play game, with a bundle of Fast and Furious digital items, such as decals and wheels, available in the shop. A song from the film is being offered as a player anthem.
  • Fremantle lent its game show Family Feud to Jam City’s Cookie Time mobile game, with sound effects, trivia, surveys, and a sweepstakes with a $10,000 cash prize all integrated during a limited-time event. 
  • The Smurfs starred in a one-week event within Rovio’s Angry Birds Friends, in which the Smurfs’ Gargamel character partners with the Angry Birds piggies to capture some Smurfs, and the Angry Birds are called upon to set them free.

The partnerships in this small sampling follow several other examples since the beginning of the year, including Rick and Morty appearing in Rainbow Six Siege, Sanrio characters in Animal Crossing, Hasbro’s Snake Eyes in Fortnite, and the Netflix show Blood of Zeus in Immortals Fenyx Rising, to name a few. Several licensors have partnered with Roblox developers to create games on that platform.

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