Issue #
2023 wrap-up, the Fortnite Effect, and our biggest licensing predictions for 2024

A monthly look at the best examples of IP licensing in video games, as well as the latest news on collaborations, brand partnerships and in-game events. 

With 2023 out of the way, we look back at some of our favourite licensing deals from last year and reflect on what licensors can learn. Rather than choosing the most popular integrations, we’ve focused on lesser-known examples that perhaps flew under the media radar, but are worth talking about nonetheless. 

Looking to the future, we also share our predictions for some licensing trends we expect to impact the video game industry in 2024. With the new GTA VI trailer out in the wild, we explore how the most highly-anticipated video game of the last decade could shake up the licensing landscape. And if you haven’t already, listen to our latest podcast episode featuring Techland’s Hubert Marczak, who talks about bringing The Walking Dead IP into their survival horror video game, Dying Light 2. 

You’ll also find the latest news on collaborations, video game licensing deals, partnerships, and more below. 

What licensors can learn from these stand-out video game integrations from 2023

You’d be forgiven for missing some of the licensing in games deals that took place last year. While integrations in the biggest games such as Fortnite, Minecraft and Roblox often dominate headlines, many deals in lesser-known games can easily fly under the radar. 

Does that make them any less memorable? Absolutely not. If anything, licensors have far more to learn from the integrations that are taking place in mobile games than they do from those in Fortnite. Below are some of our favourite deals from 2023, along with some key info on what makes them so special and the lessons you can learn from them. 

Nicki Minaj x Call of Duty 

Rapper Nicki Minaj landed in Call of Duty: Warzone and Modern Warfare 2 as the franchise’s first female Operator with a self-named character. The partnership coincided with the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. It introduced two pink weapons that shoot pink splatters, a Nicki Minaj-themed vehicle skin, and custom voice lines, as well as the Nicki Minaj character skin. Players loved the collaboration, with one Kotaku journalist writing, “Call of Duty rarely feels like it’s for the girls and the gays, but it certainly does right now.” 

Why it worked 

Taking a first-person-shooter associated mainly with teenage boys and splashing it in various shades of pink might not sound like a recipe for success, but Activision’s commitment to honouring Minaj’s brand along every step of the way in this collaboration has proven hugely successful with players, and likely introduced new players into the free-to-play shooter, too. 

Dana White’s Power Slap mobile game 

What happens when you turn a viral internet sport into a mobile game and attach one of the biggest names in competitive fighting to it? Success. For those who aren’t familiar, power slapping is a competitive sport that has been around since the ‘00s, but it started to gain traction after videos from Russian slapping contests went viral. Noticing an opportunity to brand the sport, UFC’s Dana White set up Power Slap as a company, and released a mobile game in July 2023. 

Why it worked 

It’s not unusual for mobile games to capitalise on viral trends, and this is something that licensors can take advantage of, too. According to SensorTower data, Power Slap Mobile has over seven million downloads and over $700k in revenue, with 337,000 daily average users still playing the game today. 

Rush Royale x Jake Paul 

Gamers aren’t always receptive to influencer collaborations. War of the Visions Final Fantasy Brave Exvius’s in-game collaboration with Addison Rae had no notable impact on downloads or revenue and was met with backlash from the game’s community. That said, Jake Paul’s collaboration with the tower defence game Rush Royale was a huge success, leading to a 20% growth in DAUs and 1.5 million users unlocking the Jake Paul-themed hero. 

Why it worked 

As controversial as he may be, Jake Paul is one of the most well-known influencers in the world. Rush Royale’s growth in users might be attributed to the fact that Paul was heavily promoting this campaign through his social channels, pushing his fans to download the game for the first time. Raising awareness of in-game collaborations through social promotion can contribute to their success.

Blackpink the Game 

Blackpink is one of the hottest K-pop groups in the world right now, so it was only a matter of time until they got their own mobile game. With nearly four million downloads and over $1.1m in revenue since its release in May 2023, it’s safe to say that Blackpink, the Game, has been a huge success. 

Why it worked 

Taking on the role of the band’s producer, the game provides exclusive access to behind-the-scenes photos and videos of the band, tapping into the fandom surrounding the group and ultimately giving Blackpink fans more way to engage with the band. Blackpink’s previous collaborations with PUBG: Mobile and Xbox also means there’s an existing positive relationship with gamers to build on. 

Stumble Guys x Nerf

Some gamers might dismiss Stumble Guys as just a mobile clone of the popular PC/console party royale game, Fall Guys. Still, Scopely’s Stumble Guys has set itself apart from its competitors through its collaborations with non-gaming IP that introduce new gameplay mechanics. For example, its collaboration with Nerf added Nerf-themed cosmetic items and a new shooting mode into the game, boosting downloads by 120%, according to SensorTower. 

Why it worked 

Adding a new shooter mode provided a significant twist on Stumble Guys’ existing gameplay mechanics, offering players a chance to dive into an exciting new game mode. This will have encouraged lapsed users to return to the game, while also appealing to shooting game fans to engage with a game they might have skipped over otherwise. 

Rocket League x AC Milan 

2023 was a busy year for football in video game collaborations as major clubs aim to grow their digital footfall. One of our personal favourites is AC Milan’s collaboration with racing game Rocket League, which introduced new car decals and wheels through a partnership with Puma and Koche.

Why it worked 

This fairly simple integration demonstrates that licensors can integrate IP into games of any genre and style as long as it’s done correctly. Of course, it helps there’s already a match there because football and Rocket League are both competitive sports, but sometimes simple DLC such as themed cosmetic items is an easy way to get your IP or brand in front of millions of players. 


Surprising as it might be, there are plenty of ways for FMCG and foodservice companies to get into video games, and our favourite food integration from 2023 is KFC’s partnership with PUBG: Mobile. The in-game partnership added new cosmetic items into the game based on the Colonel, while also introducing KFC restaurants as location points on the map where players could purchase new menu items to recover their health. 

Why it worked 

‘Chicken Dinner’ is a phrase commonly used by PUBG players when they win a match, so this partnership was a hit with the game’s community. Adding actual KFC menu items into the game was a great way for KFC to promote their new menu, while PUBG-themed menu boxes at real-life restaurants maximised visibility of the in-game campaign. 

Our top three predictions for video game licensing in 2024

The video game industry experienced some significant changes in 2023, many of which we won’t truly see the impact of until later this year and beyond. Many of these changes will impact the licensing world, too, so we wanted to look back at 2023 and share some of our most significant video game licensing predictions for the year ahead. 

1. Integrating with new video game IP will be risky, but mobile remains a safe bet 

2023 was a difficult year for new game launches. Forspoken, a new IP from Square Enix, failed to win over fans and critics, dramatically outperforming Square Enix’s targets for the game. Frontier’s F1 Manager 2023 significantly underperformed, contributing to an operating loss of £26.6m this year, and Sega took the difficult decision to cancel its upcoming online game, Hyenas. 

What does all of this mean? 2023 was a mammoth year for new game releases, but when players are already invested in their favourite live service games (Call of Duty, League of Legends, PUBG Mobile, etc.), it’s going to take something special to pull them away from what they love. Simply put: gamers have too many games to choose from. The market is getting overcrowded, and having a major hit with a new video game IP is more challenging than ever. 

With that in mind, our lesson to licensors is to exercise caution if you’re integrating with a new video game IP in 2024, as there’s no guarantee it will get off the ground from launch. If it doesn’t, there’s a chance its developer might pull the plug on the game shortly after launch. That said, launching a game attached to a pre-existing IP can be a great way to find success, as Scopely has done with its Monopoly GO mobile game, which surpassed $1 billion in revenue in November

Ultimately, licensors should focus their efforts on integrating their IP into video games that already have established player bases. 91% of the world’s top-performing mobile games are still operating on a LiveOps model, according to SensorTower’s State of Mobile Gaming 2023 Report, which means there are plenty of opportunities in the mobile space for licensors. 

2. The Fortnite Effect will ripple into other video games 

Fortnite’s latest major update introduced three new game modes into the Fortnite ecosystem: LEGO Fortnite, a new crafting game similar to Minecraft; Fortnite Festival, a new rhythm game mode similar to Rock Band (and created by Rock Band dev Harmonix); and Rocket Racing, which is essentially the racing game Rocket League (owned by Epic) if it was an arcade-style racer. 

All three of these new game modes have been incredibly successful. They are part of Epic’s mission to reposition Fortnite from a video game to a platform where players can choose from various experiences. By adding new game genres into the Fortnite ecosystem, Epic is providing more opportunities for growth by widening the motivations of the players they can appeal to. 

Perhaps more importantly, Epic also introduced cross-game support for many of its cosmetic items, which means players will automatically own LEGO and Rocket Racing variants of items they’ve previously purchased in Fortnite, increasing the visibility of the IP that licensors integrate into the game. We expect other video games with large player bases, such as PUBG and Free Fire to follow the ‘platform’ repositioning in 2024 and beyond. 

Ultimately, Fortnite is no longer just a shooting game, although you could argue that it’s also been a major social hub for quite some time. It’s now a shooting game, a racing game, a music game and a ‘whatever else developers want to make using the Unreal Editor for Fortnite tools’. 

Not only does this maximise the number of players Fortnite appeals to, but it also creates more opportunities for licensors as they have more ways to bring their IP into the Fortnite ecosystem, especially if they work with developers to take advantage of the game’s user-generated content (UGC) tools. 

Speaking of… 

3. UGC tools will grow in popularity, offering more freedom to licensors and developers 

One of the reasons you see so many branded activations taking place on Roblox is because the platform is easy to develop for. There are plenty of companies like Gamefam that specialise in building branded Roblox experience, thanks to its support for user-generated content. This means licensors can integrate with the Roblox platform without having to rely on direct invitations to do so from the Roblox team. 

Last year, Fortnite introduced Unreal Editor for Fortnite, a PC application allowing developers to build their own Fortnite experiences and publish them directly into Fortnite’s ecosystem. Some brands, such as Shell, Kid Cudi and Star Trek, are already taking advantage of these tools having launched their own experiences in 2023. But we’re yet to see Fortnite’s creator tools take off in the same way as Roblox, even with Epic distributing 40% of Fortnite revenue across user-created experiences in the Fortnite ecosystem. 

We suspect much of this is due to a lack of awareness and familiarity with Fortnite’s Unreal Editor for Fortnite tools. While developers have had years of experience building in Roblox, they haven’t had as much time to familiarise themselves with what’s possible using UEFN. That’s why we expect to see more branded experiences in the Fortnite ecosystem in 2024 and beyond, especially with so many players flooding into the game for the first time. 

That said, launching a branded experience in Fortnite doesn’t guarantee success. As an example, the Shell Ultimate Road Trips experience in Fortnite has 0 players at the time of writing. Not a single player! If you’re creating an experience in Fortnite, you need to consider if your content is appealing enough to pull players away from other game modes such as Battle Royale and now, LEGO Fortnite. 

Rather than pursuing a metaverse activation in Fortnite, an integration with an existing video game through a LiveOps campaign could be a more cost-effective and beneficial way of reaching your gaming goals. 

How GTA VI could shake up the licensing landscape

After a ten-year wait, the gaming world finally got the answer to one of its biggest questions: when are we getting GTA IV?! We now know that Rockstar’s follow-up to GTA V, one of the best-selling video games of all time, will launch in 2025. When it does, it’s going to have a major impact on the licensing landscape – but not for the reasons that you might be expecting. 

First, if you’re banking on placing your own IP in GTA VI: good luck. While GTA’s developer Rockstar could easily make millions by bringing well-known IP into the game, it’s historically chosen not to as this would go against the parody nature of GTA’s narrative, which often satirises well-known brands and IP and opts to use fictional names for cars, restaurants and companies instead. 

The only exception to this is GTA’s long history of utilising music in the game. GTA is perhaps best known by some players for its in-game radio stations, curated through licensing partnerships and sync placements with a diverse selection of major labels and independents. Some artists even lend their likeness to radio hosts, while others, such as Dr Dre, have made appearances in the game through DLC. 

So, while any direct licensing opportunities with Rockstar will be minimal or in some cases, non-existent, the game’s launching in 2025 as well as its imminent hype cycle through 2024 will have major repercussions on video game licensing in general. 

Why? Because this is quite literally, one of the most highly anticipated video game releases of all time. The GTA VI trailer on YouTube has managed to surpass 150 million views in less than two weeks. The GTA V trailer, which has been out for 12 years, has 106 million views by comparison. 

Just as everyone was raving about The Last of Us TV series and the new Super Mario Bros. movie in the weeks and months leading up to their release, we’ll see most of the world talking about GTA VI too, and video games by association. When Rockstar reports sales figures for the game (and for a point of reference, GTA V has sold 190 million units since its release in 2013), heads outside of the gaming industry will collectively turn as they realise, again, the gargantuan sums of money video games are capable of generating. 

As a result, we expect to see more Hollywood adaptations of video game IP. We expect to see more licensors pursuing licensing partnerships with video game IP for merchandising. And we certainly expect to see more in-game integrations as more licensors look to immerse their IP into the world of video games for the very first time. 

If you need a hand connecting your IP with the right video game studio, you know exactly where to find us! We’ll be waiting. 

In brief 

Here are some of our other favourite brand collaborations, licensing deals and partnerships from the last month. 

And in other news…