You can trace the history of licensed video games back to the release of Superman on the Atari 2600 in 1979, and video games have been a powerhouse for IP plays ever since – with varying degrees of success. Goldeneye on the N64 is widely regarded as one of the greatest first-person-shooters ever created, while E.T. on the Atari 2600 is widely regarded as the greatest extraterrestrial threat mankind has ever faced, the release of which led to the entire video game market collapsing in 1983 and 700,000 copies of the game finding their way home to a landfill.
But despite the occasional flop, video games based on blockbuster hits, major TV franchises, sports brands and even music stars (shout out 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand) have been largely successful and continued to grow in popularity throughout the ‘90s and early 00s. But the loss of several key studios and publishers such as Radical Entertainment, Acclaim, Visceral Games and Neversoft over the next decade, along with the mounting costs of development as video games have grown larger in size means that, with the exception of some AAA titles, there aren’t as many IP-based video games as there used to be.
At least, not on PC and console. Because Newzoo’s report into IP-based mobile games proves the mobile sector is leading the way on the licensing front. As the report suggests, there are plenty of reasons for this. Mobile games are generally cheaper to develop and easier to monetise, especially as so many mobile games operate on a live-service model, which means IP-based mobile games are easier to recoup costs on. And if you’re not already aware, mobile games generate more than half of global gaming revenue, and the mobile market is growing at a much faster rate than PC, console and portable.
IP is an important part of this, as Newzoo finds strong IP attracts high spenders, which could be leading to “higher revenues for IP-based mobile games”. Big spenders (players who spend more than $25 per month) and average spenders (between $5–$25) are 2.84 times more likely to download a game based on an IP/universe they like in comparison to low spenders (less than $5 per month).
The report also breaks down the areas where IP-based mobile games are performing strongly, with IP-based games having a much bigger presence in Japan’s top-grossing chart (eight out of 20) than China (four out of 20) and the US (3 out of 20). It’s worth noting that Japan has a mountain of IP from manga and anime to tap into, while these entertainment sectors aren’t as popular in China and the US. And if you’ve been reading our previous newsletters, you’ll be aware that Japan is leading the way when it comes to IP collaborations and crossovers. Again, due to the diverse line-up of IP it has to play with, along with the demographic similarities between anime, gaming and manga.
That said, Western IP is leading the way with downloads due to the global appeal of Marvel, the top-performing IP for downloads, followed by Cartoon Network and Disney. But the manga might of Umasumsume: Pretty Derby means its earning more global revenue than Marvel, which you may find surprising given its a manga series unfamiliar to most people in the West.
In addition to this in-depth analysis, the report also covers three important criteria to assess the success of IP-based mobile games with input from key stakeholders at companies such as Bandai Namco and Gree Entertainment. It’s a pretty lengthy report, so if you’re interested in the key highlights we’d recommend checking out our summary of what licensors and game studios can learn from this report here.
The mobile market shows no signs of slowing down, and while this Newzoo focuses specifically on IP-based mobile games, there are countless collaborations and crossovers being announced for mobile games every day as part of their LiveOps strategies. The information in this Newzoo report should prove useful to you if you’re exploring IP partnerships for a game’s LiveOps strategy, and if you’re looking for further inspiration, you’ll find some of our favourite IP collaborations and crossovers further down.