Issue #
Star Wars saturation and Roblox UGC woes

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

How much Star Wars is too much Star Wars? June saw the release of Star Wars: Hunters, a new Star Wars game only available on Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android devices (at least for the time being). Hunters offers a refreshing twist on the Star Wars franchise as a competitive arena shooter, but does the addition of a new midcore Star Wars game in the mobile market risk cannibalizing figures for EA’s other licensed Star Wars game, Galaxy of Heroes? 

Elsewhere, we explore the future of user-generated content (UGC) from the perspective of Roblox, following growing concerns from the UGC community about their creations being removed as Roblox ramps up enforcement of its content moderation policies. What lessons can platform holders and licensors learn from these experiences, and how much freedom do content creators really have on UGC platforms? 

You can find both of these stories below, along with the latest news at the intersection of video games and licensing. 

How much Star Wars is too much Star Wars?

Fun fact: there are more than 100 video games based on the Star Wars franchise, spanning old-school arcade games to online RPGs. Star Wars: Hunters, developed by mobile game experts Zynga (FarmVille) and NaturalMotion, is the latest addition to the massive line-up of Star Wars games, pitting players against each other as their favorite Star Wars heroes in 4v4 arena combat 

Star Wars: Hunters is a free-to-play live-service game available only on Nintendo Switch and mobile devices, but the mobile market is home to another live-service Star Wars game: EA’s Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. Does the release of Star Wars: Hunters risk cannibalizing the audience that EA and Lucas Arts have built for Galaxy of Heroes? Or is there enough room in the market for the two titles to co-exist?

It’s worth noting that Hunters and Galaxy of Heroes aren’t the only Star Wars games on mobile devices, and it isn’t unusual for license holders to have multiple games based on the same IP out in the market at the same time. The big difference here is that both of these titles are live-service midcore games, and their financial success requires a highly-engaged playerbase with enough commitment to the game that they’re willing to purchase in-game items and currency.

Live-service games are incredibly popular. Griffin’s 2023 Game Development Report found 95% of video game developers are currently developing or maintaining a live-service game – but live-service games are a heavy time-sink for players, and there are only so many games that players can keep up with, especially when they’re time-strapped. That’s why it’s not unusual to find people who will just play Call of Duty, Fortnite, or Destiny 2 without picking up many other titles. 

This can become problematic when you have two live-service games based on the same IP operating in the same markets. Licensors have to make more calculated choices with the licenses they grant to game studios and ensure any games they license for development are substantially different. 

In the case of Hunters and Galaxy of Heroes, Hunters is a third-person arena shooter while Galaxy of Heroes is a hero-collectible RPG. Outside of gameplay differences, Hunters is set in a Star Wars timeline between Episode VI and Episode VII, while Galaxy of Heroes isn’t tied to any specific narrative arc or timeline and is largely a celebration of Star Wars characters from all pockets of the galaxy. 

While the demographics for both games are broadly similar, the difference in gameplay mechanics means they cater to different audiences: players motivated by RPG mechanics (Galaxy of Heroes) and players motivated by shooter mechanics (Hunters). Similarly, the difference in narrative and setting creates a compelling reason for Star Wars fans to check out both games.

Audience data for Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes and Star Wars: Hunters on iOS (Sensor Tower) 

So, now for the big question: has the launch of Star Wars: Hunters impacted Galaxy of Heroes? We can use Sensor Tower data to find out. 

Galaxy of Heroes has grossed $1.2 billion since its release in 2015 and has more than 95 million downloads, with 1.6 million daily active users at the time of writing. Star Wars: Hunters was released on 4 June but has already grossed $1 million in its first month and picked up more than 1.7 million downloads, with 245k daily active users at the time of writing (and worth bearing in mind these figures only include iOS and Android – not Nintendo Switch). 

Download and revenue data for Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes (Sensor Tower)

As you can see from the data above, the launch of Star Wars: Hunters hasn’t made a dent in the playerbase for Galaxy of Heroes. In fact, revenue for Galaxy of Heroes has been slowly rising since the launch of Hunters, 

This could be due to the different audiences associated with both games. If we look at daily active user demographics for Galaxy of Heroes over the last 30 days, US, Russia, Brazil, UK and Germany are the five most-popular countries, compared to US, UK, France, Germany and Canada for Star Wars: Hunters. 

Revenue data for Star Wars: Hunters reveals the US (71%), UK ((8%), Canada (4.4%), Germany (1.6%) and Japan (1.6%) are the biggest contributors to revenue, while data for Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes reveals US (64%), UK (6.9%), Germany (6.6%), Canada (4.3%), and France (2.9%) are the biggest revenue generators. 

Rather than cutting into each other's earnings, Star Wars: Hunters and Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes are actually supporting each other. We wouldn’t be surprised if die-hard Star Wars fans are juggling both games at the same time, and we could see crossover events between the two titles to further cross-pollinate audiences in the future. 

The success of both games – at least for the time being – shows the opportunity for licensors to take their IP into multiple categories and audiences, whether that’s through a new licensed game or integration. That said, licensors and game studios pitching for IP should ensure any new video games offer players and fans of that IP something new and exciting, especially if there are games already based on that IP in the video game market. 

Roblox woes and the future of UGC moderation

With partnerships including Walmart, Prada, Vans, Barbie, Hello Kitty and Hot Wheels, Roblox has become one of the hottest virtual destination for the world’s biggest brands. Despite its overwhelming popularity with global IP, there’s no hiding from the fact that IP infringement continues to be a major issue on the platform, mainly through the creation of user-generated content (UGC). 

While you’ll struggle to find a major brand that doesn’t have a presence on Roblox nowadays, the platform hasn’t always been the home of branded activations. It’s only in recent years that branded activations have become more popular and the visibility of Roblox has increased, which means both the platform and license holders have stepped up their IP enforcement through more stringent content moderation

Roblox is currently experimenting with AI content moderation, where algorithms can assess whether new UGC uploads violate IP. In addition, rights holders are able to submit IP takedowns through Roblox if they find content on the platform (easily viewable via the marketplace or Discover tab) that infringes their IP. 

While these enforcement measures are good news for IP holders, recent changes to content moderation are causing problems for some UGC creators, with several creators taking to Twitter to complain about bans for content being incorrectly flagged as violating IP or going against Roblox’s terms and conditions. 

Some studios specializing in UGC creation for Roblox have even shut down. Freshcut, a Roblox development studio, closed its doors in June, with some of its creators attributing the growing enforcement of UGC to its closure. 

So, where does all of this leave Roblox and the future of licensed content on the platform? 

Licensors don’t have much to worry about. If anything, stricter enforcement of UGC is a positive and won’t affect them. However, this does leave some questions about the future of UGC in an era where a growing number of video games are embracing UGC models. 

There’s a lot of negative sentiment surrounding UGC on Roblox from content creators at the moment, and Roblox could have avoided this by being stricter with content moderation earlier on – especially as many creators are being hit by uploads they created several years ago when the platform was still in its relevant infancy (creators who may have uploaded infringing content in the past have to contact Roblox to remove their own creations – they can’t do it themselves!) 

Game studios making a move to UGC in the future should be mindful of having their content moderation policies thought out in advance to avoid upsetting both content creators and licensors. 

If you work on licensing teams responsible for enforcing IP protection, it’s worth checking if your IPs are currently being infringed on Roblox. You can search for them on the Roblox marketplace here. That said, if you don’t have an official presence on Roblox but notice that the marketplace is full of unofficial UGC items based on your IP, this could be a good indicator that there’s an audience in the gaming space that’s interested in purchasing official UGC. 

A recent MIDiA study found music artists, TV shows, and film are best positioned brand categories for in-game item activations. While Roblox provides a great opportunity for licensors to take control of their IP by working with Roblox development specialists to launch licensed UGC directly onto the marketplace, you should also pursue activations in the wider gaming market through collaborations with mobile, PC and console games. 

If you need a hand matching your IP to the right game development studios, that’s where Layer can help! 

In brief 

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

And in other news…