Aleksandra Szczerba
Festival of Licensing 2020 Week 1: Europe
insight, audience
8 mins

A weekly review of some of our favourite sessions and insights

Anime is picking up pace  

The Festival of Licensing’s Live Stage is sponsored by the anime streaming platform Crunchyroll, who also prepared a live session about the power of anime and the role Crunchyroll plays in today’s media landscape.

Anime has been an element of international pop culture for decades, but it reached its peak in the late 90s and early 2000s, with hits such as Sailor Moon, Pokémon, Dragon Ball Z, Yu-Gi-Oh! and others. It is therefore fascinating that it is having a resurgence today, when seemingly there aren’t any new well known titles in the mainstream. Alas, according to Crunchyroll’s data, 8 in 10 people today watch anime - and the platform boasts 9 years of growth of record sales, with 2019 seeing overseas sales worth $10 billion.    

To an anime outsider, Crunchyroll must seem like a bizarre phenomenon. Surely, it is just like Netflix, but for anime? Not quite.

Founded in 2006, the platform currently boasts over 3 million subscribers and upwards of 70 million registered users across the globe. The appeal of it doesn’t just lie in its streaming content: it offers a complete 360 ecosystem. This includes events, consumer products, ecommerce, publishing and manga, and gaming. It has become the largest hub for all things anime outside of Japan and has fostered fandom of the genre, the culture, and of Crunchyroll as a brand too.

All in all, Crunchyroll through their session show that they are a powerhouse to be reckoned with on the streaming and licensing fronts - but more importantly, that anime as a media genre is something to definitely keep an eye on. Nostalgia and globalisation of pop culture through the internet are likely contributors, and we also expect further growth.

A look at the fast-evolving world of gaming

In the “What do Gamers Want?” session, panelists from Beanstalk and Difuzed delve into the present and future of gaming and gaming retail.

Gaming has been having quite a moment recently. It has seen exponential growth, both in the past few years, and the past few months. The global pandemic has turbocharged people’s engagement with gaming, and technology has been evolving at breakneck speed, with a new generation of “master consoles” being revealed recently.

In the session, gaming is described as “the most highly engaged form of entertainment there is”. On average, a person spends 6.5 hours a week playing games - equivalent to consuming a TV box set each week. Multiplayer games are said to consume even more time, and with game campaigns taking 30 hours or longer, it is undeniable that games truly offer a depth of engaged, interactive content unlike anything else. And all this engagement is driving fandom.

So, what is the future going to bring us? The big takeaway from the session was accessibility - gaming being within reach of more people, more easily. Thanks to developments such as the Xbox Game Pass being available on Android devices, console gaming will now leave the living room and be available on the go. It also means that gamers will no longer need to first invest in an expensive, latest-gen console to enjoy the titles they want, instead being able to opt for a subscription for a device they already own at a fraction of the cost. We are moving away from hardware-driven “console wars” - content is king, and content is what brings players (and revenue) in.

As gaming becomes more mainstream, we also move away from the stereotype of a fashion-averse, basement-dwelling gamer geek. Brands can therefore no longer stick a logo on a t-shirt and call it a day - the demand for CP has changed, as fans demand credibility, authenticity and relevance. Products need to speak to fans’ passions. The role of DLC in retail is becoming much more prominent, with digital exclusive content being a driving force behind CP purchase decisions like never before. And finally the role of esports cannot be discounted in all this too. With gamers becoming perceived as athletes who now form professional teams and compete in tournaments, retail is also resembling sports retail.

Don’t underestimate gaming. It’s already mainstream - and it’s not going away anytime soon.  

Nurturing a legend, four decades later: Join the Pac!

This year, the iconic game character Pac-Man turns 40, and the Festival of Licensing platform features a celebratory and informative look at Pac-Man’s journey with Bandai Namco’s Chief Pac-Man Officer (yes, you read that right) and CEO Yasuo Miyakawa. So, to round up our first weekly Festival of Licensing review, let’s revisit the very hungry yellow dot!

Holding the Guinness World Record for the most successful coin operated game of all time, and recognised by upwards of 90% of the global population (and 98% of the US population), Pac-Man is a truly iconic IP in the gaming space and pop culture in general.

Initially designed as an attempt at a universally-appealing alternative to the violent and male-leaning arcade games of the 1970s, it now successfully features on consumer products and in today’s entertainment media, staying relevant for all generations. The adorable and simple design appeals to all, regardless of age and gender, and is scalable, making it perfect for apparel. The simple game mechanics never go out of style and have transferred easily into the mobile gaming space - and are being tested in mixed reality technologies. Pac-Man is no longer just a cute retro game today - it is a hip brand, even featuring at ComplexCon.

The way in which the game and the character have stood the test of time is truly impressive - and it’s proof of how far the simplest ideas can go, if deployed correctly. The original game is based on the concept of eating, and the character is inspired by pizza - what could be more universally appealing to everyone, regardless of time and place?  

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