Harness Comic-Con Fandom Year-Round
Harness Comic-Con Fandom Year-Round
Virtual goods are quickly becoming a lucrative way for brands to drive fan engagement, and growth.
Fans are the lifeblood of any brand, and nowhere is that more evident than at the San Diego Convention Center in late July.
And so, as enthusiasts from around world converge at Comic Con to celebrate, share and even embody their favorite characters and franchises, we’re taking a deeper look at a new way that fans of all stripes and colors are engaging with the brands they love – in the virtual world. The power of Comic Con comes from its ability to bring to life the community that surrounds brands. And yet for most of the year, when fans are separated by time zones and oceans, that community exists in the virtual world.
It should come as no surprise then that these fans, who eagerly spend money on costumes, toys, homewares and thousands of other products to enhance and exhibit their passion, are also looking to showcase their fandom with virtual goods as well.
“Just like in real life, the players in these games want to differentiate themselves,” says Mark Caplan, principal at BDLabs, a business development firm for brands looking to expand in the digital space. “This is a mass market. If you look at games like ‘Fortnite’ or ‘PUBG,’ there are so many players playing at a given time, they want to stand out. Virtual goods provide gamers a way of being unique, and on the flip side, brands have an opportunity to reach huge groups of eager consumers.”
Huge is right. Newzoo estimates that 2.3 billion gamers across the globe will spend close to $138 billion on gaming this year, with mobile games making up 51% of that. By 2021, that’s expected to reach $180 billion.
“The gaming space is a priority right now for a lot of licensors because of the fast growth, not just in mobile, but with console and eSports. But not every brand can be made into its own game,” says Caplan. “Branded virtual goods open up more opportunities for brands and licensors to get involved in gaming.”
The problem for many licensors now is not the ‘why,’ but the ‘how’ – entering a whole new type of product category can be time consuming and even intimidating. Caplan would know. Prior to starting BDLabs he spent 20 years in the licensing business, first at Fox and then at Sony Pictures, where he eventually led the consumer products group for Sony Pictures Entertainment. At Sony, Caplan was on the cutting edge of virtual goods licensing, working to extend brands like Ghostbusters into the digital space when the concept was in its relative infancy.
“When I was doing virtual goods licensing at Sony, it was just a strenuous exercise, because you’re not dealing with a tangible item, you’re dealing with a digital item, and tracking royalties and transactions was really cumbersome,” he said.
Seeing first-hand the power of virtual goods, and the challenges, are what led Caplan to partner with BLMP Licensing Marketplace once he started BDLabs. BLMP is a new platform that uses blockchain technology to eliminate the barriers that can keep brands from entering the virtual goods space.
“BLMP has created a solution that I wish I had when I was at Sony – a virtual goods platform that can easily track the transactions that are being done,” he explains. “The blockchain, given its – believe it or not – simplicity, is the magic. It takes away the pain threshold of tracking virtual transactions. It’s not done through submitting an Excel file; you have an automatically generated ledger of every stage of the transaction, something completely trustworthy and indisputable.”
Previously only associated with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, seen as the purview of tech-savvy risk takers, major corporations including Walmart, Alibaba and HSBC are increasingly looking to blockchain to ease the flow of a wide range of business transactions. In the gaming space, Microsoft just launched a new blockchain-based platform to calculate the royalties of its Xbox publishers.
But the BLMP platform goes well beyond just providing a way to track virtual transactions. BLMP’s marketplace is designed to easily bring together brands and digital publishers, helping to facilitate every stage of the deal from initial contact to product creation to sale.
The BLMP platform is set to launch in the coming months and already has the support of BDLabs and leading licensing and brand management agency, Evolution USA, which manages multiple premiere portfolios from some of the industry’s biggest IP owners. The combined group has access to more than 500 brands including heavy hitters like “Angry Birds,” “Narcos” and “Smooshy Mushy.”
Both Caplan and Adam Unger, Evolution’s President of New Business Development, are also advisors to BLMP, along with some other big names from the worlds of gaming and tech. Among them are Henk Rogers, the founder of “Tetris”; Gail Tilden, who served as Vice President of Brand Management at Nintendo for 23 years; and William Entriken, one of the leading minds in the world of blockchain.
“The BLMP marketplace has the perfect technology solution to protect and effectively manage IP in the digital goods arena,” says Unger. “It provides a fully transparent solution for an IP owner, showing what was sold, when and to whom – all backed by the unbreakable blockchain ecosystem. We have already partnered with two of our premiere licensor clients on the platform and will be launching a big range of digital products later this year.”
This support from brand licensing and tech leaders has also already prompted 11 game publishers to sign up to participate in the BLMP marketplace, including Built Games, Glorious Games, Tapas Media, Reality Clash, NO2 and Pixowl, which together account for 5 million monthly active customers. Additional digital platforms, including AR app Thyng, have also signed on with BLMP recently.
“We intend to create a vast network where every new participant in the network creates more value for everyone else,” says Victor David, co-founder and CEO of BLMP. “Ultimately, we want to give brands more data, more information to make better decisions on who to partner with. But we’re also giving them accessibility to all the publishers that come onto the platform and vice versa. It’s basically bringing these two industries together.”