Video Game Merchandise: Too Much, Too Soon?

Video Game Merchandise: Too Much, Too Soon?

With every new game release, be it a popular franchise or a new IP, there’s a wave of merchandise. From posters, to books, to action figures and vinyl, the range of merchandise is staggering. It’s struck me as bizarre that some brand new properties launch with extensive amounts of merchandise behind them. Given that they are new to the market, and don’t have a established fan base, I’ve always wondered if it’s a case of misplaced confidence.

It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, mostly with the release of Evolve. The game has already spawned a line of Funko Pop Vinyl, as well as a Legacy collection of figures. I never quite understood placing a sizable investment into a franchise that is so new. There’s no established fan base, there’s no reputation to fall back on, it’s a big risk.

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Evolve hasn’t exactly set the world on fire., With a heavy focus on DLC, and being online only, it’s not exactly the mammoth game I suspect both Take 2m and Funko,expected it to be. Titanfall is another game that went all in on the merchandise front. Clothing, accessories, licensed controllers and headset, Mega Bloks and Play Arts, that’s a lot for a new franchise. People must have been lining up with offers to purchase Titanfall related merchandise, but less than 6 months after the game’s release, the online player base has significantly shrunk.

The stock contained within each of these games must surely be detrimental to how it’s related merchandise is licensed. If a game’s appeal/player base dies down, or the game flops, does this paint video games as a risky mark for companies? The likes of NECA have met a certain degree of failure with their Left 4 Dead line of figures. While the figures themselves were amazing quality, at a fair price, the low sales numbers resulted in the line ending after only two releases.

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I often see a wealth of video merchandise stuck on the shelves for month,s if not years, with no one ever buying them. A local store has held the same Assassin’s Creed figures for years now. Titanfall and Call of Duty Ghost clothing lines a local game store, with no one ever paying attention to them. While video games are main stream, the appeal of it’s merchandise is seemingly not, at least in general.

Ubisoft is a company that has seemingly went to great lengths to release their games along side huge amounts of merchandise. The release day of Unity at my local GAME store resulted in the whole shop being decked out in figures, clothes, posters, calenders and statues based on the game. The sheer amount of Unity related items on sale was mind blowing, especially seems the game had only just came out. It felt like Ubisoft assumed the game would be a staggering success, and the merchandise would sell well, after all it’s an established fan base.

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Unity, as we know now, was a broken mess of a game. With various game breaking bugs, and a obvious lack of polish, I began to link the release of the merchandise and the game. Was Unity rushed out to meet the same time frame as the merchandise? If so, who made that decision? Ubisoft? Pressure from the merchandise producers? It all felt a little too convenient.

After some reflection on the topic, I’m still curious to how merchandise deals pan out for new franchises. Whose money is at risk? How do they calculate the investment, the risk and reward? Do people even want merchandise to buy along side their new franchises? Each new Triple A franchise is seemingly coming with more and more pre-planned merchandise. It all carries a lick of over confidence, an assumption the said game will be a long term success.

 

 

Sean Halliday


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