Mattel’s partnership with leading virtual world, games and UGC platform Rec Room for a Masters of the Universe digital collaboration is just part of the company’s strategy to expand its presence in the gaming space. LicensingSource.net asks Mike DeLaet, Mattel’s global head of digital gaming, to tell us more.
Hi Mike, can you expand on the Rec Room partnership and how it will work?
Rec Room has built an amazing platform that touches millions of players on a day to day basis. What’s happening with MOTY is that from 15 December there’ll be a pop-up shop in the Rec Center where you can buy costumes to dress up your avatar as Skeletor, He-Man or Teela, and you can also purchase a Power Sword. You can even have your photo taken with He-Man, Skeletor or Teela in a photo booth. It’s really cool and iconic, and I think it’s going to excite the fans in a big way. We’ve done similar partnerships in the past and they’ve always worked very well. We’re excited about what Rec Room is doing and their execution of it – they’ll have the Castle Grayskull as part of the photo booth. It’s pretty awesome!
He-Man is 40. He’s looking great for his age! What do you think is behind the enduring popularity of MOTU? Is gaming – and digital innovations such as your Rec Room partnership – key to keeping the franchise fresh and engaging new fans?
Masters of the Universe has been very popular for a very long time. I played with He-Man toys when I was a kid, and it’s still a very exciting IP, with the new CGI animated series on Netflix introducing the franchise to a whole new generation. As kids age out of physical toys, they now move into digital games. Our partnership with Rec Room is a great way for them to continue to engage with the MOTU brand.
You’ve spoken of the “incredible potential” for Mattel’s brands in the gaming sector. Are there particular brands that you feel have more potential than others? Or maybe there are some brands that haven’t been fully tapped, game-wise, yet?
I’d say in terms of console games, Barbie; we could do a lot more there with our most iconic brand. MEGA, our building blocks LEGO competitor, is also one that comes to mind because we have some amazing IP there, and there’s a lot you can do with the building sets outside of physical toys. We do a lot with Hot Wheels already, but we could do more with Matchbox, which is our other car IP – it’s an amazing brand. Part of the reason Mattel brought me in is to do a lot more in gaming than we’ve ever done in the past. We intend to really build this up into a major business for the company that engages with fans on a day to day basis – which is essentially what gaming does.
Are you able to outline your strategy for growth in the gaming space? Will you be concentrating equally on developing your own games and branded activations in existing games?
We’re primarily focused on licensing our IP, so we’re constantly talking to game developers and partners. We also have a joint venture with NetEase called Mattel163, which is our game studio producing mobile games. Up until now, it has focused on our board game IPs, like Phase 10 and Skip-Bo. We’ll continue working with them to grow that business and take it to the next level. Over time, we’ll see how this all evolves. There are obviously a lot of different paths we could take, but for now, that’s what we’re going to focus on.
How do you feel the economic uncertainty will impact on the gaming sector? What do you think the particular challenges will be over the next couple of years? On a more positive note, where do you see opportunities?
Historically, I’d say games have been very resilient to recessions. If you have, say, $20 to spend, do you use it to go to see a movie that will give you two hours of entertainment, or buy a game that will give you hours and hours? On the other hand, gaming has had other macroeconomic issues, such as hardware supply-chain problems; PlayStation hasn’t been able to supply enough PS5s, and X-Box has had similar issues. It’s getting better, but it’s been a factor since the pandemic. So yes, the industry will experience some pain in the months ahead and sales might be down for the first time in over 10 years. But overall, gaming is a very resilient sector.
What excites you about the future of gaming? What do you think it will look like in five years, or 10 years? Will we all be fully immersed in the metaverse?
It’s getting better and better every day, right? You know, the processor and GPU [graphics processing unit] in mobile phones is now like an Xbox console from five years ago. It’s just insane how fast the potential of mobile computing has developed. Also, 5G technology, for low latency, high bandwidth multiplayer gaming on the go, is going to be more prevalent than ever now that it’s being rolled out worldwide. And then, as we look at future business models – like Web 3.0, and player ownership of assets – there will be game developers who will create amazing experiences around them. It hasn’t really happened yet, but it also didn’t happen in the early days of free-to-play gaming, and then somebody started doing it and it took off as a big business model. We think that’s going to happen again with Web 3.0.
Then there’s the metaverse, as you mentioned. The concept of virtual worlds has been around for a long time, but what nobody had really done until Fortnite did it was stage concerts and other kinds of events within a game, to make it really mass market. There are some exciting developments in the space, such as the potential to take your avatar from game to game. Ready Player Me is doing it already; they have an API [application programming interface] that games can plug into, and you can take your player anywhere you want to go.
Any plans for 2023 that you can share?
Our partnership with Rec Room is indicative of where we’re going. It’s an up-and-coming platform, and we’re thrilled to be working with them. Let’s just say Mattel is going to be doing a lot more in gaming, working on multiple different platforms and business models. It’s a very exciting time to be here.
The Masters of the Universe event will be available across all Rec Room platforms from 15 December 2022 to 15 January 2023.