Source catches up with head of Tinderbox, Dave Tovey to find out how further growth is being planned as thousands of people discover gaming in lockdown.
When you look at the categories of licensed products which have the potential to perform well coming out of lockdown across the globe, a good case can almost certainly be made for video gaming.
Already one of the fastest growing areas of licensed merchandise, the amount of people which have discovered, re-discovered or further developed their love for games – console, PC, mobile or esports – during the enforced stay at home period, mean there is now a big opportunity in the space.
“With millions more people discovering gaming, we see this an opportunity for retail to build upon their current gaming success, to expand across categories and into a deeper range of video game IP,” Dave Tovey, director, brand development, head of Tinderbox, comments.
Tinderbox is certainly in a prime position to activate this. The division enjoyed its biggest year yet in 2019. It successfully launched Xbox merchandise in speciality channels and this year will see it expand into multiple categories and mass retail for the first time – thanks to the scheduled release of new console Xbox Series X, momentum for the brand has never been stronger, says Dave.
Legendary Xbox franchise, Halo, also returns in 2020, with the release of Halo Infinite across the entire family of Xbox devices. Tinderbox is planning a licensing programme to support the game release from autumn/winter. Activision’s Call of Duty franchise also continues to go from strength to strength. Dave comments: “To coincide with the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare last year, we established successful fashion partners and activations across high-end and mass retail channels, with DRKN and Fashion UK. In 2020 we have built upon this success, expanding Call of Duty consumer products into further categories and retail channels across the UK and Europe.”
Across the rest of its portfolio, Tinderbox has found success for titles such as Sea of Thieves, Ori and Banjo-Kazooie by partnering with pop culture or collectable licensees.
“As consumers look for ways to stay socially connected, gaming is more important than ever,” says Dave. “The business has certainly not been immune to the COVID-19 fallout and we have had to adapt to the ever-changing developments, however it feels like there is now light at the end of the tunnel with retail re-opening.”
Dave continues: “When the high street was in lockdown, we also increasingly looked to ecommerce and print on demand platforms. We see a great growth opportunity here in the future.”
Moving forward, there are plans for a host of new products and activations, Dave explains: “Across the Activision portfolio, building on the huge success of Call of Duty and Crash Bandicoot consumer products in 2019, we have been able to expand these brands into further categories such as gaming chairs, gifting and collectables with product coming later this year.
“From the summer onwards, the Microsoft focus will be on supporting the new Xbox console and Halo Infinite. Outside of traditional retail, we have also focused on ecommerce platforms as our partners often have a passionate fanbase who they can directly communicate with via social media or through the game itself. A great example of this is with our client Rare – the iconic Xbox game studio is home to some of the most popular video game franchises, and by working with The Hut Group we launched a dedicated branded store giving fans the chance to get their hands on exclusive or limited edition product.”
Tinderbox has also been working with the world’s biggest esports league, ESL, since 2018 and is working hard on securing partners across consumer electronics, peripherals, publishing and fashion/collaborations.
During the pandemic, Dave admits that Tinderbox has been fortunate to work with brands such as Xbox and Halo that have a clear focus on the fourth quarter. “While dwell-time will be a reduced focus for retail, we are confident that, through marketing activity from the brands and from the retailers, consumers will be made aware of the products.”
Like all of us, Dave and the Tinderbox team are looking forward to once again catching up face to face with industry colleagues, clients and new partners. He concludes: “2020 has bought many challengers to the industry which we are working through together. Although, with the sudden shift in consumer habits you can already see that lockdown has accelerated retailers’ ecommerce plans or given a platform for licensees with D2C business to drive sales here.
“This will open up wider distribution channels for the industry with potential growth and Tinderbox are already exploring these new platforms through the power of our client’s brands.”
Tinderbox: Need to know
Tinderbox is a specialist division at Beanstalk, focused on brand representation for video games, esports, new media and the digital entertainment space. It manages some of the biggest gaming franchises in the world including Call of Duty, Xbox, Halo, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Sea of Thieves, Banjo-Kazooie, Ori and ESL.
With dedicated teams across London, New York and other key international territories, Tinderbox was created over five years ago in response to the increasing popularity of gaming. 2019 was the biggest year yet for the division, securing first class consumer products programmes and retail activations across its clients.
“Through our long-term partnerships, we have demonstrated how to successfully take video game franchises to retail, delivering product to mass and hardcore fan accounts,” says Dave.