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LBE checklist: Think long-term, be flexible and expect the unexpected

The growing importance of location-based entertainment to the licensing industry was highlighted by two expert panels at Brand Licensing Europe last week.

Kicking off the the first – keynote panel Passing GO: Bringing the World’s #1 Board Game to Life – License Global’s senior digital editor Ian Hart quizzed David Hutchinson, chief executive officer of The Path Entertainment Group, and Hasbro’s Matt Proulx, vice president, global experiences, partnerships and music, about the process of creating Monopoly Lifesized. The immersive, 4D physical version of the favourite family game brand, played in a 15m x 15m Monopoly board, opened in London’s Tottenham Court Road in 2021 and has welcomed over 160,000 visitors to date.

“Monopoly is a game with a 90-year legacy,” said Matt. “The user experience delivers on visitors’ expectations in that the icons and key elements of the game are represented, but we’ve built on that essence of the brand to create a magical, unexpected moments, and that’s where emotional connection occurs.”

Accompanied by actors playing the board tokens, visitors take part in mini games and challenges while enjoying a whirlwind tour of the capital – offering plenty of “Instagrammable” moments. Matt said: “There’s been a core change in generational behaviour over the past 10 years or so. It’s very significant what social media has done to enhance that; people want to share their experiences with a community.”

Both Matt and David stressed the differences between location-based entertainment and other types of licensing – “You have to consider things like staffing, merchandising and logistics before you’ve even started on the creative,” Matt cautioned – but also the LBE sector’s enormous growth potential.

“The high street is changing; retail is increasingly online. LBE entertainment/leisure is one way of driving people back to city centres. There is a huge pool of creative talent in the UK that allows us innovate in this space. The government is taking this sector more seriously in terms of how we can attract investment,” said David.

Matt agreed: “LBE has become a priority area for companies, and also for landlords, local government and IP owners. This is serious business, and people recognise that this is a sector that we should continue to grow.”

Both experts offered takeaways for the audience on the opportunities – and potential pitfalls – of operating in the BLE space.

Content is king: “Consumers today expect more than a walk-through. Content is what’s increasingly driving ticket sales,” explained David. “Consumers are asking, what am I going to take away from this experience? You have to offer emotional buy-in to the brand.

A good partner is essential: “Things will happen that are out of your control; it’s inevitable,” David pointed out. “It’s important that your partner has your back, like Hasbro did with us when lockdown hit and we had to stand down all our performers and performances.”

Think long-term: “We see Monopoly Lifesized growing expansively around the world,” said Matt. “The goal was always to move from places people travel to, like London, to local sites with franchise partners; we’ve just opened in Saudi Arabia, for example. We want this to be a long-term investment. Long leases mean more security and lower cost.”

Consider your timescales – and double them: “The approvals process with the local council will take longer than you think, as will the approvals process with the IP owner,” said David. “With Hasbro, every single item had to be considered – and quite rightly – to protect the brand.”

Expect the unexpected: “Even after you’ve ticked off all the things like air conditioning, the building might throw up things you haven’t even thought of,” David cautioned. “Build in a healthy contingency.”

Be flexible: “We were expecting families to visit but we underestimated the volume of corporate and groups,” confessed David. “We quickly had to shift our focus and ask ourselves how we could compete against other corporate attractions as opposed to purely family-oriented ones. Our food offering has also evolved to reflect the types of visitors we are getting.”

Following the success of Monpoly Lifesized, The Path Entertainment is currently developing Cluedo Lifesized, an experience based on another of Hasbro’s hugely popular board games.

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