Merchandising is increasing important for all games companies.
But it's a messy thing to handle; notably aspects such as physical production, delivery and returns.
That's why typically only the largest developers and publishers have taken full advantage of the opportunity.
But PopAppStore - which offers a turnkey service to developers in terms of producing and retailing merchandise for their games - hopes to change all that.
We hooked up with the Finnish company to find out more about its offerings.
Pocket Gamer: Can you give us some background about how you came up with the idea for PopAppStore?
PopAppStore: We realized that so many mobile games have lots of fans who would like to get fan products but there wasn't any available.
Our mother company Logonet Group has been in the promotional item and fan product business for over 20 years so this was a logical continuation for us. Also we have three logistic hubs (USA, Finland and Thailand) which ensures we can deliver items worldwide.
Why did you think that all/many mobile developers would want to sell merchandising and that mobile gamers would want to buy it?
As we have noticed how Rovio expanded their business with merchandise, we want to bring this option to other gaming companies as well. Merchandise brings the game in to real-life and strengthens the brand. Fan merchandise can also extend a game's life cycle.
And we have seen demand for such products. Many gamers are asking for merchandise and they may buy fake ones if there isn't any official merchandise available.
But we didn't think all developers would want this. It's been a learning curve for us to get into this industry. It's particularly challenging determining which games will have high demand, and which less.
What sort of branded products can you handle?
We have multiple factories in Asia and Europe we closely cooperate with. This ensures that we can produce almost any product the customer wishes.
When we start to work with new company, we usually start with t-shirts, posters, mobile phone covers etc.
We have our own production line in Thailand where we can produce smaller quantities of these products. In this way we don't have to tie so much capital to the merchandise in the beginning, before we know what kind of a demand there is for a specific game.
What's the startup costs for a developer who wants to have their own store?
We always propose a suitable kit to start with, keeping costs down so the risk is non-existence as we refund the initial cost once the first kit is sold out. We take a bigger risk ourselves to get started with most promising games. We're flexible in that sense.
Aspects of merchandising such as very high quality clothing, hand-made screen prints or a wide variation of colours - both with respect to clothes and/or print colour - are becoming increasingly important for fans, as is having some sort of personal relationship with the developers. Do you think having a centralised one-size-fits-all store will dilute this?
We certainly like to think gamers and gaming companies deserve and appreciate unique solutions that reflect their games in every way, including having the look and feel of the game.
Working with mass-produced goods where just the logo is changed for different clients is not the way we work and, as it turns out, many gaming companies agree with that.
We have core items but the way we customize them makes them feel like they've been designed for that specific company.
How difficult is it to handle aspects such as product creation and fulfillment?
We have done merchandise for years so it is not a problem for us.
In the beginning, we got the assets from the gaming company, but over the time we have noticed that many companies want to do their own designs into our product templates as they know their game the best and they have closer relationship to the brand and to the fans. They know what works best.
We always send samples of the products to the customer before we put them on sale. This is the only way to make sure that the customer is satisfied with the product.
What's the reaction been from developers to the opportunity?
The reaction has been really good. We have only received positive feedback.
Some developers are more focused on the commercial opportunity, while others have a more indirect approach and want to interact with the audience and build the brand, not focusing on revenue stream immediately.
What stores do you currently have live?
At the moment we have live stores for Hill Climb Racing, Badland, Benji Bananas and Habbo to name just a few.
And soon we'll put Trials Frontier, Jelly Splash and Skyline Skaters live.
You can see more about PopAppStore's services here.