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How to leverage brands, licenses and celebrities for your mobile game's success

How to leverage brands, licenses and celebrities for your mobile game's success

Ben Figueroa is Business Development Manager at GrowMobile by Perion, a provider of top user acquisition and engagement solutions for mobile businesses.

Licenses and mobile games seem to go together like peas in the pod.

Following the success of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, the news that Glu Mobile had secured the rights to make Britney Spears game and gained a multi-million dollar investment, led to its value increasing by $116 million overnight.

And the reason why is the nature of the mobile gaming audience.

Not only do mobile games naturally encourage repeated interaction with the game (and, in licensing terms, the brand), mobile monetization relies on superfans to generate most of its revenue – something big name IPs or celebrities bring in abundance.

So how can you go about harnessing the power of licenses, brands and celebrities in your mobile game?

Here are our top four tips.


Click here to view the list »
  • 1 Work with the right brand

    Before you even begin to find a brand or celebrity to work with, you need to consider what type of license is right for you.

    This process involves a couple of levels. The first is the studio fit and what games you actually like to make.

    After all, if you’ve been making casual social games for decades is it really a right move for you to go for the Warhammer license? And would Katy Perry really be a great fit for a collectible card game?

    And on the second level, you need to make sure that the brands you work with don’t come with potential bite backs further down the line. EA was forced to remove licensed guns from Call of Duty in 2013 following consumer outrage, meaning you do need to tread carefully.

    TinyCo's Family Guy game is freakin' sweet

    If you do match up your studio needs to a license though, it can go very well.

    Family Guy fitted TinyCo’s social game niche perfectly, while Kabam’s hardcore expertise helped their Fast & Furious game succeed.

    But you need to think about what really works, rather than falling in love with the idea alone.

  • 2 Prepare for negotiations

    License holders and brands are obviously a boon to work with, but there will likely be bumps along the way even with the best arrangements in place.

    For example, there have been a number of reports from the set of the new Star Wars film that suggest director J.J. Abrams has been frustrated by interference from Disney.

    From adding a new robot for merchandising purposes to pushing the inclusion of themes from a separate Star Wars TV show, even the biggest names have to negotiate.

    And that’s natural, of course – brand holders want the very best to support their stable and your game will have to offer that.

    But by ensuring that you build opportunities for license holder feedback into any agreement, guaranteeing marketing support up front and making sure commercial agreements are sorted before you proceed, you can mitigate those problems.

    Oh, and most importantly of all, you need to be damn sure you actually have an agreement in place to use the license. Otherwise, your legal team is likely to be contacting you within days of your title hitting mobile devices.


  • 3 Weave the license into the fabric of the game

    A truly successful licensed game weaves the personality, the identifying characteristics, and the signature style of the license into the seams of the game.

    Rather than simply being an imitation of a previously successful game that does little new, a licensed game should feel like a natural extension of the beloved brand and the best games do this well.

    Star Wars Commander’s “leave a review” screen shows Obi Wan Kenobi trying to perform a Jedi mind trick on the player; The Simpsons: Tapped Out’s latest update focused on the legendarily unsuccessful serial killer Sideshow Bob.

    Obi Wan Kenobi - keen on your App Store feedback

    And EA’s Real Racing 3 remains a top grossing stalwart by regularly releasing branded packs for high-end cars to keep players coming back for more.

    In short, developers using licenses need to try really hard to weave it into the fabric of the game from the very beginning.

  • 4 Leverage the license for marketing

    Finally, you need to work hard to really leverage the license for marketing purposes to make sure that you benefit as much from the license as possible.

    First, you need to make sure that the license holder actually pushes your title to their audience as much as possible.

    This includes social media (where the likes of Kim Kardashian has 31.5 million followers on Twitter), through the press and, in the case of the really big players, by using their influence to get App Store features.

    But beyond that, you need to make sure that you use the big brand or license as much as possible in your own marketing push.

    While not strictly an example of licensing, Machine Zone’s decision to include Kate Upton as their Athena in their TV campaigns, to promote tweets for the game from her account, and re-design in-game assets to allow her to feature heavily in the Facebook ad campaign, shows how much of a benefit using the license can have.

    Ultimately, the strength of having a license for your game is about trading off some design freedom in return for an audience size and quality you may not be able to reach by yourself.

    So it’s really important to take as much advantage of that in the marketing stage as possible to help you on the road to what will hopefully be a Kardashian-sized success.


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