PopCap Moves into Merchandise
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PopCap hopes to bring zombie battles to a store near you. The gaming company, which became a subsidiary of Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA) last year following a $750 million + purchase, has signed licensing agreements to create merchandise for its most popular titles. First out of the gate: Plants vs. Zombies.
Plants vs. Zombies is a multi-platform game that has existed since 2009 but remains immensely popular. The iOS version, released in February 2010, currently sits at number 21 in the Top Paid Apps section at AppData. Gameplay involves the strategic placing of plants, each with a different function or feature, to ward off on oncoming horde of zombies. The game has a bright cartoony style that makes it appropriate for younger players but can be deceptively difficult at higher levels, appealing to older players.
Though PopCap has other popular titles such as Bejeweled, Plants vs. Zombies was the natural starting point for the merchandizing focus. The aforementioned bright colors and cartoon-like characters lend well to plush toys and apparel. There will be a few different companies handling the different types of merchandise that will be available:
- Bioworld Merchandising: Apparel and accessories
- Jazwares: Plush toys and electronic accessories
- Walls360: Artwork
- Funko! : Vinyl figurines conforming to the manufacturer’s Pop! Products
- MjC International: Adult pajamas
- Trends International: Calendars/posters
PopCap Plush Toys (Source: PopCap Games)
The wide range of products makes it more likely that any fan of the game would be able to find at least one item appealing. Released photos show products that appear to be of high quality, at least in the design work. The plush toys in particular should do well, assuming a decent price point, and are reminiscent of the plush toys from another popular gaming company.
Angry Birds creator Rovio started a merchandising push last year that includes bird branded products ranging from flip flops to plush toys. The Finland-based company is still private (though an IPO is likely to come next year) but it has been estimated to be worth more than $1 billion. It’s rumored that 10 to 20 percent of Rovio’s revenues come from merchandising. Freestanding merchandise stores were erected in Helsinki and Shanghai, with further stores planned.
Zynga (NASDAQ: ZNGA), a gaming company mostly known for its –Ville games and its symbiosis with Facebook, struck its own merchandise license in February. Hasbro (NASDAQ: HAS) signed up to make toys related to Zynga titles. It’s worth noting that Hasbro also has an arrangement with PopCap’s dad, EA, wherein the gaming company gets to make digital versions of Hasbro board games.
It’s hard to come up with an estimate of how much the merchandising strategy could earn PopCap. The most comparable example comes from a private company and Zynga’s deal is fresh, meaning it will be a while before the products come up for sale.
Though Rovio has more daily and monthly active users (Angry Birds Space has achieved 50 million downloads in 35 days) and Zynga makes the news more often, PopCap does have a distinct advantage – the undying popularity of zombies. Further game related products are expected in 2013, but it’s doubtful any of the other titles will create such organic products with a strong buyer base.
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