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Mar 6, 2024

Mitch and Blake look at the ins and outs of intellectual property licensing in games. After discussing the checkered history of the practice, they look at the creative and business reasons why licensed IP continues to be valuable to game creators. 

After a quick look at how IP licenses actually function and what to expect from licensors, Mitch and Blake discuss IP arbitrages -- finding gems in the rough that can be licensed at lower cost but with considerable customer acquisition lift, using the examples of Tony Hawk, Kim Kardashian, and Sponge Bob. They draw an important distinction between celebrity endorsement and IP licensing.

The move on to a deep dive on EA Sports, one of the great IP licensing-based businesses ever created in video games. They talk about the EA "house style" of realism based on actual teams and players, and what that meant from an IP acquisition standpoint. Mitch explains their high-priced exclusive licenses with the NFL as well as their complex clockwork licensing regime for the product formerly known as FIFA, which was so resilient it allowed them to cease licensing the master IP itself. They also talk about the sports where EA lost -- like baseball and basketball.

Your hosts turn to the topic of the recently-announced Epic/Disney deal. They present their outsiders' view of Epic's IP partnership strategy, and how Epic has tried to weave media IP, celebrities/influencers, and music licensing into a massive re-engagement scheme of on-going eventfulness for their "forever game" Fortnite. This leads to a discussion of Disney's struggles in gaming and comparisons to the game strategies of their studio competitors Universal and Warner Bros.

They conclude the episode with a look at outbound licensing from game IP -- so-called "transmedia." They look at some early examples, then turn to the recent break-out hits like Super Mario Brothers, Five Nights At Freddy's, The Last of Us, and Arcane. With dozens of new game projects in development in Hollywood after the success of these properties, Mitch and Blake wonder whether outbound licensing will add a new revenue stream for developers who take the risk to develop original IP.