And for McFarlane, the thing that made perfect sense was Halo. When the comic book luminary founded McFarlane Toys, videogames weren't necessarily on his radar until a few of his employees told him about this Halo thing they were obsessed with playing. The company acquired the license just after the launch of Halo 3 and has made a slew of figures ever since, most recently for Halo: Reach. While a popular franchise like Halo was a sure thing, he said that you can't always predict what resonates with collectors; McFarlane Toys has also made figures for popular Activison properties Call of Duty and Guitar Hero, which only did "okay" in terms of toy sales.
"Grand Theft Auto, for example, is a very popular game, but it's sort of an awkward toyline. What are you going to make with it?" McFarlane asked. Even if transforming the game's characters into desirable figures isn't an issue, sometimes it's the game's ESRB rating that holds the toys back at certain retailers, like Walmart and Target. "Some of the bigger games, they're terrific videogames but they become a little bit harder to convince [retailers] to put it on the shelf because it has a Mature rating," McFarlane said. "With Call of Duty, to do those toys in a big scale, most of the stores aren't going to endorse and glorify the 'war toys' per se, so it's tough."
One way to get around retailers' whims is to just sell customizable videogame toys directly to the consumer, like FigurePrints does. The company makes custom 3D statues of gamers' World of Warcraft characters. Founded four years ago by Ed Fries, the former vice president of game publishing at Microsoft and a huge World of Warcraft fan (natch), FigurePrints has made more than 25,000 statues since its launch. The standard character goes for $129, but there are smaller, cheaper options such as busts and pets. Fries said that sales have increased exponentially since the company made the figures available in Europe last year, and his printing machines are running 24 hours a day to fulfill all the orders.
"I think what's really great about [FigurePrints] is that it's your character," Fries said of his toys' appeal. "It's the character you spend so much time with in the game, and to be able to just have it with you out in the real world, it sort of bridges the gap between two worlds."