The videogames industry may have had its financial ups and downs over the years, but one thing consistently sells even if the games don't - videogame toys. Despite the economic downturn, gamers still have no problem shelling out coin for collectibles based on the games they love.
"The popularity of videogame toys has definitely increased, and there's more of a demand now," said Randy Falk, director of product development at NECA. Having made action figures based on Gears of War, BioShock, Assassin's Creed, Resident Evil, Dead Space and Street Fighter, to name a few, the New Jersey-based collectibles company has certainly seen the rise of videogame toys in recent years. Although NECA is also in the business of making toys for movie licenses, Falk said that videogames are where it's at right now.
"In many cases, games are exceeding movies now in terms of revenue, and to be honest, there aren't a lot of great new movies being made," he explained. "Between all the sequels, re-makes and unnecessary 3D, videogames have filled the void for new and exciting content, and that includes videogame toys."
Indeed, a plethora of companies are offering videogame playthings for collectors and fans these days, whether it's high-end collectibles like statues and busts or detailed, articulated action figures. As far as acquiring licenses, it seems that both the game companies and toymakers are reaching out to each other in tandem to get these items into the hands of passionate fans with expendable cash.
In fact, the demand is so high that Japanese game company Square Enix not only started making merchandise for its own titles like Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts and Dragon Quest, but also for other game publishers as well. In the past year, the company has expanded its product line to include licensed properties such as Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Halo.
"While the merchandise department is a segment of Square Enix, we aspire to become a collectible toys creator with top-product quality in the whole industry," said Kanji Tashiro, Square Enix's head of merchandising in North America. "It may be rare, but we've overcome barriers in obtaining licensing agreements from other publishers and can proudly say that the quality of our merchandise is widely acknowledged."
But not every videogame is worthy of being immortalized in plastic or resin. There are a few prerequisites before just any toy is made. "We look for titles and characters that are unique and compelling as toys, and the characters themselves really need to have a 'toy-etic' quality to them where they feel like they're action figures already," explained Falk.
Todd McFarlane, Spawn creator and founder of McFarlane Toys, shared the same sentiment: "Not all videogames are created equal. You have to pick and choose what it is you want to do, what's going to work and what makes sense."