Licensed 4U has been in business for two years. What services have you developed in that time?
We provide a route to all gaming markets for publishers and developers who don’t have any representation or retail presence. We licence finished product for sale in all gaming regions, allowing publishers to broaden their reach and establish themselves. On top of that, we launched a fully-fledged publisher operation late last year that can manage the entire publishing chain for any format that our licensors wish to push at retail.
One thing that sets us apart from the crowd is our proactive approach for pinpointing trends and emerging genres. We gain a definite edge by attending as many casual and social gaming conferences as possible and thoroughly researching what’s coming, what’s performing well, what’s in decline and so on.
How has this trend-spotting specifically helped Licensed 4U?
We’ve maintained and grown a reliable presence in our key territories and have built a steady flow of product. We have also grown our range with some fantastic publisher signings – PopCap, GameMill, and Playrix to name a few. Launching the publishing operation was also a key achievement for Licensed 4U, which opens up a huge amount of new opportunities for us and our partners.
You’ve targeted the hidden object puzzle genre but what have you done differently to compete in such a fierce market?
Hidden object and adventure puzzle games are a leading casual category in the US, accounting for a large per cent of retail sales, and they’re becoming increasingly popular in Europe. There has been something of a gold rush for casual games on Nintendo DS and PC, but the market remains viable for them.
Our approach is to secure the best products we can in the relevant genre. For example, our lead match-three DS title is Bejeweled Twist from PopCap. Also, consider the popularity of hidden object titles like those from US developer GameMill. Its Hidden Mysteries and Titanic did incredibly well in Europe.
Would you say that breaking into the casual market is Licensed 4U’s biggest challenge?
It’s our key sector and it’s well known how competitive it can be. Our biggest challenge is achieving consistent cut-through at retail for our catalogue which means we have to be particularly savvy with the products we select and must work to realistic targets and expectations.
How important are casual gamers today? Should the industry value them as much as core gamers?
They’re more important in the modern market than many people think.
We have Nintendo to thank for spending millions of pounds educating the traditional non-gamer that video games are not just first person shooters to be played on consoles in teenagers’ bedrooms. The sheer accessibility of hidden object and match-three genres, for example, appeals perfectly to a consumer who wouldn’t ordinarily want to invest time and money in the top end of the market genres.
How has the games industry changed since your first job?
I started in 1988 working for USD – blame Roy Campbell for my entry. PC was the No.1 format, there were over 1,000 active independent retailers and EA had 10 people. Sierra released Leisure Suit Larry in the largest box you can imagine and ECTS was held twice a year at the Islington Design Centre. The industry has changed in almost every way but many of the original people are still here and making it the vibrant place that it still is today.
What’s on the horizon for Licensed 4U?
Our biggest news for 2011 so far is that we’ve signed our first 3DS products which will be launching towards the end of the year. This is fantastic for us. As a business, we’re looking to expand Licensed 4U’s catalogue with further partners and signing on new platforms.
LICENSED 4U FACTS
Established: Late 2008
Founders: Adam Prichard and Roger Large
Members of staff: Five
Key territories: UK, with partners in every territory including Europe, Nordic countries, Russia, South Africa, Australasia, Turkey, India, Pakistan, the UAE and the US
Contact: 020 8941 8877