Last year, Konami alumni Sandra Arcan and Su-Yina Farmer decided to set up their own video game licensing company, Bits and Pixels.
At Konami, the duo – Arcan (pictured, right) in her role as senior manager of licensing and merchandise and Farmer (pictured, far right) as European comms manager – worked on merchandise and licensed goods for a variety of titles, most notably Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. This game saw them team up with the likes of Triumph for licensing, and also collaborate with the Alternative Limb Project, something which led to Metal Gear getting coverage on the BBC.
The duo then decided to give the licensing game a try, having spotted a gap in the market.
“There is definitely a gap for a licensing agency that really only looks after games brands,” Arcan says.
“There are so many fantastic licensing agencies out there, but they look after quite a broad portfolio of brands. Some of them have taken on a games brand, but with varying levels of success. We know the industry, we are very passionate about it, we know licensing inside out. We thought we should create an agency that specialises in games that puts a stake in the ground. There’s another agency that’s part of a bigger one – Tinderbox – but for us to be the second one before it gets overcrowded is what we wanted to do. So that’s what we started last year.”
Bits and Pixels hasn’t messed around, either. Its first client was none other than Blizzard, with them handling the Overwatch account.
“We pitched ourselves for a very long time,” Arcan laughs. “We just went in there to talk about Overwatch specifically, and we went in with a very detailed and passionate presentation. We had a really good two-hour meeting and within a few weeks they said yes. We must have done something right. We are representing them on Overwatch for EMEA, Australia and New Zealand across all categories except publishing, which is what they’re doing themselves, and toys and games. We’re handling the rest; clothing, homewear, accessories... all of that is what we are focusing on.”
“There is a gap for a licensing agency that
really only looks after games brands."
Sandra Arcan, Bits and Pixels
The firm has big aims for Overwatch, too, with the agency aiming to get merchandise for the colourful team shooter into the likes of Tesco and Argos, as well as specialist retailers like GAME.
“What’s quite unique about Overwatch is that you can cover the whole spectrum of the core gamer that’s competing and getting into eSports, who will spend a lot of money on collectibles and will want everything that’s going. But then we are doing a bit of a two-tier programme for Overwatch because it’s 12-rated,” Arcan explains.
“So 12-35 is the age range we want to provide some cool stuff for. For the younger [gamers], we’re talking to licensees that operate within the mass market with the Tescos and Argos of this world that don’t typically look at games brands because they’re too busy with the Marvels. We’re getting quite far down the line with these sorts of companies that will be getting Overwatch into Asda and Tesco, as well as GameStop and GAME.”
Speaking of retail, as well as being a licensing agency, Bits and Pixels offers a variety of services, including comms and retail offerings.
“With pop-ups, we’re looking to see whether we can do something on that, because our initial focus has been on just working on developing this Overwatch programme on the merchandise side,” Arcan says.
“In general, the people we speak to, including retail buyers, are really happy they can deal with a middleman because a lot of the time middlemen have a really bad rap for one reason or another.
“But because we’re coming at it with a specialty approach, it instills confidence in them that things aren’t going to get diluted, and things are going to be taken care of in a way that maybe wouldn’t happen if it was a multi-category approach.”