Character-related products include Bluetooth speakers in the shape of the iconic Master Chief from AC Worldwide, an energy sword and BoomCo blasters from Mattel based on the franchise’s iconic weapons, and character costumes from Disguise. “We ship approximately 500 SKUs a year from over 65 licensees, so we definitely hit on most of the categories out there,” adds James Monosmith, sales and marketing manager for Halo Consumer Products. “Twelve months ago, we had maybe 45 licensed partners.”
Over the past 15 years, the Halo franchise has paddled itself into the entertainment mainstream. “We’re super-proud of the fact that Halo has been one of the leaders in the video game space, competing and proving through our longevity and our sales that we’re a broad entertainment franchise,” Friend stresses.
Another sign of Halo’s success as a cultural phenomenon is that it is becoming a multigenerational brand. “Dads who played the game as teens are sharing toys and stories with their kids to share their excitement about it,” Friend notes.
“Dads are helping to share what the brand is with their sons or brothers, and that has helped expand the demand for consumer products,” Commercial and Licensing Manager Chelsea Faso notes.
Broadening the Market
Halo’s primary audience has been men 18 to 34 years old because of its M video game rating for mature audiences. “Halo 5: Guardians, which launched last October, was our first T-rated FPS title,” Friend says. “We’re expanding pretty significantly into boys’ categories.”
One way that 343 Industries is measuring the success of Halo among younger boys is with sales of costumes for the main character named the Master Chief. In 2015, licensee Disguise offered Master Chief costumes in boys’ sizes smaller than the 12 and 14 it manufactured in the past, all the way down to sizes six and seven.
“We’ve been doing extremely well at retail,” Faso reports. “Last year, the boys’ costumes sold out at Walmart and Spirit Halloween stores, and this year, they’ve tripled their order based on how well they did last year. We know younger audiences love those characters. We want to make sure we are making some products for that audience, as well.”
Many Halo products are sold at mass-market stores, amazon.com, and specialty stores like GameStop and Hot Topic. “In-store is by far the dominant source of purchase,” Friend insists. “We’ve got good growth in online. It gives us an opportunity to reach out. We have a lot of people who are interested in the Halo franchise who are digitally savvy, so giving them the opportunity to understand or buy products online is super-valuable and growing quickly. But we do phenomenally well in traditional retail, and we continue to be super-committed to supporting that.”
To celebrate Halo’s 15th anniversary, 343 Industries will license specific products tied to the event and will be releasing Halo Wars 2 on Windows 10 PC and Xbox One next February. “We’re hitting critical mass in the number of partners and our franchising strength in a number of key markets around the world,” Friend stresses. “We’re having great success in Mexico and growing success in Australia. We always had a big history in the United Kingdom and in a number of European markets.”
Friend expects products tied in with the release of Halo Wars 2 to be available in five to eight key markets around the world by spring 2017. New licensees include Bensons Trading Co. with show bag novelty items in Australia and New Zealand; Danilo Promotions with calendars, greeting cards and gift wraps in Europe; H2W Sunstaches with Halo-themed sunglasses in the United States and Canada; Jada Toys with Halo die-cast statues two, four and six inches tall; and Wicked Replicas with lamps, signs and masks in Australia and New Zealand.
The 15th anniversary also is being shared by players. “We’re really celebrating our community, so it’s much more of a community-led story, sharing the best memories from 15 years of Halo,” Friend says.
The licensing group at 343 Industries is working hard to develop the international appeal of Halo. “Getting international licensing agencies on board has allowed us to grow,” Monosmith remarks. “Traditionally Halo has been very U.S.-centric.” But now with the emphasis on Latin America, Australia and Europe, “We’ve been able to grow really fast in those markets,” he concludes.