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Vanessa Jack, Assistant Licensing Manager at Asmodee Entertainment, talks us through her route into licensing – and her first impressions of the industry.
Ness, it’s great to chat. First off, most people we speak to say them stumbled into licensing by something of a fluke! Was that your experience or was this all part of the plan?
Thanks Billy. Good question! I guess my journey is a little bit of both!
When I joined Asmodee UK I’d never have guessed this is where I’d be now. I’d done a lot of account management work prior, from banking institutions to employee platforms. I really enjoy building relationships and seeing projects through which is such a core part of the licensing process, so when I then moved to Asmodee Entertainment this was the logical aim for me. And it really is the dream job for someone who loves both books and games!
A large part of my role within the licensing team here gives me opportunity to work with Marc Gascoigne, our Publishing Director, and focus on finding partners for Aconyte Books – be that alternative languages or alternative formats – as well as assisting the other licensing managers when needed.
As someone fairly new to the licensing industry, what were your first impressions like of it?
It’s all rather exciting, isn’t it! It’s an industry that seems to always be buzzing with energy from talented people. As well as meeting people with real passion and enthusiasm for what they do, I’m very lucky to be working as part of a highly experienced team. I think at last count there was just shy of 100 years experience between them – that’s an awesome knowledge bank that I get to tap into on a daily basis! I think that has been my biggest take away so far – everybody seems to really believe in what they are aiming to achieve.
Absolutely. You mentioned this being a dream job for someone who loves games… So were you familiar with the Asmodee portfolio prior to joining?
Ha! I’ll never forget joining the Asmodee UK Hobby Sales team. My initial interview was a combination of playing Dobble and passing an Excel test! I went in for my first day thinking I was a gamer – our family would often have a games night including mainstream games like CATAN, and I had a close circle of friends with whom I regularly played Wizard of the Coast’s Magic: The Gathering. The team laughed at me, in a kind way, and I totally get it now!
Yes, to a lot of people I would have been classed as a gamer, but at the time I didn’t appreciate the sheer range of games under the Asmodee umbrella – to say my personal games library has grown substantially is an understatement!
You and your team are striking some really creative deals. Why do you think Asmodee’s portfolio lends itself so well to licensing?
Asmodee is one of those companies that really lives by its mottos – ‘a game for every gamer’ and ‘Great Games. Amazing Stories. Infinite Possibilities.’ When you look at the wealth of IP across the Asmodee studios, it really does tick all those boxes. This brings huge demographic variety across the fanbase, and therefore demand for products is equally varied.
Tabletop gaming is such a positive social experience, whether that be family bonding or friendship circles, so it’s understandable that fans want that something extra to continue that feeling. For some that might be smaller collectibles, like the CATAN pin badges from ATA-Boy, something they can always carry around. For others it will be listening to one of the Aconyte titles through audiobooks provided by RB Media whilst doing the housework.
And then there are the real hobby gamers who want to fully immerse themselves in their favourite gaming world and will have an Arkham Horror statue front and centre of their living room! It also helps that our IPs have some incredible artwork which allows our partners to create some really stunning items – the Twilight Imperium shadowbox by our friends at Artovision is an absolute eye-catcher!
It looks great. Are there any other launches you feel are great examples of what you can do with your brands?
As a reader I might be a little bit biased, but I think for me it is the Double Trouble graphic novel for Dobble/Spot it! by ABLAZE and the audio dramas from Graphic Audio.
ABLAZE have taken Dobbly, a simple but well recognised character from the game, and really expanded his universe with beautiful images and entertaining story lines. Graphic Audio have taken some of the novels, created by the Aconyte team based on deep IP worlds like Arkham Horror, and brought them into the audio space with a full cast, music and sound effects.
I think what I love most is that in both cases it’s all about bringing the characters to life in a striking and immersive way that existing fans will enjoy but is also fully accessible to someone who may not be familiar with the games themselves.
What would you say is a key element of a successful brand owner/licensee relationship?
I think ultimately it’s about that end goal – having a fantastic product that fits the IP and the fans will love. We’re very passionate about our games and we want our licensees to be passionate about what they are doing as well.
As a licensor we also fully respect that our partners are the experts in their markets and know what is going to look great. It’s why we always encourage our licensees not to hold back on suggesting wilder concepts.
A lot of our licensees have gamers on their teams, and as such the ideas that flow are genuinely what the fans would love to see, because it is what they themselves would love to see. And sometimes those ideas really stretch beyond the world within the board game, but that does not mean it can’t be done. The CATAN Seaside Resort range from Rollacrit is such a great example of this. I think we have surprised a number of our partners with what we have said yes to!
Before we wrap up, I have one last question: How do you stay creative?
Well, I have twin ‘threenagers’ at home, that’s pretty good fuel for on-the-spot creativity! They came to me with cardboard tubes the other day demanding I make them something… A couple of minutes and a handful of pipe cleaners later, and I was supermum for handing them a set of binoculars!
I’m definitely someone who is more creative when surrounded by relevant materials. For example, the Aconyte novels are stacked up next to the home office desk. These books have great stories but also equally great covers which really compliment the in-game artwork. I’d love to see a desk piece merging the three Twilight Imperium covers, posters for some of the Legend of the Five Rings Daidoji Shin series, or jigsaw puzzles for some of the Arkham Horror titles… And that’s just for starters.
Fab! Ness, this has been fun. A huge thanks again!
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