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Videogames Make a Play for the Halloween Business image

Videogames Make a Play for the Halloween Business

Videogame characters are increasingly becoming the heroes of the Halloween business.

As retailers begin stocking warehouses and, in some cases, stores and websites for the annual fall extravaganza, IPs from videogames like Call of Duty, Sonic, Fortnite, and Minecraft are finding themselves on equal footing with entertainment properties when it comes to Halloween products.

That’s a major departure from the past when TV and movie properties dominated the Halloween business. It’s a trend that was accelerated by the popularity of videogames during the pandemic, at a time when movie releases and TV production were delayed.

“[Videogame costumes] was a good business five years ago, but now it’s rivaling superheroes,” a licensed costume executive said. “Movies have made a return and this is really the first year [since before the pandemic] that they are in theaters to any great degree, so a lot of bets are placed on them for Halloween costumes and other products.”

Videogame and film brands aren’t always in a fight for Halloween dominance, however, as they sometimes join forces with costumes inspired by videogames that are based on film properties.

Jazwares, which entered the costume business a year ago, plans to launch costumes in 2023 for the remake of Aspyr Media’s Star Wars-based game “Knights of the Old Republic,” as well as for Take-Two Interactive’s  “Marvel’s: Midnight Suns” and Square Enix’s “Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy,” said Stephen Stanley, general manager of Jazware’s pets and costume play divisions.

And while this trend focuses on the best of both worlds, challenges remain in designing costumes based on video games (even when they’re inspired by film franchises).

“Videogames have been huge and phenomenal but one of the challenges from a licensing point of view is to know which ‘skin’ is going to be the most popular. Each videogame [character] has multiple skins and they change throughout the year,” said Stanley, whose company is launching 400 Halloween-related SKUs across Star Wars and Marvel properties this year, 75% of which will be costumes. “When you take a look at superheroes they are tried and true, and you know how they behave.”

For the most part, Halloween vendors expect to have ample inventory despite the supply chain issues. To begin with, many retailers placed orders 2-3 months earlier this year (May-June) for delivery in August-September to avoid being caught short of products, something that was a major concern a year ago.

Several retailers, including Spirit Halloween and Party City, have already started promoting Halloween goods, with some benefitting from close-out pricing available after Rubies Costume Co.’s licensing agreements for Star Wars and Marvel expired late last year.

That promotion is likely to spur sales that surpass 2021 figures, when the Halloween holiday registered $10.14 billion in revenue in the U.S. (up from $8 billion the previous year). Costume sales hit $3.3 billion, an increase from $2.6 billion in 2020. Overall, consumers spent an average of $102.74 on Halloween last year, up from $92.12 in 2020.

“We are very confident in the flow of Halloween,” Party City CEO Brad Weston said. “We already have a significantly larger percentage of our product already received or on the water versus last year. This year, the product is either here or imminent.”

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