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Mind Candy: Games make millions, brands make billions

Tue 19 Jul 2011 5:34pm GMT / 1:34pm EDT / 10:34am PDT
Develop 2011Development

Moshi Monsters creator says online games will produce the entertainment brands of tomorrow

Mind Candy CEO Michael Acton Smith has urged developers to start thinking of their IPs as more than just games.

In a wide-ranging talk at the Develop Conference, Acton Smith charted the course of Mind Candy's popular online game Moshi Monsters from innovative start-up to vast social hub with a community of 50 million registered users.

The company is in the process of growing the brand in other media, and Acton Smith believes that all developers should be pushing their IP towards the same goal.

"As game designers we are brilliant at creating characters and stories and experience that resonate emotionally. But as an industry we haven't been so great at transferring those experiences and our super-valuable IP into other media," he said.

I wanted the heartbeat of the property to be the website, but orbiting around it I wanted the audience to experience Moshi in any way they wanted

Michael Acton Smith, Mind Candy

Acton Smith cited Lara Croft and Angry Birds as examples of IP that have bucked the trend, but claimed that success in the digital age will be increasingly reliant on multimedia product strategy.

"We need to think beyond the game. We need to think about building entertainment brands that work everywhere. This new digital generation wants to experience and connect and interact with brands that live everywhere they go."

"Good games will make millions of dollars, but good entertainment brands are where the billions are made... I think online games are the perfect starting place to build these new entertainment brands: better than a book, such as Harry Potter; better than a film, such as Star Wars; better than trading cards, such as Pokemon."

"I think the biggest entertainment brands of tomorrow will originate as online games."

Acton Smith showed a hastily scrawled drawing he made in the early days of Moshi Monsters, indicating that his intention was always to create a product that would offer a range of experiences in a range of media.

"I wanted the heartbeat of the property to be the website, but orbiting around it I wanted the audience to experience Moshi in any way they wanted: to read a magazine or a book, to play with toys, or trade cards at school."

The Moshi Monsters brand now encompasses figurines, plush toys, a range of books published by Penguin, a forthcoming DS game, an iPhone app, and the biggest selling kids magazine in the UK.

The next step for the company is the launch of a Moshi TV network, which Acton Smith believes has the potential to catapult the brand to an even greater level of ubiquity and success.

"Kids spend a lot of time on YouTube, but it's not specifically designed for them, so we thought we'd try and create our own online platform," he said.

With 50 million registered users on the site, Moshi Monsters has a larger reach than most existing children's television networks.

However, it can also leverage the functionality of social networks like Facebook to create a new kind of television experience, where the community can rate and recommend shows to their friends, allowing the best content to rise to the top.

"This is very different to the way traditional kids TV is commissioned at the moment. Commissioning editors have a huge amount of power, and there's only a finite number of slots where shows can be can be aired. We want to create a middle ground between the wild west of YouTube at one end, and the traditional world of broadcasting at the other."

"What we have the opportunity to do here could be as revolutionary as what MTV did back in the Eighties."

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