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Mega Brands puts the big kids in its sights Add to ...

Mega Brands Inc. is making another play at the grown-up toy collector with its plans to make construction toys based on the popular medieval Warcraft and StarCraft online games.

Following its success with Microsoft’s Halo video game, the Montreal-based toy maker has signed a licensing agreement with Blizzard Entertainment.

World of Warcraft is a multiplayer online role-playing game that has millions of devotees around the world. StarCraft is a real-time strategy game.

The Halo and Blizzard products appeal to older children and adult collectors who are more willing to pay higher prices for their passion, said Vic Bertrand Jr., chief innovation officer at Mega Brands.

The average Halo buyer, for example, is 30 years old. “For every 10-year-old, there’s a 40-plus out there buying so it skews up there in age,” he said in an interview.

The older collectible buyer is very loyal and typically craves everything available with the game. Mr. Bertrand also said the manufacturer is also able to have discussions more easily with adults about the products they’d like to see.

The addition of highly collectible toys allows Mega Brands to stretch the price points for the construction sets. The most expensive Halo toys, for example, will sell for $100, while those geared for boys will top off at $50 to $60.

That makes the partnership with gaming companies a winning strategy, says Neil Linsdell of Versant Partners.

“I think the target here is to replicate the kind of success that they’ve had with Halo and then you’ve got a real gangbuster toy,” he said in an interview.

Mr. Linsdell said Blizzard and Halo allow the Mega Bloks maker to have the best of both worlds by diversifying its product offering while also solidifying its core market.

“It does move you up to a new demographic which is obviously not as price sensitive.”

The company declined to disclose sales for Halo or its estimates for the Blizzard toys.

Since last year’s recapitalization, Mega Brands has announced a series of licensing agreements for construction toys including Hello Kitty, Thomas the Tank Engine and Need for Speed.

The addition of the Blizzard deal shows that the company is “on the fast track to get back to the growth that they had before,” Mr. Linsdell added.

Mega Brands, which was hammered from the fallout of several recalls of its magnetic toys, hopes to be back to $500-million of annual revenues within four years.

The Warcraft and StarCraft-themed Mega Bloks will make their retail debut in summer 2012, a year after the fever among younger audiences is expected to peak for Cars 2.

The deal with Blizzard opens the possibility for other new worlds but not Blizzard’s other game Diablo.

“Our players regularly amaze us with their creativity, and we’re confident that they’ll enjoy building and collecting the Warcraft- and StarCraft-themed construction sets that we’ll be bringing to market with Mega next year,” stated Paul Sams, chief operating officer of Blizzard Entertainment.

Warcraft has been the world’s best selling multiplayer online role-playing game since its debut in 1994. StarCraft followed in 1998, with the sequel StarCraft 11: Wings of Liberty in 2010.

The new deal doesn’t signify waning interest in Halo, Mr. Bertrand added. Microsoft Games plans to relaunch Halo: Combat Evolved later this year, followed in the fall of 2012 by Halo 4.

Unlike the Halo games, which are futuristic military games typically played on Xbox systems, the Blizzard offering is an online world full of castles and fantasy vehicles.

Canadian Press

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