Making the switch from licensee to licensor for the first time, Upper Deck Entertainment is hitting Licensing International taking place in New York next week with the first property to come out of its new unit devoted to cultivating original IP. The Vegas-based collectible card giant was heavily involved in creating Huntik: Secrets & Seekers with Italian studio Rainbow, and it’s a partnership the company would like to replicate in the near future.
Upper Deck made its first foray into proprietary IP work when its Japanese office developed a full 51 episodes of boys action-adventure series Kiba; the show aired locally in 2006/2007, and UDE handles all TV distribution and outbound licensing on the property. Since the State-side team’s in-house game and development crew can handle the creative work, VP of global business development John Sepenuk is on the hunt for a new project to assign to them.
He’s looking for boy-skewing properties that target the card game company’s six to 12 sweet spot, and the goal is to set up production and broadcast partnerships that help fund the concepts’ development and that incorporate UDE’s card game market expertise into the process much earlier. ‘Co-productions along the lines of the Huntik model give us the best opportunity because then we’re dealing with an experienced animation studio,’ he says. ‘We bring to the table our knowledge about how to build in collectible game play, and we leave it to the experts at the studios to develop compelling stories and beautiful animation.’
He’ll naturally be on the hunt for properties that have collecting and battling elements, core attributes that Upper Deck builds its products around, and discussions are already underway with several studios and channels to greenlight future IPs. It was too early to discuss details at press time, but Sepenuk says there are four concepts being batted around, with 2010 as a target date for the next release.
As for Huntik, which Sepenuk has dubbed Harry Potter meets Indiana Jones, tentpole rights are close to being assigned, but all other categories are open for discussion. UDE, which holds the outbound licensing rights in the Americas, the UK and some territories in Asia, is working towards launching the show and the first wave of product in the US by spring 2009.