With 1.7 million registered users in North America and user sessions that average 80 minutes daily, Swedish online role-play game Star Stable is preparing to trot into the US licensing market. Its Stockholm-based owner Star Stable Entertainment (SSE) has just appointed New York’s Big Tent Entertainment to rep the brand in the region.
The multiplayer online role-play game allows users to train their own horses and collaborate to complete quests, and its core demo of users—girls eight to 14—continues to grow.
In fact, Star Stable‘s user base has doubled in the past 12 months. The game has also been translated into 11 languages, and along with those 80 minutes a day girls are spending on the site, they’re also throwing down cash to the tune of US$122 annually per user to acquire virtual accessories for their horses and stables.
“They’ve got heavy loyalty,” says Rich Maryyanek, partner and chief marketing officer at Big Tent Entertainment. “Of the girls who were playing in January 2013, 85% are still playing.”
That continued engagement can be credited to the game’s ever-changing nature. New content is released each week, including story quests, horse breeds and gear. “It’s evolving as we speak,” says Louise Lindguist, SSE head of global licensing.
As part of its evolution, Star Stable is also going mobile with two spin-off apps set to launch by December, and moving into the world of linear content. One of the yet-to-be-announced apps will allow users to choose a baby horse and raise it. Once the horse is trained, it can be introduced into the user’s profile and incorporated into online gameplay. The content, meanwhile, will kick off with four animated short films starring characters featured in the game that will debut next year. (Sweden-based Blake Street Films is producing.)
So, in terms of the planned consumer products, SSE and Big Tent are looking to anchor the program with categories that will further expand the story world of Star Stable, starting with publishing. The pair is currently in discussions with English-language publishing partners on a series of chapter books slated to hit US retail in spring 2018.
“We look for partners that can continue to develop the game together with us, through other platforms,” says Lindguist. “So the story in publishing could actually be incorporated into the real game.”
In addition to publishing, collectibles will be a major focus for the brand, along with fashion and home décor. In fact, Maryyanek believes toys and collectibles could be used to expand the world of Star Stable in the same way publishing is expected to build on the game’s existing story.
“We think that the real goal is to put out a product that actually integrates back into the game, where fans can unlock special challenges or quests or storylines that can only be accessed from the products that we sell,” he says. “That incentivizes the purchase, but also gives them something on the back end that gives the purchase value.”
Ideally, collectibles and secondary categories will launch in fall or winter 2017. But all selected licensees will have to make connecting merchandise to the story inside the game a focus. “The girls come into the game for the horses,” notes Maryyanek. “But the reason they’re spending so much time and money is because of the relationships and storylines.”