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Q&A: Video Games Fertile Ground for Merch

Video games are big business, so it’s no surprise that the merch surrounding beloved titles is becoming a lucrative niche. The outlandish and colorful characters that populate the landscapes of both modern and retro gaming franchises provide fertile ground for creative swag tie-ins.

We spoke with Ryan Brown of Numskull Designs about his company’s official line of merchandise for Crash Bandicoot. The character, which has been around since the 1990s, has a new platform game out, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. It was initially released last year, but a version for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows is out this month.

Q: Why is video game merchandise so popular right now?

Ryan Brown: The video game industry is now even bigger than the movie industry, to the point that labeling people as being a “gamer” is becoming unnecessary – everybody is playing games nowadays, whether it’s on a dedicated console, a PC or your mobile phone. Of course, people always want to represent the things they love with their choice of clothing, or with interesting keepsakes and collectibles they can use or display in their homes. 

Q: Who’s buying video game merch?

RB: Our most successful ranges are certainly the ones that people have a lot of nostalgia for, like our recent Crash Bandicoot and PlayStation 1 ranges, but we find there isn’t really a specific demographic that’s buying into merchandise. As I say, everyone is a gamer now, so people of all ages and backgrounds are purchasing goodies for games they loved as a child, or they’re picking up some extra bits to go along with a new game purchase.

Q: How did you come up with the items in the Crash Bandicoot line?

RB: We’re serious gamers ourselves, so part of it is definitely making the merchandise we personally want to own, but we take feedback from our audience very seriously. For example, when we post on Twitter asking what people want to see from our upcoming ranges, the most popular suggestions are noted down and often tested. We produce mugs, shirts, hats, key chains and the like, but we also like to make stuff that people perhaps didn’t know they would want until they’ve seen it. A Crash Bandicoot candle that smells like the fictional in-game fruits isn’t something that would immediately spring to most people’s minds, but when they see it exists, they’re understandably curious to find out what the virtual item they grew up with actually smells like.

Q: What’s the most creative merchandise you’ve come up with to tie in with a video game?

RB: Our candles that replicate the smell of in-game items or environments for Crash Bandicoot, Resident Evil, Fallout and Skyrim are definitely up there among the most creative merchandise we’ve come up with. I think our recent PlayStation 1 memory card bottle opener was particularly inventive, too.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add about video game merch?

RB: We love video game merchandise, and if there’s a video game (or movie, TV show, or comic book, for that matter) that you grew up with, you should definitely consider decorating your home or work desk with some nostalgic bits of merch – it can really help to brighten your day. We’re always listening to suggestions for new ranges and products.

Take a closer look at some of the items in Numskull Designs Crash Bandicoot line below.

The Crash Bandicoot snapback caps come with both a plain and furry brim.

 The Wumpa Fruit Candle gives off a sweet aroma when lit. It's meant to emulate the smell of the fictional fruit from the video game and help provide a more immersive experience for gamers.

 A bottle opener with a magnetic back is among the items in the Crash Bandicoot line.

Coasters and steel mugs are also part of the line.