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SAUSALITO, Calif. — The enigmatically titled “digital experience runner” for Marvel Entertainment, Peter Phillips spent most of his time onstage at the GamesBeat Summit today talking about the comics publisher’s digital plans instead of speaking of storytelling.
Marvel is a lot more than its basic “licensing entity” classification would suggest, according to Phillips. He described the 75-year-old business as “brand stewards,” caretakers of intellectual property with a passion for their characters and locations. This translates to a much tighter grip on what Marvel allows others to do with its brand.
“When you are a licensing entity, it is important to maintain control over your DNA in a certain sense,” Phillips said. “You make sure the storytelling experience stays true to your brand.”
And it’s a brand that would only ever engage in the most narratively cohesive and respectful of “brand slaps.” A brand slap is the term given to the haphazard application of an intellectual property to make the quickest buck. Not for the first time during the Summit, the digital likeness of Kim Kardashian came up with a sneer in someone’s voice.
Another part of being a brand steward is crafting profitable, and equitable, alliances. Marvel’s recently announced partnership with Telltale Games received an enthusiastic response. Phillips describes the marriage of companies as a mutual respect for the story of the Marvel Universe.
“They are storytellers,” said Phillips. “The thought of the gaming mechanic Telltale offers really excited us. We have a lot of interesting products coming out in the next two years. I’m really excited for episodic gaming in regards to our games.”
But you cannot always follow the crowd when you have a brand to manage. The rise in user-generated content is one that Marvel doesn’t see itself participating in much (the use of Marvel characters in the UGC-heavy Disney Infinity, Phillips agreed, is a rare, permissible exception.)
“Part of what we provide to the consumer is [being] the storytellers,” Phillips said. “The fans are screaming for what [YouTube streamer] PewDiePie does. We are working with [Maker] very closely, but we are always skeptical for people who want to take our brand. …”
That’s a shame, because I thought PewDiePie would make a great Carnage.