Marvel-ous deal for Mforma: multiyear pact with comic book titan announced

Activision included as copublisher in far-reaching deal that will bring branded content suites to mobile gamers.


Earlier today, Mforma and Marvel Enterprises announced the mobile entertainment industry's largest content licensing deal to date. The new strategic partnership between Mforma, a fast-growing mobile content creator based in Seattle, and Marvel, a multimedia company that dominates the comic book-based entertainment market, affords Mforma and publishing partner Activision exclusive mobile rights to almost all of Marvel's comic book and superhero properties.

According to highly placed Mforma employees, the giant mobile firm plans on leveraging its access to Marvel's popular characters to develop a wide range of commercial mobile content, including games, ringtones, wallpaper, screensavers, and mobile comic books.

Mobile games based on Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Iron-Man will be copublished with Activision, which previously optioned the rights to those properties for console games. The two publishers are planning to cross-market their mobile games with the console and film offerings.

Other important properties covered by the agreement include Blade, the Incredible Hulk, Ghost Rider, Captain America, Daredevil, and Elektra. Excluded from the deal are the rights to the Punisher franchise, which are controlled by THQ, as well as any IP associated with the Spider-Man 2 movie, which belongs to Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The current content road map calls for the release of mobile products associated with the movie Blade: Trinity starting today. Other suites of content to follow next year will include Elektra in January 2005, Fantastic Four in summer 2005, and Incredible Hulk and Ultimate Spider-Man later in 2005. Each of these content blocks will be timed to capitalize on the release of its corresponding Hollywood blockbuster, and/or its major video game release from Activision.

In a departure from normal mobile entertainment distribution strategies, Mforma is planning to group all of its products associated with a single Marvel brand into a discreet "channel," which can be tailored to a particular carrier's needs. During a recent interview with GameSpot, Matt Edelman, Mforma's senior vice president of publishing, said consumers are most interested in their favorite brands in their entirety--so it makes much more sense to group all products related to the Fantastic Four, for instance, into a single, easy-to-access link on a carrier's deck, rather than sort them by category.

"Marvel was looking for a partner that has a global reach," said Edelman, "and Mforma can do that. Marvel really picks and chooses who they work with very carefully, and they now see mobile as an equally important part of their content strategy."

Marvel echoed Edelman's sentiment in its press release. “Mobile is a major new entertainment medium and our objective all along has been to enter this new space on a grand scale with an ambitious partner capable of putting together a holistic program across the various developing technologies and applications in the wireless space. We believe Mforma is capable of delivering on that objective and we are thrilled to be working with them,” commented Tim Rothwell, president of Marvel Worldwide Consumer Products.

Edelman also explained that the landmark agreement heralds a seismic shift in Mforma's approach to the mobile content business. "We could have gone deep into games," he said, "but instead we're moving towards a partner-based strategy."

When asked if he could discuss any other new partnerships that Mforma is currently pursuing, Edelman had no comment, other than to say that Mforma is "aggressively exploring new partnerships everywhere."

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