Figures Join the Action

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hoping to create revenue opportunities, Irvine-based software developer Blizzard Entertainment unveiled a line of toy action figures over the weekend that ties into its most popular titles, the shoot-'em-up action games WarCraft and StarCraft.

There's only one small problem. Traditionally, the majority of people who buy these tiny toys are boys, ages 8 to 12. The folks who flock to Blizzard's games are also boys, but in their late teens and 20s.

"We look at this as an incremental business, but one with a lot of growth potential," said Paul Sams, vice president of business development for Blizzard.

The action-figure business, once a small market, topped $1 billion last year, according to the Toy Manufacturers of America. And researchers with Unity Marketing Inc. found that, in 1997, nearly 40% of all action-figure sales in the U.S. were to adult collectors.

Instead of relying on a third-party licensee to handle the toy line, Blizzard decided to hire its own art department to create the little demons. And instead of relying on toy stores, Blizzard is turning to computer retail outlets to sell its line.

The goal, said Sams, is to tap into the company's hard-core fan base, particularly the niche of adult sci-fi fans. "It's the most logical place to go, because our fans are already there," Sams said.

Privately held Blizzard declined to say how much it hopes to earn from this sideline product. But officials say that it has orders for 300,000 figures, which will retail between $10 and $12 each.

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P.J. Huffstutter covers high technology for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-7830 and at p.j.huffstutter@latimes.com.

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