Collision 2022 Recap: Where Tech Meets Pop Culture with DC Comics, Webtoon, Exploding Kittens, and GameSquare

In June, we made our first pilgrimage to Collision 2022 in Toronto and met with some exciting companies in the space where technology meets popular culture.

Collision 2022
Photo: Collision

In our first ever trip to Collision, Den of Geek teamed up with DC Comics and WEBTOON to chat about the future of web, digital, and print comics, as well as how the mediums and publishers are bringing new readers to every aspect of the comics marketplace. I was lucky enough to be asked to present our Collision Fest panel with DC Editor-in-Chief, Marie Javins, and Head of Content at WebToon, David Lee.

It was a great chat that spanned the gauntlet of how the companies are creating a two-way street between webcomics and the comic shop with titles like Wayne Family Adventures, Vixen: NYC, and the recently released Zatanna and the Ripper. We were also excited to reveal the release dates of new WEBTOON DC collaborations like Zatanna and the Ripper and the upcoming Red Hood and the Outlaws.

If you can’t get enough of the behind the scenes chat then we had an even deeper dive on our Collision Fest podcast, which you can listen to right now below. There, Marie and David give us some incredible insight on the collaboration between the two companies, how it started, where it’s going, and why its massive success is something for every comics fan to be excited about. 

As someone who has both a pull list at my local comic shop and a ton of webtoons I follow religiously, this was a really great place to explore both mediums and to talk about why they’re equally as important when we think about the future of the comics industry! 

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– Rosie Knight 

Exploding Kittens: From Cards to A Budding Digital Empire

In Toronto’s bustling Enercare Convention Center, the open and spacious layout left plenty of room for crosstalk, with rumblings about digital currencies and tidbits about startups seemingly flying at you in all directions. It could be a bit overwhelming at times. So in the press lounge, amidst reporters typing up recaps from keynote speakers, I kicked off a conversation with Elan Lee, the CEO of Exploding Kittens, about physical media and personal interaction. As his company expands into mobile gaming on Netflix, and an in-development Netflix animated show in the works too, Lee was adamant he wanted to continue building on their foundational ethos. 

“The mantra of the company has always been, ‘let’s not build entertaining games, let’s build games that make the people playing entertaining.’ And that means eye contact and having table flips and cheating and throwing things across the table and doing all the fun stuff that comes up when you play card games,” Lee says. 

In a past life, Lee was Chief Design Officer at Xbox Entertainment Studio and he’s using his over 20 years of experience in the gaming world to bring Exploding Kittens’ impressive tabletop portfolio–which includes 20 different games and according to the company has sold more than 18 million games to date in over 50 countries since its founding in 2015–and the fanfare of its adorable kitty-centric IP to the digital space.  

“For the first time, these characters that you play with at your house with your friends every night, suddenly you get to see the world they live in. You get to hear their voices. You get to see how they move, which for us is huge for IP expansion.” 

For fans of Exploding Kittens, the partnership with Netflix might only be the start. Lee is poised to take the brand into the collectibles and merchandise space with plans to flesh out an ecosystem that bridges the physical and the digital. 

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“If you buy a plush toy and bring it home, it actually comes with an alternate rule set for Exploding Kittens, so it gives you super powers because you’ve got the plush in front of you and nobody else does. So, you get to do things in the game that nobody’s ever done before. All of the products kind of tie into this central hub and say, ‘we know you love interacting with this game, we now know that because you’ve seen the characters come to life you want to interact more with those characters, and what if we could tie that back into the core game as well?’ And so we’re just fleshing out this ecosystem to say, ‘Exploding Kittens lives here.’” 

– Chris Longo

GameSquare CEO Justin Kenna on What’s Next For Esports 

On the SportsTrade stage, Justin Kenna, CEO of GameSquare, sat down with TSN’s Marissa Roberto and NFL star Leonard Fournette to discuss how gaming and esports have become a prime vehicle for athletes and celebrities to connect with their fans. When we spoke with Kenna in the media village after his talk, he detailed the secret sauce behind GameSquare’s rapid expansion into several areas of the industry, from media agencies to esports organizations, and their own content studio: “Concentrating directly on authentic brands and fans.”  

“We believe in the future of esports but the reality is esports orgs right now as stand-alone businesses are burning a huge amount of cash,” Kenna says. “In markets like this, that’s not going to fly.” 

GameSquare consists of seven companies, notably including Complexity, which has fielded esports teams that have won over 140 championships in 30 different gaming franchises. From agencies that handle marketing to Code Red, which reps talent, Kenna’s company is looking for integrated ways to reach audiences that traditional publishers are struggling with. 

“Brands are spending a hell of a lot of money to reach them. We can build our strategy as to how you reach them. We can upsell you on our media network to help you reach them. We can upsell you in our content team, into our merch team, and have this full-360, one-stop shop to connect you with this fan base.”

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As for what’s next in the world of esports, Kenna believes we’re about to see team owners and investors begin to share the wealth. 

“Greater rev sharing, less barriers to entry when it comes to actually participating as well. I think we’re going to see salary caps introduced so this Wild-West-type approach doesn’t happen.” 

– Chris Longo

Collision returns June 26-29, 2023 at Enercare Center in Toronto, Canada.