A Spy into James Bond 007 Merchandising

Licensed merchandising is a billion-dollar business, and the James Bond franchise has been one of its biggest beneficiaries. Following Sean Connery’s departure from the role of 007, it took another 16 years before the character was revived on screen in 1983 with the release of ‘Never Say Never Again’. In the intervening years, there had been no official Bond merchandise, as Eon Productions had not owned the rights to the character or his world. However, as soon as MGM and UA signed an agreement with writer/producer Kevin McClory to develop a new version of Thunderball incorporating elements from his original script (which he had written with Fleming in 1957), plans were put into motion for massive exploitation of that property. The first result was ‘License to Kill’, a video game released in 1989 for almost all existing home computer formats. In 1990 came ‘James Bond Gold 2020’, an interactive movie VHS tape based on a virtual reality training program; and in 1991 came ‘James Bond Cars’ an edutainment game for home computers, and ‘James Bond Fishing’ a more conventional edutainment game also for home computers. The same year also saw new books based on a fictional biography of James Bond written by Katheryn Priest: ‘Licensed to Thrill’ (a spy thriller) and ‘ Licensed To Love, Hate & Betray’ (a romance).

James Bond 007: The Video Games

The world of video games has been synonymous with the Bond franchise almost since its inception. The first video game to feature the character was ‘James Bond 007’, a text-based adventure game written by Vice President of Activision, Alan Miller, for the Commodore PET computer in 1982. The game was subsequently ported to other computers including the Apple II and the Atari 800. Later in the same year, Atari released the first ever Bond game for consoles, ‘James Bond 007’ for the Atari 2600 console. This was a simple game based on the one-on-one fight sequences from ‘Moonraker’, with the player controlling Bond in a duel against a muscular henchman kneeling in a desert environment. In 1983 Activision released ‘James Bond 007’ for the Atari 2600 again as well as for the Atari 800 and 5200. This time the game was based on the fight sequence from ‘Octopussy’, with the player controlling Bond in a duel against a muscular henchman kneeling in a mountainous environment. A Commodore 64 version was also released in the same year by Domark. In 1985 the franchise was brought to home computers with ‘James Bond 007: The Role-Playing Game, a game based on the characters and background of the Bond franchise. A text-based game for PCs running CP/M, it was published by Melbourne House and written by James Wallis.

James Bond Gold 2020

James Bond Gold 2020 was a virtual reality training program allowing you to explore a 3D version of the world of James Bond. The program consisted of a headset equipped with liquid crystal shutters which were synchronized with a computer program and a pair of gloves with sensors that captured hand gestures. The program was designed to teach how to handle dangerous situations and how to disarm a dangerous adversary. It was released on CD-ROM for the PC, Macintosh, and Sega CD consoles.

James Bond Cars

This edutainment title was a virtual simulation of the world of the car for children in the 7-13 age range. It was initially released for DOS but was later ported to the Apple IIGS, Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, and Macintosh platforms. The game had five mini-games:

James Bond’s Driving Test;

James Bond’s Spy Chase;

James Bond’s Full-Blown Race;

James Bond’s Test Track;

James Bond’s Challenge.

James Bond Fishing

A conventional edutainment title for children in the 7-13 age range, this program was designed to teach children how to fish. It was released on MS-DOS and Macintosh platforms. The game featured three mini-games: Learn How To Fish, Catch The Big One, and Fish For The Facts.

Other Merchandise

Apart from the above-mentioned merchandise related to the Bond franchise, there was also a massive range of other products available around the time of the release of ‘Licence To Kill’. These included posters, T-shirts, watches, badges, toys, books, and magazines. The magazine publishing business has always been strongly associated with the James Bond franchise, and the release of ‘Licence To Kill’ was no exception. There were numerous magazines available, including ‘The Licence To Kill Magazine, ‘The James Bond Collector’, and ‘The James Bond 007 Magazine’, plus the official Licence To Kill’ magazine published by The Reader’s Digest Association.


The number of James Bond products available during the time of the release of ‘Licence To Kill’ was almost overwhelming. Fans could choose from a wide range of products, from posters and T-shirts to video games and virtual reality programs. For some, these products may have acted as a welcome distraction from the fact that the film was not going to be the next installment in the ongoing saga of the adventures of Bond. For others, the release of the film and all of the associated merchandise was the start of something new and exciting that would eventually lead to the next installment of the ongoing saga of the adventures of Bond and would see the return of the original villain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.