Convention season is in full swing as we speak. Though your local con may have already happened and San Diego Comic-Con has come and gone this year, there are still plenty of awesome pop culture gatherings on the horizon such as Baltimore Comic Con, Walker Stalker, New York Comic Con, various Wizard World cons, and more. But if you can’t make it out to these upcoming events or you just want the good time of a convention to follow you all year round, there is a way for you to get that experience in your own home every month.
In today’s world, consumers can have a variety of new and exciting products delivered to their doorsteps courtesy of monthly subscription boxes. From makeup to arts and crafts to healthy snacks for you or your dog, these curated collections cover many areas of your life. In the morning, you may look to your MistoBox for new coffee after using your Dollar Shave Club razor and taking your Bulu Box vitamins and supplements. Then at night you may curl up with this month’s Whimseybox DIY project and a glass of your Club W wine. But what about feeding your nerdy side that loves the convention life filled with geek, gaming, and pop culture gear? Loot Crate has you covered.
Founded in 2012 by Chris Davis, Matt Arevalo, and their team after an intense 54-hour start-up weekend in Los Angeles, Loot Crate has grown to include over 100,000 subscribers (or Looters). Similar to other lifestyle subscription boxes, this monthly themed mystery box brings together the best of nerd culture and brings it directly to you. But the company offers much more than just “Comic-Con in a box”. Not only does Loot Crate offer you a wide variety of products from some of the most recognizable and respected brands in all of entertainment, but they have created a fan-friendly forum to celebrate the comics, movies, shows, and games that we all know and love.
During a recent trip to the Loot Crate HQ in Los Angeles, I learned that this passionate, fun-loving community starts with the people that make it all happen. Marissa Zaenger of the Marketing & PR team welcomed me with open arms and was my guide around the world of Loot Crate for the day. I also had the pleasure of talking to Loot Crate co-founder and CXO Matthew Arevalo, who took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about a number of things before he hopped on a plane to join his team for an event in London.
From the moment you walk in the door, you can tell that you’re in a space with plenty of personality. Just like their trademark box, you’re entering a world of wonder upon opening the plain black entryway adorned with the Loot Crate logo. The walls were covered in art. In the lobby, zombies and Ninja Turtles could be found on the chalk walls and Power Ranger helmets were displayed on the reception desk that also featured an automated guest check-in system (AKA an iPad with a cool app). When Marissa came to meet me, I was checking out a copy of ‘Bill & Ted’s Triumphant Return’, but I was in store for a different kind of excellent adventure that day.
While checking out the various departments, one of the coolest things we came across was a 3D printer. Likely a sample product from when the company included one in a past Mega Crate, I was informed that one staff member was making a fully functional slinky. Later, Arevalo told me that he was working on a Pokeball for himself, while my guide was looking to get a Sailor Moon bust made. It was cool to see that they are fans of the products that are included in Loot Crate as much as we are.
Mere feet from the 3D printer was the space where the magic used to happen. Before being occupied by a kick-ass LAN party set-up and a make-shift photo studio, the warehouse space in the back of the office is where the crates used to be assembled. Things have changed a bit since those days though. The company now has a separate warehouse off campus where packing and shipping goes down. However, the main office has gone through some changes as well, especially when it comes to the curation of the crates.
In the early days of Loot Crate, the team would look for the coolest items from major companies and brands based on weight and size and what was cool at the time. For example, the first crate contained Avengers cologne because Joss Whedon’s landmark superhero team-up was around the corner. But when Loot Crate looks to include some merch featuring Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, they’ll go directly to the House of Ideas to collaborate on an item, such as the prop replica ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ ID badge from March’s “Covert” crate. Of course, something like that requires more preparation than they used to do.
“Right now we’re about to plan out all the way to next February. [Curation] definitely didn’t have the integration that we have now,” revealed Arevalo. “Now we work directly with Marvel. We’re working with video game companies that have titles coming out this fall and we’re doing things that people have never seen before. And now that we have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of subscribers, pretty much everything needs to be made. Nothing we do can we find in that quantity, so that’s where the planning is a little bit crazy now. But that’s where the fun is too. Don’t get me wrong, not every single item you’ve seen in the box has been exclusive, but a lot of it is stuff that you can’t find anywhere else. Even if they’re similar to things that exist out there, they’re somehow specially curated for our community to give them something special. That’s kinda what we look for in our curation: Something that is shareable. Something that you wouldn’t throw away into a drawer. Something that you’d want people to see and go, ‘Whoa! Where’d you get that?’ We want things that are useful, shareable, and unique.”
One way that Loot Crate goes about sharing the contents of their monthly boxes is through YouTube. Each week, the crew produces ‘Looter News’, which happens to be filmed right in the office. Not only do they touch on the latest developments in comics, movies, technology, and TV, but they also reveal some cool things that the company has coming up down the line. In a recent video, they announced plans for a special crate dedicated to the upcoming ‘Fallout 4’, a series that has the gaming world buzzing.
Bethesda isn’t the only video game company getting in on the Loot Crate game though. Arevalo told me that they’ve been talking to majors players like Capcom, Nintendo, Microsoft, Activision, and EA as well. The same goes for the entertainment side of things too as we’ll see collaborations with Lucasfilm for ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ in December, DC Comics and their highly-anticipated films, and Marvel (but “without it being overbearing since we want to mix things up”).
And mix things up they shall because the co-founder dropped even more hints at what we can expect in the future. “It’s the 30th anniversary of ‘Back to the Future’ and it’s the 30th anniversary of ‘The Goonies’ this year, so there’s also those things that we want to celebrate as well similar to how we did the ‘Ghostbusters’ 30th anniversary and Batman’s 75th anniversary last year. Look for curveballs too. We did ‘Bravest Warriors’ before it was even on TV. ‘Attack on Titan’ same thing. We included the first book for ‘Attack on Titan’ in the box for people who have probably never read a book like that. We’re going to be doing more of that sort of experimentation that still has some logic behind it. We’re looking at ‘Tokyo Ghoul’ and other things that are big right now in anime and manga in Japan and what might have some kind of crossover interest with our audience as well.”
But again, the brands found inside Loot Crate aren’t everything. As we’ve seen on their various social media accounts and at their convention appearances, Arevalo and his team are doing more than just working with the most popular IPs. It takes more than that to stay ahead of the game in this day and age filled with subscription boxes. The extremely passionate team of prop makers, designers, data engineers, and more that don’t just fall under the e-commerce umbrella constantly create content to engage with the subscribers as much as possible through Instagram, Spotify playlists, theme videos, and meet-ups or convention appearances.
“Now it seems that everything from wrestling to… Everything! Just everything. Some of them have the word ‘crate’ on it, which is a nice form of flattery, I guess, and we wish all those companies success. But what we’re really focused on is the best possible experience for our subscribers,” Arevalo explained. “That is done by doing things regardless of what size or how long you’ve been around and by doing things that other companies are just not doing. We focus just as much on the experience that happens in between the box as the experience you get and we are willing to invest money, time, energy, and people into doing things that might just be for the community. It’s about the people and it’s about our community.”
If you haven’t picked up on it yet, the theme for my day at Loot Crate HQ had to be “Big Things Coming”. But really, that’s been the theme for this company since the beginning. From the small start-up born during a productive weekend to the full-fledged interactive community that it is today, Loot Crate has always had big things coming. However, even bigger things are on the horizon. While telling me about some of his favorite items from past crates, we started talking about the Ernest Cline novel ‘Ready Player One’. After declaring that it was the perfect book for Loot Crate, Arevalo declared that we ain’t seen nothing yet.
“I know that this sounds like such a salesy thing, but it’s the truth. The best items we’ve ever had are coming, even at the end of this year. Things that have never been included as far as a product type in a Loot Crate before, that stuff is still coming. So if you’ve been with us since the beginning, we’re still going to continue to surprise, we’re still going to keep things interesting, and I’m really excited about some of the things that are coming.”
With all that coming, it was about that time that I got going. After an awesome day at the headquarters of the most popular subscription box in all of geekdom, I started to pack up my stuff, but I had to ask one more question about the interesting collection of items on Matt Arevalo’s desk. Aside from a variety of toys and some familiar Loot Crate items surrounding his workspace, there was a plethora of Admiral Ackbar collectibles all over the place. Out of my own curiosity, I asked why. He shared that at first he was looking for “something that wasn’t heavily merchandised,” which is something that I can relate to as a Squirrel Girl fan, but then I wondered if we would see Ackbar in the long-awaited sequel or in a future crate. “I hope he does show up [in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’]. It would be awesome to see a nod,” Arevalo said. “As far as being in a crate, there might be something, though it’s not over the top. There’s something I’ve been thinking of over the summer that might work. I haven’t yet asked to put a hidden Ackbar on the inside of the crate, but we might have fun with it when it comes closer to the release date. I might call in some favors from the creative team to get an Ackbar in there.”
At this point, I was already almost out the door, but I couldn’t help myself: “It’s not a trap, Looters.” In turn, he responded in the best possible way: “Yes, Loot Crate is not a trap. That’s the underlying thing of all of this. Sign up, it’s not a trap.”
For more information about starting your own subscription to Loot Crate, head over to LootCrate.com. And to check out more photos from my tour around Loot Crate HQ, check out the gallery below: