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Publicnuisance nuisancePR PR Public WATCHOUT OUT--FUGGLERS FUGGLERSARE AREOUT OUTNOW! NOW! WATCH
Editor Robert Hutchins
hile I love most aspects of my job, it is with particular enjoyment that I have put this, a tabletop games special issue of ToyNews together. My journey with board games has been much in line with the social growth of the hobby itself - and it only took a conversation with Asmodee UK's Steve Buckmaster and Ben Hogg for me to realise. Five years ago, I would have laughed the board gaming scene off as the last chance saloon of social acceptance for the after school club crowd. How absolute my change of perception has been. I am now a proud Azul-lover, a Catan champion and a word of warning, I'm dangerously close to giving Dungeons & Dragons a go - along with a growing number of other gamers and proud geeks out there. How did I get here? I often ask myself as I trawl the shelves for another gaming fix. I was throwing hairbrush survival solutions into a Bucket of Doom one minute, now I'm having serious discussions about the intricacies of Twilight Struggle. The reason is exactly that. There are so many compelling, easy to pick up starter games on the market today that progression within the hobby is almost unavoidable. You really do want more, and more, and more. Listen to me, no wonder they call them gateway games.
DOES NOT NOT DOESWITH COME COME WITH ! MANNERS MANNERS!
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No. 198 | September 2018
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Robert Hutchins, Editor Robert.Hutchins@futurenet.com
September 2018 | toy news | 3
COVER STORY GRANTED! P08
Contents September 2018 Features
BIG INTERVIEW: GARY GRANT The Entertainer's head talks to us about why 2018 is the year of growth for the retailer.
FAKING IT We look at the rising issue or counterfeiters and what we can all do about it.
ART ATTACK How are artists helping foster a new breed of younger puzzler?
TAKING ON TABLETOP The tabletop movement is here to say, and poised to only get bigger, so we explore it.
Regulars Opinion 06 Andy White 07 Valerie Vacante 28 Anne Wood
Market Data 29 Generation Media 30 W ildBrain Product Guide 41 Games & Puzzles 56 Wooden Toys
Back pages 64 Industry Moves 65 Elmo 66 Final word
September 2018 | toy news | 5
Screenage wasteland: Traditional toy packaging is dead, so long live toy packaging By Andy White
High streets are under threat. There seems to be another big name closing its doors every week. A perfect storm of rising costs, global economic turmoil and new shopping habits are having a huge impact. With increasing competition for decreasing shelf space, retailers want guaranteed sellers – the big brands drive footfall but muscle out smaller and emerging brands. And we have radically changed the way in which we shop, visiting high streets less. No wonder there are fewer and fewer requirements for packaging. This is not a nostalgia trip; it won’t go back to the good old days. New consumer shopping habits should be embraced, used as an opportunity to create a greater connection between brand and consumer. Toy packaging has always followed a formula – a big logo, descriptor and image. Designed to attract consumers, “look at me and buy me”. A layout that has worked well since branded products first appeared on shelves. As online sales continue to challenge traditional ones, it makes sense that toy packaging should evolve. The YouTube type influencer mans that kids are initially exposed to a product minus the packaging. The role
of traditional packaging isn’t as important in this new ‘sales’ environment. It’s time to ditch the old packaging of yesterday and look to the future. But how can this be achieved? Packaging created for web needs optimising for viewing on small screens. A gallery of multiple images provides all-around viewing, showing features, what’s included, scale and even exciting video content. It’s possible to blur the lines between the real and virtual worlds with the clever use of technology. AR gives a real-world image before the box is open, increasing engagement and interaction and helping up the perceived value of a product. It doesn’t stop there. Once purchased, the packaging has the opportunity to create some real theatre by extending the play value of the product – an RC car where the packaging can transform in to a ramp or garage is so much more engaging and builds the experience. Extending its use beyond its primary purpose will also help reduce the stigma surrounding the excessive and wasteful use of materials. Advancements in print technology means that shorter, bespoke print runs can be produced allowing brand to create targeted and personalised packaging; ideal for those with multiple and very different audiences. It’s also important that packaging shouldn’t be considered alone; it needs to be part of a complete brand approach, a brand’s strategy and wider marketing
"As online sales surge, toy packaging should evolve" Andy White is the creative director and co-owner of the toy packaging design firm WowMe Design.
6 | toy news | September 2018
Backchat: How voice assistants is fuelling the evolution of play By Valerie Vacante
When I was a kid, we didn’t have the friendly voice assistant friends Alexa, Cortana, Siri or Google Assistant like the kids of today do. The closest was a set of walkie talkies. Times have changed and kids today have plenty of voice assistant friends - Alexa, Cortana, Siri and Google Assistant - with which to interact. In a recent survey conducted by NPR, out of 900 ‘smart speaker owners’, 73 per cent allowed their kids to use the technology. Further to this, it’s no surprise that in a recent design exploration exercise conducted by Collabsco, 80 per cent of kids between the ages of eight to ten were found to have a voice assistant in the home, and when it comes to play, kids want backchat more than ever. New developments are emerging in this space all of the time. LEGO Duplo Stories by LEGO focus directly on creating a physical and digital experience through short, interactive stories involving animal play and vehicle play, complete with LEGO bricks. Will it be the start of an expansion for standard LEGO sets and for kids of all ages? Meanwhile, Pac-Man Stories by Bandai-Namco allows players to choose their own adventure by teaming up with Pac-Man to make the right moral
choices in a narrative guided by the user. This means different choices can be made for a different adventure everytime it is played. The exciting part of all of this is watching how traditional game play or characters evolve through voice assistants. Trivial Pursuit Tap is one of the first gaming experiences to bring together Amazon Alexa, Amazon Echo’s buzzer-like buttons and the Trivia showdown itself, while Beano by Beano Studios features the ‘ultimate true or false’ game packed with jokes and a range of topics from slime to Star Wars. The Spongebob Challenge by Nickelodeon is a game of memory. Join the Krusty Krab crew and take orders from the hungry citizens of Bikini Bottom. Elsewhere inventors and innovators are continuously creating new ways to play. Snow Shine by Immersive Play launches globally in 2019 and it is the first and only disconnected smart toy line that, with patent pending technology, enables Snow Shine to interact safely without internet access to its content available on YouTube, Spotify, Alexa, Google and smartphone devices. As more kids continue to play, explore and interact with the physical and digital world, toy and game designers will continue creating new ways for a new generation to experience the power of voice assistants and connected play, from immersive, connected experiences to gaming. The power of voice is contributing to the future of play.
"The power of voice is contributing to the future of play." Valerie Vacante is the connected play specialist at Collabsco.
September 2018 | toy news | 7
08 | toy news | September 2018
IS OUR YEAR OF GROWTH, PERIOD As the founder and MD of the UK’s fastest growing toy retailer, it’s imperative that Gary Grant remains one step ahead of the evolving toy retail scene. ToyNews catches up with The Entertainer’s man in charge to talk those ever-expanding growth plans
t’s something that has been on the cards for the family-run toy retailing outfit for some time now – five years, at least – but 2018 is finally the year in which it all comes into fruition for The Entertainer. This is the year of growth, period, for the UK multi-channel toyshop. It’s on the other end of a crackling telephone line, dipping in and out of connection, that Gary Grant explains the journey his increasingly omniscient toy retail chain has been on over the past half a decade. He’s on the move – most likely to his next business meeting of the day – and it’s a small window in Grant’s hectic schedule that ToyNews seizes with the independent toy store magnate, to learn more about it. He wants to clear one thing up. When, in a recent statement pertaining to the chain’s move into Kosovo, the founder of The Entertainer declared 2018 as its “year of growth in Europe and the Far East,” we certainly shouldn’t be discounting the UK. The Entertainer currently boasts 145 stores here in the UK. Grant has plans to
smash through the 200 mark on home soil by the end of 2019. He already has a fleet of 16 additional stores lined up for launch this year – the most recent opening to be in Chatham just last month; so bringing that to the magical 200, for Grant, at least, should be little more than child’s play. “When I talk to my sons about it all, I ask ‘where is The Entertainer heading?’… and they will turn around to me and say ‘well, it’s 1,000 stores now isn’t it, Dad?” Grant tells us, offering a candid glimpse into the homestead of this family-owned and run business unit. While the Grants are known industry-wide, and increasingly world-wide, as hardworking over achievers, even the man in charge knows that 1,000 stores in the UK is something of an unattainable target. “Yes, it’s impossible to have 1,000 stores in the UK. But it’s not impossible to
have 1,000 toy stores around the world. Bearing in mind the current rate of growth we are seeing, we will certainly smash through 200 stores in 2019.” Currently, its international network of stores is sitting at 21, he states. “Or is it 27?” Grant asks me. A quick search and it looks to be closer to 20 but we can forgive the confusion, with a network model of franchises popping up across Europe and the Far East at “an exponential rate,” you’re sure to lose track of those that have been announced and those still awaiting the official launch. “Internationally, we started to grow our business overseas five years ago and with one of our longest-serving and successful partners, the Zeta Group,” explains Grant. “Zeta Group is based in Azerbaijan and has two stores currently, with a third opening before Christmas. September 2018 | toy news | 09
Big interview “The group has also opened its first store in Kazakhstan. That’s the same group moving into other countries with The Entertainer brand. This is all done through franchising, so if you walked into these stores, you could well be walking into a store in London, or Camberley. They look absolutely identical in every way, it’s just in a different country.” Grant has ventured into six countries altogether through the franchising model. Its recent partnership with Axiom to open a store in Kosovo marks its sixth. He has a seventh overseas operation in Malta through an ownership acquisition with the Maltese family run toyshop and distribution outfit, Mizzi. “The franchise model that we work with will grow exponentially in the next few years,” Grant assures us. “And no, it’s nothing to do with Brexit.” It’s really not. The Entertainer’s growth strategy was in play long before Brexit reared its ugly head. It’s not really much to do with Toys R Us, either. The retailer was
10 | toy news | September 2018
“The values that are important to The Entertainer translate well into the business we partner with. They get where we are coming from and there is a shared language between us.” Gary Grant, The Entertainer propelled into growth when Woolworth’s finally closed in 2009 and since then, this is a toyshop that has been taking on partnerships on a global level for years. The most recent partnership it has in play is a supply relationship with Matalan. The toy shop will be rolling out 60 toy departments with Matalan in the coming weeks. It follows a successful trial run of
nine with the retail outlet last year. But these ar not Entertainer stores per sé. “These are Matalan toy departments that we are working with on the toy knowledge, stock and supply,” says Grant. “We trialled nine last year and they worked really well, so we are half way through a three-week programme of opening out 60. “They are branded Totally Toys, which is a brand name that we own, so these aren’t Entertainer stores. We just source for them, price and offer them business knowledge from the toy industry.” What’s clear is that Gary Grant is a man fond of forming the right kind of partnerships, and as long as you tick the right boxes for them, The Entertainer is one to nurture that pairing in the facilitation of mutual growth. “What The Entertainer is looking for is relatively simple: we tend to work very well with family businesses,” divulges Grant. “The Entertainer is 100 per cent owned by the family and family businesses generally have similar values and objectives; it’s not
about short-term gain, but long-term, sustainable family business with similar bones to us in the way they treat their people, the charity giving…” he trails off. There’s a lull on the other end of the phone and a momentary pause for breath, evidently a rarity in the world of the Grants. “The values that are important to The Entertainer translate well into the business we partner with. They get where we are coming from and there is a shared language between us.” When asked on whether The Entertainer will be looking to take the US and look to plug any remaining gaps left by the collapse of Toys R Us stateside, the answer is resoundingly and politically diplomatic. “In our partners, we have our eyes on all markets and it is about partnerships. Would The Entertainer bob over to the US and, by itself, open UK stores? The answer would be no… “Would we partner with people in the US, the answer is through a franchise agreement, we are partnering with people
all around the world. Next year we will have five new – from what we currently know and currently have in process – international partners during 2019. “But we have a huge number of contacts and we have people contacting us now. We are focusing a lot at the moment, and the teams are extremely busy in, working with other people who are showing an interest in becoming a toy retailer in their country.” While that left us with perhaps more questions than answers - well, wil the retailer move into the US? - the conversation slides into chatter about Toys R Us and the over all retail scene. There’s no denying it’s taken a significant knock this year with a number of high street retailers feeling the effect of circumstance. “I wouldn’t like to say that it’s all about Toys R Us closing, but there has to be an element of Toys R Us closing,” muses Grant. “We are trading in the middle of a very difficult market. ‘Retail is very tough and there are a lot of solid companies that have been badly shak-
en. Retail is being shaken at the moment. Toys R Us exiting the industry has helped retailers within the industry – it probably hasn’t helped the industry too much as it’s a challenge for suppliers – but it has helped its retailers. “At the same time, the crazes that we have at the moment – we have never had such a line-up of crazes as now. I would put LOL Surprise in that category. It’s hardly a craze, with toys between £6 and £60, but it’s definitely a phenomenon. The volumes are just phenomenal. “Then with Slime, Soft N Slow, Putty, it just goes on and the amount of stuff that kids are into on a collectable basis is quite phenomenal. On top of that, I would suggest the industry to have an outstanding summer year. We haven’t been as keen on summer stock as this in ten years, and have sold out of everything. “All in all, I would be surprised to find a retailer that was unhappy with life,” Grant concludes and it is clear that this is a toy shop owner who is very happy with his lot. September 2018 | toy news | 11
12 | toy news | September 2018
The topic of knock-offs has become a cause of major concern within toy industry, with estimates that between 10 to 12 per cent of toys in the industry are counterfeits. Robert Hutchins takes a look at the issue and asks, on who's shoulders does responsibility rest?
smodee UK’s managing director, Steve Buckmaster has a lot to say about the issue of counterfeiting in the tabletop gaming space. The topic of knock-offs - or cheaply made versions of original brands - has become a cause of major concern in the toy industry. Since the advent of online shopping and online distance retail, the industry has been left wide-open to the damage inflicted by a rise in organised criminal operations thanks in large to the ‘cavalier attitudes of the platforms they find a presence upon,’ but more so by the outdated and out of place legislation from both the UK and EU over digital retail. Most recently, it was slime that stole the headlines of the national press, after a report from Which? discovered that a number of slime products being sold via the online platform Amazon contained dangerously high levels of the September 2018 | toy news | 13
chemical Boron. In previous years, we have seen issues surrounding loom bands and before that - well, the list can be backdated for as long as you have time. The truth is that counterfeiting has become one of the biggest challenges facing the toy industry in modern times. The BTHA estimates that 10 to 12 per cent of toys in the UK today are counterfeits, with more than £400 million worth of sales being lost to the industry each year. And if you are of the train of thought that counterfeiting is limited to the pocket money crazes, or the £10 action figures, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Towards the end of 2016 and throughout 2017, Asmodee, the board gaming giant, began to see a surge in knock-off products imitating titles from across its portfolio of top ten selling items, rear their ugly heads on platforms like Amazon and eBay. “It’s a testament to just how popular board gaming has become,” Becky Ottery,
owner of Reading’s board game specialist retailer, Eclectic Games, explains to ToyNews. “Where there is money to be made, you will find these counterfeiters trying to make money off the back of good reputation.” Ticket to Ride, Catan, even Pandemic Legacy, an £80 title that is made up of “so many components that it is incredibly complex to produce,” - according to Asmodee’s Buckmaster - was subject to fakery. The issue is, that from the outside it appears to be a non-issue to the platforms that facilitate the criminal behaviour. Amazon and eBay regularly wash their hands of responsibility to the consumer, placing it all at the feet of brand owners. ‘The current law is that Amazon is effectively like the post office,” says Asmodee UK’s Buckmaster. “They are just handling the goods. The argument there is that there is a moral obligation that when a consumer goes on to the Amazon platform, they are
expecting to buy something that is genuine and safe. ‘And I am not sure how many of us in the trade can hope to resolve this until UK and EU legislation is changed to make sure that there is an obligation on behalf of platforms like Amazon, eBay or any of the other guys that are springing up, The reality is, it’s like the world’s biggest blackmarket.” That said, it would appear that Amazon. eBay, Alibaba or more, have become a neccesary part of the toy business. Platforms like them have, after all pushed new boundaries in retailing itself, while in the case of tabletop gaming, brought the hobby greater credence among the masses. “If you look at this from the tabletop gaming point of view, this was a niche market ten years ago,” explains Buckmaster. “Amazon has had a huge part to play in opening up the market to consumers. The system where quality products can rise to the top, people can leave peer to peer
“As well as the significant financial loss to reputable toy makers, counterfeit toys represent a real safety threat as it is highly unlikey they comply with safety standards.” Kerri Atherton, BTHA
14 | toy news | September 2018
“As a priority issue of the BTHA, we continue to raise the problem and explore solutions with government, enforcement bodies and directly with the retail channels selling toys.” Kerri Atherton, BTHA reviews; it has been a really key component in the rise of these types of games. “They also have the ability to get them everywhere. But there is also the unsavoury part of long distance selling.” Wailing, screaming and gnashing of teeth helped Asmodee UK in to a healthier position regarding the action taken against bringing the counterfeiters down. There are tools out there to help you fight them, the UK board gaming outfit’s boss tells ToyNews, but often times bodies like Trading Standards can seem out of their depths. “They don’t really seem to be kitted up to tackling the problem of counterfeiters by online selling.” The current chain of thought appears to rest the issue of counterfeiting on Amazon, but what if it was taken one step closer to its source origin. It’s not a secret that a large number of knock-off product is produced in China, where a vast number of firms have manufacturing processes set-up. One industry member ToyNews spoke to said that ‘China’s unfettered access to the UK has driven counterfeiting to become the sizable issue it is today.’ MGA Entertainment CEO, Isaac Larian has taken his own stance against the rise in knock-offs emerging from the region, not only through devout anti-counterfeiting measures but with a planned process of removing some of the company’s manufacturing from China altogether. At the end of April this year, MGA Entertainment won $1.2 million and a permanent injunction against 81 toy manufacturers found to have sold counterfeit versions of its popular LOL Surprise Dolls online. It followed a preliminary judgement granted in December and a temporary restraining order in February that stopped manufacturers from selling the fake toys on the Chinese e-commerce sites Alibaba.com,
Aliexpress.com and DHGate.com. Last month, Larian confirmed that he was looking to move some manufacturing to the US in an effort to combat the counterfeiting and IP theft “that’s rampant in China,” while adding that the “Chinese government and Alibaba know and do nothing about it.” Not everyone in the toy industry, however, has such an option. The majority of UK suppliers and toy companies are left at the mercy of criminal organisations in the Far East looking to make a buck off the back of their IP. The reason, according to some, is that it is the US market counterfeiters are really going after, and the UK is, more and more, getting caught in the crossfire. “Our sister company that does the same games in French, German and Spanish hasn’t really seen the problem with counterfeiting yet,” says Buckmaster. “It seems to be an English speaking territory problem based on the US being the biggest market.” Taking Asmodee’s Pandemic Legacy and Catan as examples, two titles of great popularity among the board gaming community, both have been victim of the growing counterfeiting curse. “People couldn’t get enough of Pandemic Legacy. We sold around 12,000 copies of them, and they are an £80 game, Then with a great product like Catan, we had thousands of reviews on Amazon all five star, then suddenly we get a one star review, Buckmaster laments. “People are thinking they are buying a copy made by us, but in fact it was crap - the board didn’t lay flat, pieces were missing, and they made their upset felt in their review. It’s not fair on the brands, because these aren’t legitimate products. “But as it stands, it is solely in the hands of the IP owners, the companies like us, and
not the platforms they are being sold on, to take responsibility. Does it seem morally unjust?” Yes, would be answer from most in the business. Amid the recent ‘slime-gate’ propelled by a not entirely clear cut report from the magazine Which?, slime brand owners Toys For play called out the retail platform to do more to protect brands and the safety of children using the unregulated product it supplies. But without a lobbying or movement from the industry, nothing is likely to change, at least not at the pace required. The BTHA has long been in discussions with the UK government and enforcement bodies to find solutions to the issues. “Counterfeiting has always been a concern of the BTHA but the prevalence of counterfeit toys entering the market is a serious and heightened threat to our members, and therefore the Association,” said Kerri Atherton, public affairs manager at the industry body. “As well as the significant financial loss to reputable toy makers, counterfeit toys represent a real safety threat as it is highly unlikely that infringing products will comply with essential safety standards developed for the needs of children. “As a priority issue of the Association, we continue to raise the problem and explore solutions with government, enforcement bodies and directly with the channels through which toys are sold on behalf of our membership to stop dangerous, non-compliant products from entering the market. Atherton continues: “Most recently the BTHA has met with the Intellectual Property Office Intelligence Hub to discuss how the Hub can help our members protect their businesses from IP crime. All members should contact the BTHA to explore this opportunity further.” September 2018 | toy news | 15
The art of puzzles
16 | toy news | September 2018
The art of puzzles
More and more a younger generation is being brought into what’s typically been a traditional consumer-base of puzzlers via contemporary and topical artworks. Robert Hutchins talks to leaders in the field to uncover more about this new trend
side from evidently having the most mind-boggling name for any predictive text setting, Jan van Haasteren has a number of methods of signalling to his fans that they are in the presence of his work. His signature shark fin, an image of Saint Nicholas, The Hands, The Dentures or an altogether more blatant self-portrait; all the above, van Haasteren has adopted as his in-art monikers. If you’re piecing together a puzzle without at least one of these images in it, you are not piecing together a van Haasteren puzzle at all. Alongside Graham Thompson, James Alexander, Bill Houston and a handful of others, van Haasteren helps make up an elite
of artists to have been creating detailed, punchy and humorous illustrations exclusively for the Dutch puzzle specialist, Jumbo Games for - in the case of he and Thompson - the past number of decades. So well-known is van Haasteren’s work now, that he boasts a mountain of Facebook and Twitter followers in its thousands. He, along with Thompson et al, are also arguably behind the continued retail success of Jumbo’s Wasgij puzzle collection both overseas and here in the UK, and partially responsible for the uplift in the adult puzzles market in
Photo by Jess Watters on Unsplash
September 2018 | toy news | 17
The art of puzzles
general. Now. that's quite some work. According to the NPD Group’s most recent results, the adult puzzle sector has grown again by five per cent on last year. Within that space, Jumbo has posted a seven per cent growth, while its competitor, Gibsons Games has cited growth of around 15 per cent. It’s in line with the current popularity of the board gaming market, part of what has been called by Gibson Games’ sales and marketing assistant, Rebecca Hersee, as a “digital detox,” that puzzles have seen greater pick-up as youths and young adults move towards more analogue past times. And crucial to fuelling this, of course, are the tones and themes that puzzle artists are striking with their fans today. “Working closely with the artists we have in the UK and around Europe is key to our success at retail,” says Steve Washbourne, sales director at Jumbo Games on the topic of the firm’s portfolio of creatives. “We will set them projects, or they will present to us, so that, as we bring out 60 to 50 new images each year, we are able to keep it fresh.” Of that typical raft of new titles from Jumbo each year, van Haasteren himself is responsible for around three. In the 18 | toy news | September 2018
“With a puzzle, it is the image that sells it to the consumer, so it is really important to get that right." Rebecca Hersee, Gibsons current portfolio, the Dutch artist has around 30 and in the entire Jumbo Games portfolio, he boasts more than 100. Artwork like his seems to be pulling in a new crowd and today, sales in the puzzles market is predominantly coming through the adult category. According to Jumbo’s Washbourne, Wasgij has been tapping a more youthful crowd to the typical older consumer base most often associated with puzzling, for the last couple of years. “There has been a huge rise in board gaming and board game cafes, and puzzling is a definite part of that trend,” he tells
ToyNews. “With our Wasgij concept we do attract a far younger user as well as traditional and we are trying to span that market where we are seeing a youth coming in. “We are looking at images that appeal to a younger, trendier and more fashionable market, or maybe even next year, a teen market.” For others, like Gibson Games’ Hersee, it has been celebrity appeal and power of social media that has helped with the puzzles revival, with pop stars helping to drive younger fans towards the hobby through likes and follows. “The singer George Ezra posted a picture of one of our puzzles on social media, which drove a huge fan following our way,” Hersee tells ToyNews. “I think puzzles have carried this label of belonging to the older generation, so it is good to see that the younger generation is taking part in it as well. There is a definite youth engagement out there for the pastime and at the moment we are looking to develop a contemporary range of puzzles for the youth trend.” This boom couldn’t come at a better time for the likes of both Gibsons and Jumbo. It’s no secret that the first half of the year has been a difficult one at retail, yet both companies remain strong - up, even over the course of some difficult trading. For Gibsons, a company trading in the puzzles sector for the last 100 years, dealing with the rising costs or the collapse of Toys R Us has been simply an extension of its journey. Has it had to up numbers in the digital retailing stakes in line with the surge in online shopping? Yes, Heresee confirms, but all the while supporting the high street retailers in the “absolute best way it can do.” Meanwhile at Jumbo, the firm took decisive action to better place itself within the moving landscape of retail well ahead of time, and it did so by shifting its focus from the kids’ puzzles space - one driven by licenses - and into the more successful adult space. And what you’ll find is that it is all related. Not only has it been tough for retail, it’s been tough for children’s IP, too. “The children’s market is very license driven and like most of our competitors
The art of puzzles
over the years, we have taken on a number of licenses,” says Washbourne. “But a lot of licenses don’t often succeed and we had a lot that weren’t working for us. We took the decision to strip right back on the number of licenses we brought in. “It’s much better than taking on every single IP and then going out and trying to convince the retailers that they should take all of them. Because clearly that’s not the case. We will still take on licenses, of course, but gone are the years of the scatter gun approach, where you’d take any license and pay extremely large MGs but never see any return on it. There’s too much risk now and retailers are feeling the same, they are playing to the strength of the proven, performing licenses.” It’s not an uncommon approach. Jumbo will continue to work in the children’s sector but only with the licenses it can back fully. Take Moon & Me for example, the firm has plans to launch a new range of puzzles under its license in A/W 2019. “We are not walking away from children’s puzzles. Moon & Me, we will get right behind. But we feel that if we have just a couple to focus on and really get behind, it’s a far better proposition for the retailer. They can back the licenses that have the support behind them.”
And this is where the market seems to be sitting at the moment. Yes, Gibsons will continue to deliver to the children’s market just as Jumbo has outlined its own
intention. It will even look to brng out new lines for the children's educational puzzle market by the start of next year. But it is in the adult sector that the pair are seeing the greatest sales uptake. And key to success within that, is the relationship each maintains between the puzzle fanbase and the puzzle artists. “With a puzzle, the image is what sells it,” says Gibson’s Hersee. “So it is really important to get that right. From where we sit, it is all about the artwork and the artist, we have to commission the right artist for the right job, or source the right piece of artwork and really drive the sector’s variety.” Unsurprisingly her sentiments are echoed by Washbourne, the leading figurehead at Jumbo’s UK operation. “We analyse the market constantly and we are the complete experts in the field,” he says. “It’s all about getting those right images, the right themes at the right time and keeping it topical. “Jumbo has been in this market for 160 years, so it really knows what it is doing, and the team here is just obsessed with puzzling, we can only see it becoming more and more successful,” he concludes. Now then, ToyNews is itching to get started on that 5,000 piecer.
September 2018 | toy news | 19
Taking on Tabletop
IN FOR THE
GIGGLES 20 | toy news | September 2018
Taking on Tabletop
Yes, that headline is a hugely geeky board gaming reference. If you got it, you're already well-established. If not, maybe it's time to dive deeper into the world of tabletop gaming? Either way, Robert Hutchins is making a return visit to the sector
ecky Ottery of Eclectic Games has got Brexit on the brain. It’s only natural of course, because even as Reading’s number one retailer for all things board, tabletop and hobby gaming, Ottery is feeling the pinch of an economy ruled by uncertainty as much as any other. On top of the issues surrounding consumer confidence when it comes to their in-store spend - she readily tells ToyNews that customers are looking at the £50 game ranges they have in store, yet bringing the £20 to £30 ranges to the till - Ottery is in a deeply interesting position.
Photo by Sophie Elvis on Unsplash
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Taking on Tabletop
That position is between a rock and a hard place, and to better understand that, we must first take a look at the world in which Ottery, and the many hundreds of retailers like her - specialists in the boardgaming scene - up and down the country, are operating. Now, I am not about to knock your socks off by telling you that board gaming has seen a resurgence over the last four to five years, ToyNews, The NPD Group, Euromonitor, even the Kickstarter trackers ICO Partners have had that well and truly covered for a number of years. Yet be that as it may, there are some pretty impressive figures I think you’d like to see. It’s true that sales of hobby games in the US and Canada topped $1.5 billion for the first time in 2017, reaching $1.55 billion. According to the estimates compiled by the industry insights experts ICv2, that’s a growth rate of 8 per cent on the year prior. However, this is actually the slowest the growth rate has been in the North American market for the last four years. Nevertheless, it still adds to four consecutive years of big 22 | toy news | September 2018
growth, over which time hobby game sales have more than doubled. The hobby games market itself is typically and historically formed of two separate movements from either side of the Atlantic Ocean; that of the Eurogames scene - a class of board games that place emphasis on strategy, with gentler gameplay such as building a city, sustaining a farm etc - and those of US descent that incorporate a more smash and grab style of gameplay. Rather unfairly, games of this style are often dubbed ‘Ameritrash’ by the rather more elitist boardgamers. Whatever your own beliefs, the co-existence of these two movements means that on a global scale, the board gaming market has become ignited with a wealth of innovation, design talent and an increasing number of in-demand titles from the US and South America as well as Europe, in particular Germany. Given the geo-political climate the UK has found itself in, coupled with whichever whim The White House acts upon in its ongoing trade talks with China, it starts to
become a lot clearer to ToyNews as to why our board game retailer in Reading has got Brexit on the brain. “The hobby game market is dominated by German and East European gaming publishers,” Ottery tells ToyNews. “It was the big movement that first became popularised and today, we are seeing a lot of companies emerge from Germany and Eastern Europe. “Italy has a huge board game publishing scene, but they are struggling to get their product distributed because their economy is in a state. On the other side, we have the American thematic games from the US. “And then there’s us stuck in the middle. On one side we have EU trade coming at a point when Brexit looms and the apocalyptic fall-out from that hangs over our head, while on the other side we have the US games that are largely manufactured in China where Trump continues to impose tariffs and counterfeiting remains an issue.” Now Ottery sits somewhat outside of the channels that the more traditional retailers looking to take on the tabletop
Taking on Tabletop
board game market do. While many of this increasing number of toy shops looking to bring in board games - and that is a significant number this year alone - will work through distributors such as Asmodee UK among others, Ottery’s reputation in the market and depth of knowledge affords her a more direct route to publishers. “We have an almost exclusive deal with a number of the games that come directly from Germany,” says Ottery. “The Mind, for example, we have almost exclusivity on, we are one of the only shops in the UK to have it because we took the multi-lingual version from Nurnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag, its publisher, while everyone else is waiting for Asmodee to bring it over.” Where Ottery’s ability to take €600 punts on the kind of tabletop card building games in which players don’t talk but sync up their psyche in order to play, will stand in a Brexit bungled future is unknown. It will certainly make things trickier. Isn’t it just as well then, that the UK is practically brimming with distributors working across both the European and American scenes at a time when board
gaming is the go to hobby for UK audiences? Thames & Kosmos, by the way, is one of them. From this point onwards, if you’re ever told that board games make up 30 per cent of the Thames & Kosmos UK business, you can rest assured that that is utter claptrap. “That was then,” Emma Hanlon, key account manager at Thames & Kosmos tells ToyNews. ‘That percentage is increasing all the time, it’s now a lot more than that.” Thames & Kosmos is the UK outfit headed up by Kosmos, the renowned German board games publisher behind titles like the supremely popular Tally-Ho. It was only recently that this same UK outfit struck upon the idea to divide its UK operations under two umbrellas, creating a Kosmos UK destination for its ever-growing portfolio of games. “We are bringing new titles in from Kosmos in Germany all of the time, that includes new titles, successful German titles and even a number of titles that have been
out of print and are now seeing a second run due to the level of demand we are seeing from fans in the UK,” says Hanlon. In her role with Thames & Kosmos, Hanlon is extremely well-placed - point guard,
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Taking on Tabletop
if you will - to observe the UK retailing scene’s stark uptick in board gaming activity. The sentiment - one echoed by Asmodee UK’s Ben Hogg - is just as expected. “We have started to see more custom from traditional toy shops creep in. They tend to go for the lower age range games or the fun and fast titles. The big one for us is the level of business we are seeing from specialist and hobby retailers,” she says. ‘We are very much a part of the board gaming boom here in the UK. We are known for our Eurogames titles, but let me tell you, we have our eyes on the party games market ,too. Whether it’s the right fit for Thames & Kosmos, or Kosmos, or
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our sister company in the US, remains to be seen, so it might not happen, but it is certainly on the radar.” But let’s face it, board gaming of all varieties is on the radar for the majority of those working in the toy industry, whether that’s manufacturing, distribution or retailing. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s a highly lucrative market at the moment. Take the case of Austin Birney, owner of the traditional independent toy shop Mr Wolf as a prime example. Birney was half way through telling ToyNews about his plans to open a second shop in Newcastle owing to just how well business has been going for him this past
year, when our conversation was interrupted by yet another customer purchasing yet another copy of the popular party game, Dobble (distributed by Asmodee UK). “Games like that are just flying at the moment,” Birnley continues, having just rang another £10 through the till and returning to the phone. “We are seeing a lot of success with board games currently. “Mr Wolf is about to open its second store in Newcastle, a new area for us, and that has in part been driven by the success of Board Games over the last year. At the end of last year, we brought our board game number up to 100 titles in the store, across the age groups, from toddlers and infants to eight year olds and upwards, as well as across some of the more story driven titles like Pandemic from Z-Man Games.” Such is the success of the range, Birney has even been in talks with a local businessman to host a gaming night each month at a local venue. He has also just taken another six titles from Asmodee UK, including one of the area’s best-sellers, Camel Up. It’s the faster paced, less mentally taxing games that have been serving Birney and his local customer base well for the past year, and that’s a trend that Eclectic Games’ Ottery has seen mirrored in her local area of Reading. “I really want to tell people to stop buying Exploding Kittens and Cards Against Humanity,” she jokes. “But they are selling so well at the moment, I really shouldn’t complain.” It is notoriously games such as these, Exploding Kittens, Cards Against Humanity even a title called Secret Hitler, that often pave a path for turning casual players into enthusiasts of the tabletop genre. It’s a phenomena that back at Mr Wolf, Birney has witnessed first hand. “It’s become an area I would love to spend all of my time in,” he tells me. “We are looking ahead at things like Games Expo and at the moment deciding on whether to open a new shop as a dedicated games shop. We are in that stage where we will soon make a decision on whether to look at bringing those more specialist titles in as well…” And his timing may just be right to be chasing this rabbit down the hole. Two months ago, Hasbro’s chairman and CEO, Brian Goldner revealed that its fantasy
Taking on Tabletop
role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons is seeing its best year ever. “People are into Dungeons and Dragons today more than ever before. People are re-engaged with that brand because it’s a face-to-face game, it’s immersive, it’s also seen double digit growth in new users,” Goldner told US media outlets. Whether driven by the requisite for belt-tightening modes of entertainment or simply by its appearance in the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, the genre’s growth has been echoed globally, including in Reading where Ottery tells ToyNews that “roleplaying is making a big comeback at
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“Roleplaying Games, like Dungeons & Dragons are making a big comeback at the moment, and I believe it is because it is a very good, cost-effective way to have social fun.” Becky Ottery, Eclectic Games
the moment, and I believe it is because it is a cost-effective way to have fun.” However, Peter Wooding, owner of London’s Orc’s Nest (and former guitarist for the 70s punk band, The Jerks) suggests that there’s a deeper truth to be discovered behind those rising numbers. “Roleplaying does seem to be making a comeback when you look at the numbers,” he re-confirms. “Now the reason here is that Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro have, in the past, launched a number of Dungeons & Dragons titles, The third edition sold phenomenally well. Then, with the fourth edition, Hasbro got scared it was going to lose its market to video games, so they simplified the game in order to make it appeal to the video gaming market. “What happened instead though, was that the game’s biggest fans didn’t want that. Subsequently, it didn’t sell. Now they have stopped fiddling with it and brought out the fifth edition, it is the game that people want to play, so sales are picking up.” What’s clear is that when it comes to board gaming, Wooding knows his chits. He has been operating his hobby gaming business outside of a small shop in London’s West End since 1987, so it only makes sense. He is actually quite the celebrity within the gaming circle and over the course of its 31 years of trading, Orc’s Nest - a store complete with its own Orc emblem - has become somewhat of a tourist destination.
However, with limited space for the experiential retail and demo areas that so many game shops offer today, and with rising overheads and ground rent, Wooding relies heavily on selling big ticket items. “Thank god for the Brazilian and Russian tourists we get coming here regularly,” he laughs. “We have a global fan base and an audience that helps us pay the increasing costs of being based in the West End. “As well as that, online retailing has affected our sales in as much as the board gaming boom has encouraged and enticed people to trade on Amazon. To counter this, we don’t stock those kind of party games - or gateway games - as much as we do the more in depth, long-play games. The kind that sell for more money, and we’re talking £50 to £60 titles.” Would he stock the games that go for £150 a pop? The kind that the gaming community has seen a resurgence of via platforms such as Kickstarter over the last five years? “No, they’re not for us. You wouldn’t have that level of value sitting on the shelf waiting to get dropped by a customer,” he says. “Also, the issue that Kickstarter has to sort out is the model it works on. Yes, these games are building their audiences online and come with a ready-made distribution list. The problem is these people - people who would have been buying the game in store - have already done so, for cheaper, via the Kickstarter project. A project would need to have distribution to retailers lined up for it to be worth picking up.” Possibly the biggest title to emerge from the Kickstarter platform to date is Isaac Childres’ Gloomhaven, which closed at around $3.7 million. It was only looking for $100,000, and within 24 hours of going live on the platform it was surging towards a new record for the tabletop genre. ‘This is the kind of game that, no matter how specialist we are, will never have a place within the store, just because of the cost. Imagine having to watch a customer drop that on the floor…” Wooding muses. The truth is, however, there are those that will pay upwards of £150 for a tabletop game. A recent Kickstarter project hosted by Renegade Game Studio saw pledges filing in upwards of $200, while its top end pledge reward system peaked at $300. The sting is that this is money readily being spent online, via crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, but not in-store. ‘We will continue to sell our mid-priced games,” Eclectic Games’ Ottery chimes. “Catan, Carcasonne, even Exploding Kittens, Haba games, Exit Games that are very hot right now, and we will do so with our expertise and shopping experience. That’s where we will keep on making our money.” Not even Brexit can derail the enthusiasm surrounding this board game retailer.
AT THE VANGUARD
OF CHANGE ToyNews talks to Anne Wood OBE, founder and creative director of Ragdoll Productions about the current state of British-made children's TV
t's not enough to think that young children's work can be funded by licensed product anymore," Anne Wood, founder and creative director of Ragdoll Productions, declares over a quick phone call. "Too much the market is crowded with animation that comes in funded from outside the UK, often by toy companies looking to buy up space in shops." The reason for the phone call was to talk about the recently issued report from the TV regulator Ofcom in which it has implored ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to provide better and more diverse children’s TV content, and a lot more of it. Instead, it's taken a decisive turn. Amidst a number of findings, Ofcom's report revealed that average daily TV viewing figures for children aged four to nine has dropped by nearly half, from 144 minutes in 2010 to 77 minutes in 2017. It also highlights that more and more TV audiences are being lost to digital platforms, rounding on public service broadcasters to do more to revitalise British made children’s TV. Channel 4, for instance, has not spent a penny on children's TV since 2015. Yet, interestingly, the Ragdolls Productions chief, and the name behind many classic pieces of children's television including Rosie & Jim, Pob and Teletubbies does not hold YouTube nearly as responsible for the 'death of British made kids' TV,' as she does the UK government, broadcaster shareholders and, unfortunatley for the reporter on the other end of the phone, a number of the now emerging toy firms-turned-animation and production studios.
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“You can’t fight YouTube and the rest,” is her assessment. “And why would you? We are in the middle of a technological revolution. There is massive change taking place and children are the early adopters. “Whenever there is a time of social change – like we are going through now with new technology – childhood is redefined. But that doesn’t mean that the needs of children change; the need for a good story, the need for something that is nurturing and the need for good content is the same. What you want to do is make sure there is good content on television as well as good content YouTube.” In Wood's own words, British made children's TV is becoming hamstrung by a simple lack of recognition of what is needed to create it. “It comes down to money,” she says. “From where we stand, licensing revenue is not an area that is as buoyant as it used to be, simply because it's such a crowded space with a lot of noise to deal with. And
when it comes to the content that is being funded by the toy companies themselves (Wood doesn't name names), we see the retailers picking this product over others, every time. Of course, we undrstand only too well the reason behind this. Retail is a difficult landscape at the moment and buyers want to see proven results on a product line. Wood is not the first to call out the issue of too much power in the hands of too few studios, licensors, content platforms. Nor will she be the last. “The question that the likes of those challenged in the Ofcom report forces us and everyone to ask is ‘do you put shareholders’ interests before society’s needs?’ For many of these broadcasters, the answer is ‘yes. You do,’ and that is what society seems to run on. It is a question of values.” Let's not forget that Wood has, over the course of her career, done very well through the licensing game herself. She did create Teletubbies, after all. But that was at a time when the indpendent production company stood a chance, retailers took risks and the government funded children's TV. “What we need in the independent sector is a competitive marketplace,” chimes Wood. “As long as the other public service broadcasters have the attitude that shareholders come first, we are not going to get that and without it you can’t run a business. You can’t run a business with just one customer. The BBC is wonderful at what it does, but the independent children’s TV sector needs more: it needs parity, competition and funding that is equal to other British made TV that targets older audiences.”
UP STREAM Lauren Coombs As Jeffery Katzenberg and Meg Whitman prepare for the launch of NewTV, Generation Media’s Lauren Coombs asks, will its short form TV startup be the next Netflix for mobile? Source BARB May 2018
effery Katzenberg (known for his tenure as chairman of Walt Disney Studios) and Meg Whitman’s (for her ten year reign as CEO for eBay) new streaming start-up NewTV has raised over $800 million in funding and is being hailed the next Netflix for the mobile world. With funding made up by major US entertainment companies such as Comcast, Warner Bros and others including Disney, short form content is key for their new business model. Katzenberg has highlighted that ‘platforms such as YouTube, Facebook or Snapchat are running production costs at $5,000 per minute, whereas huge TV shows (i.e Game of Thrones) are in the range of $100,000 per minute.’ Katzenberg therefore wants to bridge this gap and create short form content for mobile streaming created by the world’s top creative talent. But how will they continue to pay for this quality content? Through subscription services just like Netflix. Though, it will be interesting to see what monthly cost is charged particularly if content is not your typical hour long episodes or two-hour films which provide viewers with a derived sense of value for money. It also begs the question, will viewers be as invested in a ten-minute programme as they are when getting to know the characters over an hour? Will ten minutes capture your attention to watch the series?
We know short form content is popular among kids, so this could be a focal point for their revenue stream and content schedules in the future. Particularly when you couple this and that Disney is an investor providing endless hours of content ready to stream, it would make sense for this to be a key target demographic. But will consumers want to pay a subscription when they can only view on mobile? If we look at Spotify as an example, then yes, we think they will. But listening to music on your mobile is easier than watching TV shows. Unless, again, their focus is on parents that only need ten minute content an attention distractor. One element people will want to know is if the data will be open to the public. Netflix doesn't share data, making it difficult to understand not only its size of the market but viewing to key licensed content. If NewTV can share this type of data, it might help it in its quest for market share. However, just because the start-up has funding and great minds running the show, it doesn’t mean it will be a success. Remembers the launch of Verizon Go90, which was based on short form streaming content and Samsung’s Milk Video? It may not all be smooth sailing. Nevertheless, the fact there are already high profile entertainment houses with content ready to go, this might very well give them a good head start.
ToyNews PlayTime is provided by Generation Media 0207 307 7900 | www.generationmedia.co.uk
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THE TREND HUNTERS
In the second of a new monthly feature by WildBrain, the DHX Media-owned kids’ network and studio, we take another look at the emerging toy trends based on online video viewing
nce again, for the eagle-eyed of those of you religiously reading our sister site, Licensing.biz, you will already be clued up on the fact that WildBrain is an outfit on an upward trajectory of growth. Over the course of just a few years, the platform has increased its portfolio to some more than 600 premium kids’ brands; making it a wonderful smorgasboard of an IP network over which it presides. As such, WildBrain is positioned perfectly to provide an overview and analysis of the latest trends among online audiences, and it just so happens that this is exactly what WildBrain’s head of strategy, Will Mahood is here to do for ToyNews readers today. Are you trending? With 67 billion views in July, kids’ content continues to be YouTube’s third-largest genre, behind general entertainment (93
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billion) and music (124 billion). The performance of kids’ content on YouTube shows how important the platform is in today’s media mix for anyone building brands in the toy space. The majority of monthly viewing does not occur on new kids’ content, and July was no exception. New uploads in July commanded just 15 per cent of kids’ viewing, totalling 10.2 billion views (of the total 67 billion). Nonetheless, this number is significantly high, when we consider that 153,000 new kids’ videos were published in July, competing with an existing library of 12.3 million kids’ videos uploaded historically to the platform (many of which continue to be watched months and years on from their first day of upload).
The total number of lifetime videos is lower than reported last month, with approximately 300,000 videos removed. This could be for a number of reasons, including platform changes, and when fan uploaded videos are claimed by the official rights owners, through YouTube Content ID. With so much kids’ content being uploaded to the platform, we have invested in data science to help us make sense of the universe of YouTube videos. The following insights are drawn from data we have compiled, classifying kids’ videos according to relevant topics or themes. To-date, we have identified a staggering 350,000 distinct topics. In July there were 160,000 topics used in new content made by kids’ creators.
WildBrain Toys continue to be children’s number one interest in YouTube and seven per cent of all new views were on content that featured toys in some way. We highlight some key themes emerging about children’s toy preferences today. Surprise toys and role-play The toy category is very broad, so taking a closer look at specific topics in videos we discovered that ‘pretend play’ was the number one sub-category with five per cent of all views. Typically, this content features a child influencer engaging in imaginative role-play with toys. ‘Surprise egg’ content continues to hold a top-three spot, and much of the pretend play content is engineered around the revealing of toys from a surprise egg, or as they are tagged on the platform, ‘a reveal.’ This tells us that surprise toys are most likely to have the broadest appeal among children today. New on our radar this month was the topic of ‘cleaning toys,’ which rocketed into the top ten for the first time. Cleaning toys are part of a broader family of toys that facilitate ‘grown-up role-play.’ It appears that the trend was accelerated with a video uploaded by the Ukrainian channel Kids Diana Show. In the channel’s top video for July, Diana is seen to be helping her mother doing a distinctly grown-up activity. The cleaning toy video was the third most popular kids’ video uploaded to YouTube in July overall, and the channel’s second most popular video of all time. This single video captured a total of 54.5 million views (only a handful of videos ever push past ten million each month) and has now
Key themes of the top 20 War Animals and Nature 2% 3%
Outdoor 1% Educational 1%
Fantasy Role Play 3%
Search and Explore 1%
YouTube Creator (Child) 24%
Grown Up Role Play 28%
been copied by ten other creators, sparking a trend that we are tracking closely. Exploring these trends from a different angle, we analysed keyword phrases that appear in video titles. Within the top 20 most viewed toy videos, those with keywords including ‘suprize’ once again topped the list. There were also some more curious ‘grown-up role play’ themes that emerged, such as ‘food toys,’ ‘kitchen toys,’ and makeup toys’. This analysis identified segments which saw the most popular phrases ranking (in volume of views) ahead
of or in-step with some of the most popular influencer channels, such as Ryan’s toys, the second largest kids’ content creator by monthly views, Chichi toys from ChiChi TV Sieu Nhan, a Vietnamese influencer, and CKN toys from Australia. There are many ways to slice data. By exploring analytics in-depth, WildBrain is able to identify and understand the large-volume trends that are engaging today’s kids. Such trends are critical to understand for product and brand teams thinking about the toys and videos that encourage and simulate role-based play.
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PLAYING BY THE RULES: How to play and win when working with social media stars online Anne-Marie Lacey is managing director of Filament PR, a creative communications consultancy, specialising in brand licensing and consumer products. Here, she talks to ToyNews about the rules you need to know when playing the influence game; working with social media stars to reach and engage your audience online
nfluencer marketing. Influencer relations. Content collaborations. There are a million and one words for it, but call it what you will, brands working with social media stars to help reach their target audience and engage with them via branded key messages is here to stay. It’s a growing (and currently unregulated) industry, with some brands unintentionally misleading their audiences through unethical practices when working with these social media stars, and it so happens 32 | toy news | September 2018
that the industry authorities are starting to take note. In fact, last month, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced it was launching an investigation into influencer marketing transparency, in a bid to clamp down on unethical practices in the very industry of influencing. You don’t need me to tell you that influencer marketing is rife in the toy and game industry. No longer are influencers being asked to review products once they’ve been
taken to market. Nope - only this June, Hasbro announced it was teaming up with US comedy YouTube stars, Rhett & Link, to co-develop games for the industry giant. Equally, for the first time this year, influencers are being used to help judge toys in the Made for Mums Awards. Long story short, influencers in all different shapes and sizes are now involved in all stages of product development in the toy and game industry, so with them not going anywhere, it’s in your best interest
to know how to work with them while building - rather than breaking - your brand reputation. What is an influencer anyway? In short, an influencer is not a journalist working for some kind of media outlet; it’s really important you know that. Instead, they are content creators sharing their key messages with an audience they have built via their own media channels. That could be a blog, vlog, podcast, or social media platform such as Instagram. The list goes on. And this is where the confusion when it comes to disclosing paid-for collaborations can occur… But I’ve only gifted product, the influencer hasn’t been paid…you may say. Good point. But according to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and its CAP Cade, a paid-for-post includes anything where there has been an exchange of value, when Joe Blogs from the street would have to normally pay for the same goods or experience. That could be products gifted in kind, an invite to a normally chargeable event, free entry to a place - you get the picture. The ASA also says that influencers must disclose a paid-for post when there has been an element of editorial control from the brand. That means simply reaching out to the influencer in the first place and asking them to create some form of content about your product or service is a form of editorial control, not just asking them to include a specific hashtag or campaign URL… So how does the influencer need to disclose a paid-for post? The ASA is very clear on this - paid for content has to be upfront and easily recognisable by an audience. It’s no good having a cheeky disclaimer tucked away at the bottom of a blog post or a sly shout-out at the end of a vlog. After all, a person could half way through said blog or vlog, get distracted, go and make a cuppa, and never realise that what they were actually viewing was an advert in the first place. Instead, content should include the word ‘Ad’ in the title, with a disclaimer also in the very beginning of the body of the content. Plus, if the content is then shared across social media, those posts should also contain the hashtag #ad too. Be
mindful though, platforms like Facebook have a branded content tool, and it’s rolling something similar out across Instagram too. Make sure you’re up to speed with each social media platform’s own policies on collaborative content with influencers. Buying your way up Google A final word of warning, many brands work with influencers thinking it will help to boost their organic SEO, but it totally goes against Google’s rules to try and buy your way up the search enginge’s ranking, by asking your influencer to include follow links back to your website. Google and the ASA is very clear on this; all links back to a brand’s website in collaborative content with an influencer must be ‘no follow’. For people breaking the rules, Google can penalise you, pushing your brand down the page rankings. Most blogging platforms allow influencers to mark a link as no follow at the
click of a button - no whizzy coding needed here - so there really is no excuse. Isn’t it the influencer’s problem, not mine? You’d think so, right? But the answer is nope! The ASA is clear that it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that influencer marketing is done ethically and legally. That means you, as a brand or a ceator of toys and games, need to know the rules and insist that the influencer you’re working with play the game the right way too. If, once an influencer’s content has gone live and you can see that somthing isn’t quite right, you need to shout up and ask them to correct the error. Follow these simple rules and you can not only play - but win - the influencer marketing game with great results for your brand too. Anne-Marie is speaking at the Toy and Game Design Conference on this subject. September 2018 | toy news | 33
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TOTALLY HAMMERED The impact of Games Workshop's new licensing strategy has seen revenue rocket from £2 million to £10 million in the last five years. That's the equivalent of $155 million at retail.
ames Workshop has been licensing out its IP for the best part of 30 years now. So, you may ask, why is it now that the real benefits of operations that have spanned a generation, are only being recognised? For a bit of context, take a look at Games Workshop’s most recent earnings report. The retail chain and owner of the gritty, dystopian, oftentimes bleak tabletop miniatures franchise, Warhammer, has just seen a stellar half for sales. It has seen profits almost double, reaching a whopping £74.5 million pre-tax, compared to its £38.4 million in pre-tax profits one year prior. The same annual report has also confirmed that the Nottingham-based manufacturer and retailer saw a surge in revenue from £158 million to nearly £220 million over that time. Most of the company’s overseas revenue is made through licensing and has, over this year certainly, helped cement Games Workshop’s place among the British retailing, manufacturing and IP-owning elite. But it wasn’t always this way. Games Workshop has also weathered a storm to prove an entire collective of naysayers who suggested that the outfit would never survive the coming of the digital age – especially by making and selling tabletop miniatures, some of which retail for upwards of £100 – wrong. The biggest change over the company’s
very colourful history is arguably not the social shift from analogue to digital, but in Games Workshop’s approach to working within the interstice of each. Recent years have seen retailing-manufacturing-franchising hybrid carve itself a distinct niche, straddling the analogue and digital worlds with its Warhammer franchise, and doing so through licensing and merchandising. “We have been licensing out our IP for almost 30 years now, but for most of that time we focused almost exclusively on video games as there’s a natural fit there
with our fans and IP,” Games Workshop’s head of global licensing, Jon Gillard, tells ToyNews. “We also kept our number of licensees low, giving very broad rights for long terms and large guarantees. “However, that all changed a few years ago. We’d realised two key things, firstly that the route to market was far more open due to platforms like Steam and the App store, and secondly that the sheer depth and breadth of our content was not being served by giving so much to one or two
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Games Workshop partners.” Games Workshop has been working on video games with multiple partners since 1991, and has, over that time, built an enviable set of contacts within the industry. The pay-off of its years of labour in this field continues to be substantial today. “Our partners have sold well over 30 million games over the years and there are over 50 games still available across pretty much all of the platforms,” says Gillard. “The consumer products side is one that we have only been doing seriously the past couple of years and we have got some great partners already, such as Half Moon Bay and Difuzed, making some awesome stuff, but there is lots to go at here, too.” Last month, Games Workshop’s licensing manager, Alexander Thierne told ToyNews and its readers to “expect to see its Warhammer IP take up more presence within toy shops and hobby retailers,” thanks to its ever-growing licensing portfolio. Off the back of this year’s tabletop convention GenCom in the US, the outfit
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“Our partners have sold well over 30 million games over the years and there are over 50 games still available across pretty much all of the platforms” Jon Gillard, Games Workshop
confirmed a new collaboration with Steve Jackson Games to launch a Warhammer 40,000 themed version of its iconic tabletop gaming title, Munchkin. It’s the first of many new announcements to be emerging from its time at the show. And through establishing partnerships such as this, or via its new children’s book series, the company has embarked on a mission to broaden its audience base and innovate its way to more shelf space in high street retailers.
It’s all part of what Gillard has described as a newfound open-mindedness towards licensing in general. A stark contrast to where it was only some five years ago. “By only giving rights for what a partner actually needed to make the product they were proposing and taking a more open minded approach to deals like profit shares as well as traditional MG contracts, the door opened to many more partners, from large publishers through to smaller talented ones. “And once we’d done this with video games, we started to look at all those things that we’d for one reason or another never really got into. So apparel, collectables, and other merchandise, as well as starting to consider media. “This was both to monetise our massive investment in our IP over the years, but also to consider how licensing can help us break into new territories.” The impact of this, by the way, has been significant. Games Workshop’s licensing income has risen from £2 million to £10 million in the past five years.
“That’s the equivalent to sales at retail of $155 million,” boasts Gillard. Just for the record, the firm’s retail footprint is no shrinking violet, either. It’s a growing behemoth of activity spearheaded with an aim to increase its global presence by increasing the number of locations selling Warhammer products. “We have many opportunities in all territories, including the UK, which we consider our most developed market,” Games Workshop’s European trade manager, Zaki Kaitila tells ToyNews. “Worldwide we see great growth potential but there are also some key geographical areas we are currently focusing on like Germany, the US and Asia.” Growth potential is no new concept to Games Workshop, the firm does, after all lay stake to the claim that it drove the growth of the tabletop wargaming market itself from the point of its inception back in 1975. For those uninitiated, Games Workshop’s founders, Ian Livingstone, John Peake and Steve Jackson have gone down in history as the pioneers of the role-playing
and tabletop genre and oft revered as gods among mere mortals. (This is a very enthusiastic crowd of fans, remember – ed) “We have always been very self-reliant in terms of generating business for ourselves,” explains Kaitila. “If anything, we drove the growth of tabletop wargaming with miniatures and made it a hobby that appealed to a wider audience. “The growth in hobby gaming, though, offers some opportunities to enable consumers to discover Warhammer and our miniatures. Realising this, we brought some new product types into the market that enabled our stockists to offer new ways to enter the Warhammer miniature hobby. “Two good examples are the Warhammer Quest and Warhammer Underworlds games, Warhammer Quest follows a classic board game approach with everything being contained in one box but adding exciting miniatures and background story to the mix. “Whereas Warhammer Underworlds was launched last year as a fast-paced battle game with a wide appeal including organised play to support in store activities.”
For those working within the Warhammer or Games Workshop sphere – shall we call it a realm? – life is looking pretty good right now. In fact, all 1,700 members if its UK staff recently took home a share of the company’s £5 million bonus this year, signalling that this is firstly, a company with some excellent employee benefits and secondly, one on an exciting growth trajectory. “For sure we will continue to grow the core of our operations which is fantastic Warhammer miniatures supported by the games, hobby supplies and novels,” continues Kaitila. “Also our licensing activities are growing the brand beyond our miniatures and will help us to reach even more future miniature collectors while we make sure Warhammer Bestsellers will be available in more and more places around the world.” But before it lets the licensing side of the business run away from itself, Games Workshop is quick to iterate that retailing will always remain at the heart of what it does. In fact, just as it drove the nation’s love affair with tabletop gaming to where it currently sits, so too, does it claim fame September 2018 | toy news | 37
in delivering on that buzzword of today, location-based entertainment. Gillard explains: “Location based entertainment is actually what we have been doing since we first opened shops in the 1980s. A Warhammer store is a retail location selling product for sure, but it’s more importantly a hobby centre where customers go to learn how to build, paint and play with our models. “The biggest example of that is Warhammer World at our head office, with its massive gaming hall, Citadel miniatures museum and themed Burmans Bar.” Experiential is well on the radar for this company, then. This is a firm that has been turning up to conventions and other events “since forever.” And while games Workshop is certainly no stranger to the experiential side of consumer engagement, it still has a few boxes to tick before it can consider itself ‘completely 360.’ 38 | toy news | September 2018
“A Warhammer store is a retail location selling product for sure, but it’s more importantly a hobby centre where customers go to learn how to build, paint and play with our models. Jon Gillard, Games Workshop
“What we haven’t done so far is the more elaborate or technological kind of thing you see at theme parks and the like, but it’s an area we’re looking at. Digitally, we will carry on doing video games of course, and we’re exploring new
technologies as they come along like VR and AR. ‘We are also exploring other forms of narrative entertainment – animation and lice action – both doing it ourselves and through partners.” What’s the overall objective for the Warhammer franchise? Growing its audience and fan base of course; building it out into a fully franchised model in which sci-fi fans, geek pop culture fans, hobby fans and gamers alike can all find a place to settle within the Warhammer IP. “Our opportunity is to find ways to let these fans, this growing base of pop culture enthusiast, into the Warhammer world, no matter what products they like or where they are in the world,” explains Gillard. “It’s pretty exciting to think that there are still many unexplored markets out there for us to discover, and many more people to introduce to the joys of Warhammer.”
Games and Puzzles
ONCE A PAWN A TIME The fantasy, storytelling and even role-play of board gaming has captured the imagination of a global audience of board gamers; so let’s take a look at some of the biggest selling titles in the market a la mode.
As we have already covered extensively at the front end of this tabletop and board game special issue, Asmodee UK is a behemoth, boasting some of the best-loved titles on the market. And while tabletop gaming is an evergreen endeavour, we, nor they, can ignore that the end of the year presents a key period for board game sales. It’s why Asmodee UK is gearing up for a successful Christmas period with a host of titles set to make a big impact - particularly the company’s Modern Classics range. This new initiative champions the key products that have driven the worldwide growth of tabletop games in recent years and are billed as perfect for new and established gamers alike. The brand boasts Pandemic, the pioneering cooperative board game in which players are tasked with saving humanity from four deadly diseases, Carcasonne, a tile-laying game where players build up the area around the medieval French town, and Dixit, the game of storytelling and communication. The Modern Classics range is completed by Splendor, where players develop the best strategy to acquire expensive gems, Ticket to Ride Europe, which takes five minutes to learn but gives hours of fun building railway networks across Europe, and Catan, the multi-million-selling game of
building and trading that spawned a new generation of board games and gamers. Meanwhile, Asmodee’s happy holidays will be led by Dobble, the biggest selling game in the UK this year. The card game of speedy observation has gone from strength to strength since winning Game of the Year at the Toy Industry Awards and is a star attraction in the company’s new Fun Fast Games range. Comprising the best of the company’s easy-to-learn titles that reward in-store demonstrations with sales, the range also includes Rory’s Story Cubes, the storytelling game where only your imagination is the limit, and Bananagrams, the word-publishing game that’s a-peeling (sorry, not sorry) to all ages. The Fun Fast Games range is completed by the game of catlike ninja reactions, Cobra Paw, the brand-new Who Did It, in which players establish whose pet made the mess on the floor, and Set, the picture-matching game which is taking America by storm. Joining them will be the new kid on the block, D-lerium. This quick thinking, fast-paced party game is a dice-roller in which players must race to be the first to perform the action indicated. Both the Modern Classics and Fun Fast Games ranges are being strongly supported with eye-catching POS materials that will encourage consumers to check out these family-friendly games. September | toy news | 41
Games and Puzzles
THAMES AND KOSMOS 01580 713 000 Building further on its strongest performing category - which accounts for more than 30 per cent of Thames and Kosmos’ business, the Kosmos board games portfolio is further boosted with an array of new arrivals. Exit: The Game, series nine and ten, retail price £13.50 and for players aged ten and upwards, continues Kosmos’ vast success in the Exit games market. The next two editions in the Exit: The Game series are The Mysterious Museum and The Sinister Mansion. Replicating an escape room experience, players unlock codes, solve puzzles, collect objects and earn their freedom bit by bit. With luck, tactics and high-quality playing materials these games are exciting until the very end. Word Slam Family, retail price £13.50 and for kids aged upwards of ten, builds on the success of the original hit game World Slam in a new version containing all the same fastpaced fun in a streamlined, compact format. Without speaking or using any actions, competing team captains must simultaneously describe the same word to their teams, using only the word cards provided. The first team to guess the word correctly wins the round. Mercado retail at £43 and put two to four players into a marketplace environment with die-cut market stalls as a back-
drop. Each player has their own grab bag with various coloured coins inside. Players take turns to blindly grab three coins from the bag them place them on the market stalls of their choice. If a player has enough coins on the market stall after a few rounds, they receive the goods from this stand and score points. The excitement of the game lies in the unknown, which coins you will retrieve from the bag and which goods your opponents are playing for. To further broaden and strengthen their games offering, Kosmos has formed a strategic partnership with Devir, whose popular games include that such as Check Point Charlie, a card game of observation, deduction and mental agility. Watch all the aspects carefully and try to find out which of them is the chief of spies using the clues that you and the other K-Nine investigators uncover. Other titles include Dragons and Chickens, Dungeon Raiders, Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft, Fast Food Fear, Picnic and 1,2,3.
SENSIBLE OBJECT Sensible Object, the award-winning gaming start-up, continues to innovate in 2018 with an expansion to its debut title, Beasts of Balance, as well as the world’s first ever Alexa-connected board game. Beasts of Balance has just updated its free iOS and Android app with a huge new gameplay upgrade that adds the entirely new competitive Battles mode for players who like their stacking and world-building a bit fightier. As well as Battles mode, the new app update includes compatibility with seven new add-on packs, which are available to ship to retail from this month. These include the Battle Cards pack, 16 NFC cards which take Battles mode to new levels of intensity, the More Beasts pack, whihc adds Chameleon, Flamingo and Angler Fish creatures to both the physical and digital worlds, th Paranormal Pack, which includes the Ghost Crab and Cursed Cross and four Legendary Beasts, Fancyprance The Fabulous Unicorn, Hotbelly The Hangry Dragon, Moby Brick The Space Whale and Omnibeast The Majestic Mimic. Meanwhile, When in Rome is a travel trivia game where Alexa is game show host and real people ask the questions, it is the first launch in Sensible Object’s Voice Originals series of social board games, set to revolutionise the way people play by being the first to work with Amazon’s voice recognition technology. When in Rome pairs with an Alexa-powered smart speaker
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such as Amazon’s echo, which then guides players through the game - teaching the rules, keeping track of the score and delivering immersive audio. Players set up the board, connect to the When in Rome skill for Amazon Alexa, divide into two teams and get ready to travel the world from the comfort of their home. Alexa is game host and pilot, transporting players to 20 cities on the world map game board. With real locals from each city, all asking questions that are unique and flavourful, from categories including slang and language, food and drink and random and strange. With over 20 hours of interactive dialogue, there is endless variety in questions and the combination of beautiful components, real locals, emergent gameplay and Alexa playing host, makes When in Rome an unforgettable board game experience.
Games and Puzzles
Ravensburger 01869 633800 Ravensburger has nine heavyweight TV campaigns launching in the UK and Ireland this season, supporting its portfolio. Three heavyweight TV campaigns kick-off in September and six launch in October to support retailers across the range this season. Campaigns launching in September include the new STEM construction range - GraviTrax, Make ‘n’ Break and Labyrinth. The 20 second GraviTrax TV ad is aimed at seven to 12s and will drive demand for the STEM construction range. Supporting the launch of Make ‘n’ Break, is a 10 second ad aimed at four to nines. The ad highlights the game play designed to get the family “making and breaking”. The 20 second Labyrinth ad is aimed at families and will cement its place as a modern family classic. Among the six campaigns kicking-off in October are two separate TV ads for 3D Puzzle. The first focuses on 3D Puzzle Buildings like the Porsche 3D Puzzle, while the second is 3D Puzzle Shapes including the 108-piece Sneakers. Two additional 20 second ad campaigns launching in October feature the Break Free Game, where players race to unpick a lock and uncuff themselves from the group, as well as a 20 second ad for Bugs in the Kitchen and Buggaloop games. The ThinkFun RushHour 20 second ad will air from October right up to Christmas. The animated humorous ad is aimed at a core audience aged seven to 12. The addictive logic-game includes 40 challenges from beginner to expert and continues to be a firm family favourite. The ninth TV campaign features a 20 second ad for Scotland Yard aimed at families looking for a game with a unique play pattern full of twists and turns along the way.
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Paul Lamond 020 7254 0100 There are now even more new and exciting products available from games and puzzles specialist, Paul Lamond, as we head towards Christmas, the festive season of board games. Now in stock is the exciting new trivia-style board game, Reveal, the game with no questions, only answers and Stupid Deaths, a family board game of grave humour which is packaged in a tomb-shaped box. In celebration of the release of the 100th edition of NOW That’s What I Call Music, there is a new Music Trivia NOW Card Game available as well as the NOW That's What I Call Music Board Game. Also available is a new and updated Gogglebox board game, a fun-packed TV trivia board game based on the BAFTA-winning observational documentary series. For the children and families market and joining firm favourites; Charades for Kids, Yes No! and What's UP is the exciting new fun-packed game Kersplatt! the hilarious, fast-paced, family board game of modelling mayhem. A high energy, tactile but stratgic board game that will players Kersplatting opponent's masterpieces in an attempt to be the first to get two pieces home. For Preschoolers there is a host of new fun and educational games and puzzles to choose from including Let's Feed the Hungry Caterpillar and The Highway Rat Stand and Deliver board games; Enormous Crocdile Floor Puzzle and Memory Card game; from the World of Dinosaur Roar, a 35-piece Puzzle and Domino Set.
Games and Puzzles
or Coildspring, 2018 is already panning out to be a year of record turnover and profit; the team has expanded to introduce new marketing roles, its continued to pick up new custom from a surge in traditional toy shops taking on more and varied board games, and its secured some top licenses and titles across its portfolio of games, brainteasers and puzzles. The company is even heading to Tabletop Gaming Live later this year where it will launch a new co-operative title called Forbidden Sky: Height of Danger, a signifier that the company has now well and truly ingratiated itself with the tabletop gaming community. As such, we thought it was about time we sat down with Roger Martin, owner of Coiledspring Games (now part of the Asmodee UK operation) to talk board gaming. How has business been for you for the past 12 months, are we still seeing growth in the tabletop gaming space? The last 12 months has seen continual growth. Core titles such as Sushi Go, Kingdomino, King of Tokyo and Forbidden Island/Forbidden Desert are doing particularly well. The exceptionally hot weather has slowed the market down slightly, which is a shame because so many games play perfectly outside. What are some of the key titles for you this year - how are these reflective of market trends? There are evergreens such as Kingdomino, Sushi Go, etc, but expansions are always important to keep gamers engaged. Take Kingdomino: Age of Giants as an example. Bruno Cathala said he designed Kingdomino: Age of Giants to bridge the gap betwen Kingdomino and Queendomino. The expansion adds a little more complexity to Kingdomino, but it is still the perfect game for families as the additional rules are not complex. Creating games that can appeal to the masses, providing elements for all levels, is a sound way to stay on trend. Forbidden Sky, the third entry in the Forbidden co-op series by Matt Leacock, is set to be a big title for this year. The demand for Forbidden Island (2011) and Forbidden Desert (2013) remains consistently high and co-op games are on trend. It is a great way to bring everyone together, working towards the same goal, improving communication. There are also new, innovative titles which can be a gamble but when they work are game-changing. Innovation is key to success, when the market is inundated with games. One to look out for is 8Bit Box from Iello which we’re excited about, which launches at Essen. Think of all the great things you know and love about retro video gaming, but on a board game. Are you seeing more interest from traditional toy shops in the board gaming sector?
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Yes, absolutely. Board games have always been part of the mix for traditional toy shops, but only really focused on in Q4. These traditional stores have now realised there is demand all year round for board games. There are a lot of contributory factors for this rise in interest including the move of geek culture into the mainstream, the improved overall quality of the games and the innovation and value for money on offer. What are some of the key topics in the board gaming space at the moment? A key topic that has been in the spotlight a lot recently is sexism, particularly in the more ‘hard-core’ gaming space where the stereotype ‘gamer’ myth is finally being debunked by the inclusivity of the hobby. Finding an innovative mechanic or theme occupies a lot of bandwidth in the industry although my feeling is the core value of combining style and substance will always succeed. Photosynthesis being a prime example. You guys have the planned launch of Forbidden Sky at Tabletop Gaming Live this year, can you talk us through the game? Why have you chosen this event for the launch? In Forbidden Sky: Height of Danger, you work as a team to explore a mysterious platform that floats at the centre of a savage storm. Connect a circuit of cables to launch a secret rocket, but be careful, one false step and you could all be grounded...permanently. You
Games and Puzzles
escaped the Island, you survived the Desert, but can you weather the storm when you take to the skies? Tabletop Gaming Live is set to be a very successful event Tabletop Gaming has worked very hard to advertise the event, so we’re certain it will be a sell-out. There are several great events lined up (including King of Tokyo and Kingdomino tournaments run by Coiledspring Games) as well as many exhibitors and a lot of intersting talks. With Forbdden Sky being launched at GenCon, we wanted to ensure the UK was big. We’re very much looking forward to demoing Forbidden Sky to everyone at the show. Meanwhile, how has the puzzles category been performing for you over the last year? The puzzle ‘brainteaser’ category is growing strongly, although the growth is slower than last year’s ‘figdet’ fad. Puzzles are very different to sell than games, as they don’t need explaining and need ‘instant’ appeal. The Brainwright range from Gamewright with the shelf-stealing graphics are doing particularly well. Jigsaws continue to perform steadily, however we have had a big boost this year by being able to offer the Thomas Kinkade Disney range from Schmidt. Simply stunning images will always sell well - combining the best-selling ‘painter of light’ with the beloved Disney licence was always going to be a winner. The 11-strong range features iconic Disney stories which are loved by many. How is Coiledspring positioned for the rest of the year, how is the second half of the year shaping up?
At the moment, the year is shaping up to be one of record turnover and profit. Our team has expanded this year already with the addition of Gemma, our marketing executive and we are currently looking to recruit for more sales support. However, there’s a long way to go so we’re not taking anything for granted.
THE PORTFOLIO Coiledspring Games distributes, markets and promotes an exclusive range of titles in the UK. Thomas Kinkade, the painter of light, capture the timeless magic of classic Disney stories, in ten 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles. These include iconic titles such as Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and the Little Mermaid. A 2,000-piece puzzle, which encapsulates the entire Disney collection, is now available for fans wanting more of a challenge. With its cross-generational appeal, 3D Harry Potter Puzzles are best-sellers for Coiledspring Games, The range which includes the impressive Great Hall and Astronomy Tower, is set to expand this autumn. The new license range features Diagon Alley and three new collectable puzzles will ignite the magic in all Potter fans. Grab a handful of Floo powder and delve into the new Diagon Alley Collection range. Coiledspring Games’ biggest release in 2018 is Forbidden Sky, the third co-op game by Matt Leacock and Gamewright. Prviewed at Tabletop Scotland in the beginning of September, this co-op adventure will receive its full UK launch at Tabletop London Live.
The award-winning Photosynthesis, by Blue Orange, is a game in demand due to its visually stunning appearance,. Planet, set to be released at Essen 2018, is another beautifully designed strategy game, where you position your continents to form hospitable environments for animal life to develop. The attention to detail on games from Blue Orange sets the range apart from other titles. IELLO titles such as King of Tokyo and SOS Dino have become best-sellers in 2018. New releases this year include RAIDS, Downforce and 8Bit Box - the first retro gaming board game. It contains everything to recreate the classic joy of videogames from everyone’s childhood, with the thrill of a board game experience.
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Games and Puzzles
Hasbro Gaming 0208 569 1234 Monopoly Cheaters is the updated version of the classic Monopoly game, in which players are permitted to bend the rules and “cheat to win” as they travel across the gameboard to own it all. For the first time, “borrowing” money from the bank, skipping spaces, and avoiding rent are welcomed in this hilarious version of the iconic Monopoly game. Complete the “cheats” as assigned by the game and get a reward… but get caught and you’ll pay the consequences. Pretend handcuffs will leave offenders “chained” to the board until they are released. The Monopoly Gamer: Mario Kart Edition game provides fans of all ages with new ways to engage with the Nintendo brand. Players pass iconic Mario Kart themed properties such as Rainbow Road and Bowser’s Castle, while encountering familiar challenges like dodging Banana Peels, tossing Shells and scooping up Super Star spaces to win the game. To introduce another layer of competition and strategy, landing on or passing “Go” triggers a Mario Kart race where players compete for the coveted Grand Prix card. In addition, each character token will have its own unique Power-Up ability activated by landing on a Super Star board space. Have a “blast” and take aim as players “pie” their opponent with the Pie Face Cannon game. To start, one player puts their face in the facemask, while the other player aims the cannon and tries to launch cream onto their opponent’s face. Players behind the mask try to avoid getting “pie-faced” by using the blocking hand. Players can earn points by blocking themselves or by “pie-ing” their opponent. The first player to get five points wins. The game includes a cream cannon, holder, numbered track, connecting stick, base with buttons, blocking hand, chin rest, splash-card mask, and spinner.
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Mattel 01628 500 000
In 2018 Mattel continues to strengthen its firstclass games portfolio with an extensive offering introducing exciting new games and family favourites. Iconic board game Scrabble celebrates its 70 th Anniversary in 2018. Anniversary celebrations will kick off in October when Mattel launches a campaign inviting consumers to reappraise the brand with an experiential activation, PR and a new social film. Fans can also follow the world's most skilled Scrabble aficionados as they take on the Mindsports World Scrabble Championship in Torquay with a thrilling final in London. To commemorate this milestone the brand launches a Scrabble 70th Anniversary Edition, the classic board game re-imagined with a modern luxury aesthetic, which new special black and gold foil-stamped spaces on the board. Mattel also introduces brand new game Flushin’ Frenzy for AW18, a game the requires fast reflexes. Roll the dice, and when a number comes up you have to plunge the toilet the amount of times shown. If the poop comes flying up and you catch it in midair, you earn two chips. The player who ends with the most chips wins! This new game provides hours of endless fun and toilet humor for two to four young plungers. Adding excitement to the games portfolio is Handimonium - a hilarious game that allows kids and adults to challenge their friends to simple tasks that suddenly become outrageously difficult when players must perform them wearing tiny plastic hands. There's plenty more in store from the global toymaker this season, too.
Games and Puzzles
Jumbo Games 01707 289 289 Jumbo Games has launched itsnew adult Disney Collection, kicking off the range with a commemorative Mickey Mouse 90 Years 1,000-piece puzzle depicting Mickey throughout the decades. Along-side this, Jumbo has released some Disney classics, with the Snow White and Bambi 1,000-piece movie posters. The Peter Rabbit license is enters Jumbo’s adult portfolio and has been a hit with puzzlers since they launched the 1,000-piece and 500-piece puzzles in classic Beatrix Potter style. From Wasgij, Jumbo has its tenth new release this year, the Original 30 ‘Strictly Can’t Dance!’ 1,000-piece puzzle inspired by the BBC dancing contest. It complements other AW releases - Christmas 14 ‘Santa’s Little Helpers!’ and Original 29 ‘Catching Wedding Fever!’ 1,000-piece puzzles. Jumbo has released a further nine puzzles in its Falcon de Luxe range, including ‘The Whitesmith’s Cottage in Winter’, ‘Playing in the Show’, and ‘Winter Birds’, each 1,000-pieces. Jumbo’s new Christmas puzzle - ‘Christmas Shopping’ is a 1,000-piece puzzle complete with a free 1,000-piece puzzle. Jumbo will be introducing five new titles to its Jan Van Haasteren range, including ‘Food Festival’ 2x1000-piece puzzle box set that includes a free gift in-pack, ‘The Toy Shop’ and ‘The TV Studios’ 1,000-piece puzzles and the ‘Cattle Market’ in both a 1,000 and 2,000-piece format. Jumbo has expanded its games portfolio with the launch of four new Strategy Games, having seen the growing demand and popularity in this category over the past couple of years. Jumbo’s new titles include the semi-cooperative How to Rob a Bank Game that is already a strong seller in the US. The tactical tile placement Forbidden City Game, a collect and dominate game titled Okavango and Isidore – School of Magic rounds out an exciting line-up.
Big Potato 0203 620 9495
After the success of its trivia card game Linkee, now licensed to John Adams, founders Ben, Dean and Tris decided to set up their own business. Big Potato was set up in 2012 as an independent board games company to create and craft family and adult party games that are easy to learn and quick to play. This season, the firm introduces a brand new party game made in collaboration with Reiner Knizia, Clickbait. Clickbait is a family party game for ages 14+ and is about writing attention-grabbing slogans for some of the most ridiculous products that the internet has to offer. Things like ‘Unicorn Jerky’, ‘Giant Family Slippers’ and ‘Flamethrowing For Kids: A Step-By-Step Guide’. To begin, the judge will choose a Product Card and roll five lettered dice, each displaying a single letter. Players then have to think of a short, snappy line to advertise the product, using the five letters on the dice to start each word. Each player writes down their slogan and passes it to the judge. Once the judge has chosen their favourite, the player who wrote it is given a point. Then, a new product gets revealed and the dice are rolled again. The first player to write three pieces of award-winning Clickbait (and receive three points) is the winner. “We always try to go the extra distance to come up with new, interesting ways of packaging our games. Once we decided on the name, the cursor-shaped box soon. The team had loads of fun making Clickbait and I think that the final packaging could be one of my favourites yet," said Ben Drummond of Big Potato. Clickbait has had a positive response, scooping the silver award for ‘Best Family Game’ at the Imagination Gaming Awards.
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Games and Puzzles
Orchard Toys 01953 859 520 The award-winning children’s games company, Orchard Toys is launching two new titles this September to its pre-school kids range, both billed as perfect for the Q4 gifting period. Giraffes in Scarves is a fun counting and colour matching game for ages four to seven, featuring giraffes in wacky patterned scarves. Players roll the dice, match the cards and build their giraffe. The winner is the one with the most scarves. The quirky giraffe characters in this simple game help make learning fun and engaging for children. It's set to last play after play with sturdy, wipe clean cards and the ability to play with up to six players. Following the success of its now third bestseller Farmyard Heads and Tails, we are proud to launch this jungle version. Jungle Heads and Tails features a variety of wild animals for children to match and pair, from a crocodile to a flamingo. As they grow in confidence and ability, children can play as a more advanced memory game by turning the cards over. The game offers children as young as 18 months the perfect introduction to first gameplay and turn taking. The large, wipe clean cards are designed to last and perfect for little hands to hold. Both games are key examples of Orchard Toys’ ethos of ‘learning made fun’, combining fun characters, engaging gameplay and educational benefits.
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Gibsons Games 020 8661 8866 Gibsons has a wide selection of new products that have launched just in time to keep everyone entertained throughout the winter. Crystal Hall is Gibsons’ magical new board game. The game urges players to lead their troupe of wizards into the Crystal Hall in a quest to collect four magical crystals that are hidden among the 36 face-down tiles. The first player to visit each of these tiles and extract the crystals is the winner. Cast spells, drink potions and teleport to new locations as your wizards explore the board. But beware, curses, warps and fireballs are just a few of the dangers lurking in Crystal Hall. Gibsons has 12 new puzzles, including Christmas Festive Fun, a scene that reveals the traditions and festivities of the wonderous season, Toymaker’s Workshop, a toy lovers heaven painted by Eduard, and Christmas Toy Shop, a Steve Read design that is sure to get keen puzzlers in the Christmas spirit. Finally, Gibsons is excited to launch two new Christmas gifts. Firstly, unbox 12 festive surprises this December with Gibsons 12 Days of Christmas Countdown Calendar. Behind each door you’ll find an irresistible treat in the form of an 80 piece jigsaw puzzle. The 12 puzzles eventually create one gorgeous, panoramic, Christmas scene. The second is Santa Scramble; this gorgeous bauble may look like an innocent tree decoration yet encased inside are 250 pieces of a chaotic Christmas puzzle. Illustrated by Armand Foster, the jigsaw inside this festive trinket will provide hours of entertainment and look a treat on any sparkling tree.
Games and Puzzles
Binca Games email@example.com Binca Games is set to strengthen its games portfolio for 2018 with the launch of two new titles ahead of the key Christmas buying season. Joining Binca’s popular word game for all the family, Fletter, is Fletter Fuse, an advanced version which builds on the original card game by adding slightly trickier gameplay. While fast-paced Fletter sees players shouting out all the words they can form from the single letter cards in front of them, this new version features single, double and triple letter cards as well as bomb cards to add jeopardy for a more challenging play. Fletter Fuse is suitable for ages ten and upwards. It retails for around £9.99. The second new title joining the Binca portfolio is money-laundering card game, Whitewashers. Tapping into the current trend for social deduction and bluffing, Whitewashers is a fun game of deception where players have to outwit their opponents to clean the most ‘dirty money’. Players win by bluffing and tricking other players into losing cash while they battle to become the richest money launderer. Whitewashers made its debut at UK Games Expo and will be priced at £9.99. Spill is Binca’s ‘adults-only’ drinking game which puts friendships and relationships to the test. A perfect party game for over 18s, players can learn new things about old friends, surprising facts about new friends, and spill dirty secrets. Available now, RRP £24.99. To place an order or for further sales information, contact sahil@ bincainc.com
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Accentuate Games 07748 184 525 FReNeTiC is the new game from Accentuate Games Ltd, the Dragons’ Den entrepreneurs with their eyes on a new family board-game title. Sibling inventors, Graeme and Fiona Fraser-Bell, the duo behind guess-the-accent game, Accentuate, have launched their second game – a fast and furious word game with a scientific twist. FReNeTiC is a new word game that uses element symbols of the Periodic Table. Players race against the clock to form as many words as possible using the Element symbol tiles, and score points equivalent to the atomic numbers of each tile used to create the word, for example Ba Na Na = Banana = 78 points. The first player to 1000 points wins. Amazingly there are more than 10,000 words that can be created using combinations of the element symbols of the Periodic Table. With everyone playing simultaneously, the game combines skill, strategy and an element of luck at a frenzied pace. The novel scoring system adds a fun twist to the game, which is suitable for two or more players aged eight and upwards, opening up Accentuate Games Ltd to a younger and wider audience. Coupled with Graeme’s chemistry background, FReNeTiC has undergone an extensive, robust and enthusiastic playtesting regime and has been extremely well-received since hitting shelves in April. To support FReNeTiC, Accentuate Games attended UK Games Expo 2018 in June for the first time and will be rolling out FReNeTiC challenges nationwide. In addition, strong partnerships with Board Game Cafes and local school workshops will ensure FReNeTiC can be enjoyed first hand. FReNeTiC retails at £22.99. Visit www.freneticgame.com.
Games and Puzzles
Fiesta Crafts 0208 804 0563 Fiesta Crafts has been designing and manufacturing unique toys and gifts for children since 1990, and this season it is bolstering its children’s games portfolio with some exciting new additions. Fiesta’s new stickabout travel games are perfectly designed to keep children entertained on any journey, making the anguished, ‘are we there yet?’ cry a thing of the past. With family classic board games recreated in miniature Stickabouts style, children and parents will be able to engage themselves in play while knowing the pieces won’t get lost or add to the weight of everything else you are travelling with. Stickabouts stickers are innovative, waterproof, glue-free stickers that stick to any flat surface and peel off without any residue. They are completely reusable and just need to be wiped with a wet cloth to restore their stickiness. All the pieces pack inside the lightweight folding board whiich also includes easy to follow rules. With five different games ranging from one player to two player to six players there is something for everyone whether it is challenging yourself with Solitaire, challenging someone else at Noughts and Crosses, Four in a Row, Draughts, or playing against up to five other players in Chinese Chequers. With all five Stickabout travel games in your travel kit, children might even start looking forward to long journeys. Fiesta Craft’s toys are now sold all over the world, including in the USA and Canada, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. The firm has also won many awards for its play value and innovation, including the Hamleys’ Toy of the Year and the Giftware Association’s Gift of the Year.
TOMY 01392 281 927 TOMY’s Games collection brings diversity and enjoyment to the children’s games category with quirky products featuring lots of surprises through pure and simple fun. The collection will expand this year with three new releases that feature different play patterns and encourage quality family time. New releases for autumn/winter include RunAround Hamster (SRP: £22.99). Suitable for two to four players, the aim of the game is to help Hammy store the most food. Players watch as Hammy the Hamster takes food from his house, storing it in the bedroom for safe keeping. Also new to the collection is Burp the Baby (SRP: £22.99), a fun game of chance that aims to have everyone in hysterics, players take turns trying to burp the baby, but watch out burp him too much and they’ll be in for a surprise. Puzzlers will love brain teaser Puzzle Wars (SRP: £21.99). Suitable for ages eight and upwards, players can go head to head against a friend or challenge themselves with this fastpaced puzzle game. Use the pieces to match the shapes and colours shown on the card. The first to finish and hit the buzzer wins. TOMY will continue to support its hero games including the legendary Pop Up Pirate (SRP: £15.99), Screwball Scramble (SRP: £19.99) and new successful game Greedy Granny (SRP: £19.99) ahead of gifting season. New releases and hero lines will be amplified through TV advertising for Burp the Baby, Run Around Hamster and Greedy Granny. The campaign will air in three bursts over September, October and December delivering 1800 TVRs across the three lines to target consumers ahead of gifting season. Puzzle Wars will be supported with a digital and social media influencer campaign. September 2018 | toy news | 53
Games and Puzzles
Tactic Games firstname.lastname@example.org Finnish company, Tactic Games has announced a range of exciting new product development in the games and puzzles category this year. The Great Tour is an example of a Gateway Strategy Game, straddling the boundaries between family and tabletop gaming, where players have to travel their way around Europe in an attempt to visit the most places and attend the most events. Players can rediscover freedom as they travel through the beautiful countries in Europe, ready to go wherever the next event takes them. Flip over destination cards and aim to reach the various historical cities as quickly as possible, whilst avoiding the jams created by other players on route. Great Tour is a great family or party game that is sure to have players reaching for their passports. SSP is £24.99 Drawing on the nostalgic storybooks where players choose their own destiny, Story Chest fantastically brings together imagination and fantasy with an exciting game play element. Open the Story Chest to reveal a magical world full of stories waiting to be told. Players take turns to tell a continuous story inspired by one of the beautifully illustrated cards dealt while other players have to predict which card they will choose. SSP is £22.99 Ninja Rush is a fast paced, quick reaction game which is based on the ancient Sensei training principles. The Ninja time warriors are trained to harness time, the most precious of commodities and their Sensei trains them to react quicker than the blink of an eye to see the future before it happens. Players can experience this in gameplay - their Ninjas hold the
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GP Flair 0208 643 0320
GP Flair is to reintroduce to the market one of the smartest and most popular handheld tech games when 20Q relaunches for its 30th anniversary this autumn. 20Q is the ultimate tech toy and game that, through its in-built algorithms, always knows what you are thinking. The concept is simple, think of something and then let 20Q guess what it is; it’s practically guaranteed that it will succeed in doing so in less than its allotted 20 questions. For those that loved the original, fear not… 2018’s 20Q is smarter than ever and comes with a new ergonomic design that makes playing it even easier. Players can use it solo testing it against whatever onject they can think of, amaze their friends with 20Qs help, they read their minds. 20Q will be launched with a full marketing schedule including TV advertising, sampling and influencer activity ensuring the question of whether to buy or not is a simple one.
Games and Puzzles
Fantasy Flight Games Asmodee UK: 01420 593 593 Fantasy Flight Games is a leading hobby game company and the name behind a vast collection of board and card games, roleplaying games, miniatures games and digital games. Established in 1995, Fantasy Flight Games has earned a reputation for its innovative gameplay, immersive gaming experiences, quality gaming components and more. The firm is often lauded for the detail and artwork it brings to its titles, many of which are based on popular licenses including Star Wars, George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and JRR Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings. It has also secured huge success with its own portfolio of properties, the most popular among which being the likes of Legends of the Five Rings, Android and Runebound. Over its 23 year history, FFG has published games in over 30 languages and distributed to mor than 50 territories globally. Fallout: The Board Game has been highlighted as a stand out game among its immersive portfolio. Based on the hit video game series by Bethesda Softworks, each Fallout scenario is inspired by a familiar story from the franchise. Another stand out is A Game of Thrones: The Board Game Second Edition, published ten years after the first iteration to offer a comprehensive and improved version of the popular game. The updated edition brings a host of enhancements with elements from previous expansions including ports, garrisons, Wildling cards and Seige engines, as well as a host of new innovations. A Game of Thrones: The Board Game’s updated components will draw you into its world of sun-scorched sands, lush forests and chilling northlands while bringing your favourite characters vibrantly to life.
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Renegade Game Studios Asmodee UK: 01420 593 593 In 2014, Renegade Game Studios set out on the mission to publish games that are fun, challenging and unique as well as inclusive, making a portfolio of games that that everybody can enjoy. With a raft of award-winning products, Renegade Game Studios lays claim to helping ignite a new era of casual games in the hobby space. Already, the outfit has found success with titles like Lanterns: The Harvest Festival and Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure, as well as accessible family games such as Kitty Paw and The Fox in the Forest. It has even found success in the resurfacing roleplaying game category with titles such as Overlight and Kids on Bikes. Most recently, Renegade Game Studios secured a license from Hasbro to develop a Power Rangers board game titled Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid. The project was launched to Kickstarter early last month, and within 24 hours of going live smashed through its target of $10,000. Power Rangers: Heroes of the Grid is a co-operative board game from the famed designer Jonathan Ying that challenges two to five players to save Angel Grove from Rita Repulsa’s evil army of monsters in real time. All the classic characters from the Power Rangers franchise are present through the game’s artwork and over-sized plastic miniatures, making an immersive translation of the popular franchise. The game is expected to hit US retailers in spring next year and UK distribution is tipped to follow soon after.
Games and Puzzles
Rascals Bulldog Licensing has teamed with Rascals to launch a new board game based on the cult-classic gameshow, The Crystal Maze. The Crystal Maze originally aired on Channel 4 from 1990 to 1995, and has since made a full return as the channel’s number one entertainment show, with viewing figures at 4.3 million. Hosted by maze-master Richard Ayoade, teams face a new range of challenges as they attempt to navigate the Aztec, Medieval, Industrial and Future zones. Two full series have broadcast this year – one featuring celebrities with a Stand Up to Cancer special and a Christmas celebrity special also set to hit the screen. The new Rascals board game taps into all the fun of the show, with players faced by a labyrinth of perplexing puzzles and tricky challenges. And, just like in the series, they must collect precious crystals to build the time needed to scramble for gold tokens in the game’s furious Crystal Dome finale. Rascals has also developed a free mobile app to accompany the game, which features authentic music and sound effects from the show and can be used as a timer during challenges. This is the latest addition to a strong licensing programme for the brand. Other partners include Imagine8 for FSDUs featuring a range of Crystal Maze-branded products, an official quiz book from Headline Publishing and Poetic Brands for apparel, nightwear and underwear. “Rascals have done a brilliant job with this game,” says Bulldog MD Rob Corney. “It perfectly captures the zany rush of the gameshow itself and is certain to be a big hit at retail, particularly in the run up to Christmas.”
Vivid Autumn/winter2018 sees a selection of fun family games joining the Drumond Park portfolio. Foxy Pants sees a greedy fox snapping up the chickens and stuffing them into his pockets. But when there are too many chickens, his pants will fall down and the chickens will escape. Players must rescue the chickens and return them to their chicken coop. Can you catch the fox? The game is for up to four players. Watch Wally spin and fill your washing line to win in the fun Wally the Washer. Take it in turns to press the button and watch Wally throw out the clothes, which you need to hang on your line. But watch out… if you get the smelly sock then all the clothes go back in and you go again. Collect all your clothes to win the game. Word Bandit is the head spinning word-spotting game where teams take it in turns to take on the one-armed bandit to find words, names, celebrities and more… More answers mean more points, so be quick and race round the board to win the game. Super Ski Jump is the ultimate trick challenge. Earn points by jumping the farthest, doing tricks and sticking the landing as you tackle the toughest slope of them all. Pick your player, take to the ramp and get ready to go. It’s all in the timing, get it just right to nail the jump and win the game.
September 2018 | toy news | 57
INTO THE WOODS Sustainability is a hot topic right now and consumers are more and more refusing single-use plastic. Here is a round up of some ethically-sourced, environmentally conscious alternatives...
Le Toy Van Over the last 25 years, Le Toy Van has become a trusted partner in the world of wooden toys, with a raft of award-winning toys now available across more than 50 countries through its worldwide network of official retailers. Founded by Georges Le Van and later joined by his son Steven Le Van, Le Toy Van team boasts a collective 150 years of experience in the toy industry, bringing an expertise and passion to what it does: inspire the imaginations of children across the globe. All of Le Toy Van’s products are developed here in the UK by a highly experienced in-house creative team that works tirelessly to ensure that all items are consistent with the high standard that Le Toy Van is known for. These efforts are what has helped make the firm an award-winning toy company, having scooped titles from across the Junior Design Awards, Toy Shop UK Awards, Loved by Parents, Made for Mums and more. This season, the firm has plenty to offer the wooden toy market, from the popular and award-winning Popcorn Machine through to the Holiday Campervan, Tool Set or Camelot Castle. Leading the line-up is the Rainbow Cloud Walker, a 58 | toy news | September 2018
baby walker in a cloud shape with 45 rubberwood blocks painted in water-stained rainbow colours and an assortment of shapes. The sturdy wooden structure offers support to develop a youngster’s confidence with walking. Meanwhile, the traditional wooden rainbow blocks encourage shape recognition and hand-eye coordination. This is followed by the award-winning Popcorn Machine, a compact vintage wooden popcorn machine featuring popping corn. Kids can hold down the ‘pop down’ handle, release and watch the popping display. The set comes complete with five felt play popcorns to collect from the drawer and a popcorn pot to serve them in. Packaging features show tickets and sweet/salty popcorn tickets to cut out for extended play value. Elsewhere, the Tool Box is made out of solid rubber wood. It comes with 11 accessories: a fabric bag, saw, pliers, a screw driver, a plank of wood with two holes, two nails, a bolt, a screw, toy ‘glue-pot’ and a hammer. All the pieces, including the tool box itself are coloured using water based paints. Finally, the Sweet Dream Pram is a traditional style with pastel pink, cream and fresh white colours with hearts and lace motifs. It features a strong structure, soft padded matress, retractable handsewn canopy and rubber grip around the wheels.
Jumbo Games Not content with having the puzzles sector locked down, Jumbo Games is bolstering its wooden collection too with a host of new lines from the Goula brand this season. Goula is the trustworthy, high quality traditional wooden toys brand from Jumbo Games that encompasses fun and engaging play, through fundamental learning skills, to help children along each stage of their early development. There are a variety of product categories that consumers can choose from: puzzles, construction and ability toys, my first games, educational toys and balance toys. It is a veritable feast of wooden toy mirth from the company this season and beyond. New items this year include the Three Little Pigs Game, Antartica Game, Pull-Along Duck and Dog, as well as the Wooden Construction Pack that features 40 chunky and child-friendly pieces for little ones to create their own towns and villages. These new additions sit perfectly beside the top-selling Goula Fishing Game, Farm House Shape Sorter, Pile-Up Stacking Cubes and Educational Calendar Clock that have proven to be consumer favourites and have received extremely positive reviews and endorsements.
Gibson Games Gibsons is another one tapping the traditional wooden toys market this season, and in the run up to the nostalgia-fuelled festive season, the question is, why not? Gibsonsâ€™ traditional wooden range is not only great fun to play with but is also forest friendly, as the classic games and four mini travel games are all manufactured from reforested rubberwood. The trees are only cut down once they are no longer producing rubber and are immediately replaced with another tree. There are nine products in the range for all the family, from the challenging game of traditional Solitaire for solo-play, to Chinese Chequers which can be enjoyed by up to six players. The range also includes four much loved travel games Travel Chess, Mini Shut the Box, Mini tiddlywinks and Mini Solitaire. Each travel game has been cleverly designed with internal storage space for pieces so that anyone can game on the go. Presented in contemporary packaging with cut-out holes in the box, encouraging shoppers to feel the high quality wood for themselves, these games are as good to look at as they are fun to play and make the ideal gift for both casual and serious gamers. Not only are these games planet friendly, but they are sure to provide a quality experience each time they are played.
September 2018 | toy news |59
Tobar 0207 437 022 Children’s imaginations will go wild with Tobar’s range of high-quality wooden play-sets, including Noah’s Ark, a Happy Farm and a Pirate Ship. Helping board the animals two-by-two will be a load of fun with the Wooden Noah’s Ark Playset. Taking inspiration from the classic story, this 28cm long wooden ark includes several pairs of animals such as cows, horses, pigs, elephants and more. Keeping them fed and watered are wooden figurines of Noah, his wife and the dove that brings the olive branch. As well as 17 painted figures, the play-set includes a ramp to load everyone on board and a sliding lid that allows the ark to act as a carry case for the various play pieces. Meanwhile, even Old McDonald would be green with envy over any young farming apprentices who own the wonderful Wooden 60 | toy news | September 2018
Farm Playset. Packed with potential for fun and a bunch of colourful critters, farming apprentices can help Mr and Mrs Farmer tend to the crops and feed the six critters in and out of the 24.5cm wide barn. Complete with delicate wooden props including a carrot patch, fence and trees, it will bring any young farmer’s imagination to life. Completing the line-up is the Pirate Ship play-set, containing everything needed for an adventure at sea. The 32cm long ship features a crow’s nest high up the mast, rotating captain’s wheel, portholes and a symbolic black sail. “Traditional play is a huge part of Tobar’s vast range of toys,” says David Mordecai, CEO of Tobar. “The quality and care taken to make these beautiful toys can be seen in every detail, and we know children love to play with them.”
UGears Mechanical Models is not only taking on the wooden toy sector with intricate working models, it's doing so while championing sustainability. We find out more...
n 2014, a combined effort of like-minded people brought the concept of UGEars to life. The mission? To create a range of modular mechanical models in which everything is real. Today, UGears has more than 20 models and is contiuously working on new designs for the future. More than this though, UGEars is a champion for the environment. The firm puts it above all else. We caught up with the company director, Daria Dubets to learn more about its approach to sustainability. Can you talk us through the UGEars ethos? Since UGears Mechanical Modelsâ€™ inception in 2014, w have been committed to crafting wooden toys which are responsibly and
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sustainably sourced. Our model kits use the same wood as IKEA and donâ€™t require any glue during assembly, something we are particularly proud of. Our kits will never be made of plastic, and this is partly a personal decision and one of the team.
wasteful and environmentally unfriendly habits that we have developed in recent years. Brands need to think about how their products are affecting the health of children not only through play, but also what the long term implications can be.
Why is this such an important aspect to you? As consumers we are aware of the effects our purchasing decisions can have on the environment, and so the products we create and sell have to measure up to our own ethical standards. The recent push for the latte levy on disposable coffee cups and the successful introduciton of the 5p carrier bag charge have shown that the tide of public opinion is turning against some of the more
So why is now the right time to be thinking of this? Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of how their purchasing of a product is but a small part in the lifecycle of that product. The public increasingly understands the complexities of supply chains as well as the damage that products can create once they are disposed of. The acceleration of change in consumer beliefs is unprecedented, thanks to the internet.
Daria Dubets is the founder of UGears Mechanical Models
Five years ago, the concept of flexitarian was almost unheard of. Today, one in ten millennials is vegetarian or vegan and meat consumption is decreasing for health reasons as well as ethical reasons. Brands will need to become more agile to be able to respond to sustainability issues. And how will this impact on toy buying habits? Millennials are the coming generation of young parents and they will be looking to reflect their moral and ethical choices in
their purchases, especially those which their children will interact with. As such, everyone from designers and manufacturers to retailers will need to respond to this demand. We have seen doll manufacturers respond to calls for more diversity of race and body shapes. For manufacturers whose toys are not based around people, sustainability is going to become a similar driving force. Today’s marketplace has made sustainability a talking point and a selling point for toy brands.
But how much more expensive is it to be working with wood or card than plastic when developing toys? Our models have always been created out of wood. We have talked about making models out of plastic but we decided this was not a path we wanted to go down. In terms of manufacturing, the cost doesn’t necessarily need to be higher than working with plastic. Once we had set up the laser cutters in the factory, our biggest cost has become R&D and marketing. Working with wood doesn’t have to be expensive. Where do you feel the biggest issues arise in the toy industry around the use of plastics? In terms of sustainability, toy manufacturers should definitely look at manufacturing options outside of China because of the environmental cost associated with shipping. Plastic toys are a comparatively new invention, up until the 80s the majority of toys were made of metal or wood. There are definitely benefits to working in plastic related to durability, weight and colour, however manufacturers shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with new materials. September 2018 | toy news | 63
Industry moves The big three, Hasbro, Mattel and the UK’s independent manufacturer, HTI have bolstered their executive line-up with a number of strategic moves this month MATTEL
HASBRO The global toy maker has named CASEY COLLINS (pictured) its new senior vice president and general manager of global consumer products. Collins takes over from SIMON WATERS, who will be taking up a new role as senior vice president and general manager of Hasbro’s recently acquired Power Ranger franchise. Collins was most recently executive vice president, consumer products with WWE. The CP division has also strengthened its UK team with BECKY LANGER in the role of retail development manager. Langer joins from Character World. Among the firm’s top executives, CEO and chairman, BRIAN GOLDNER has had his contract extended a further two years, through to December 2022. Meanwhile, JOHN FRASCOTTI’s duties have been expanded to add chief operating officer to his current role.
The firm has taken a new step to unify its global commercial organisation with the appointment of a new chief commercial officer. STEVE TOTZKE has stepped into the position where he will report to YNON KREIZ, Mattel’s chairman and executive officer. Totzke will work closely with Richard Dickson, Mattel’s president and chief operating officer and will be responsible for driving continued commercial excellence for Mattel by maximising retail partnerships and expanding its e-commerce concepts. Mattel has also appointed ADRIANA CISNEROS and ROBERT LYNCH to its company board of directors. The move has been made to further strengthen and develop its board, and transform Mattel into an IP-driven, high performing toy company. Cisneros is the CEO of Cisneros Group of Companies and Lynch is the president and CEO of Pandora Media. The company has been undertaking efforts in a massive bounce-back project to re-establish itsefl as the global leader in the toy industry. Both Barbie and Hot Wheels have been highlighted as high performers in the firm's latest revenue reports and will be the focus of brand drive among consumers.
HTI The UK’s largest independent toy manufacturing business has strengthened its senior ranks with the promotion of LEE GLICKMAN (pictured above) to head of UK design. Having helped develop some of the company’s best-selling toys, Glickman will now work alongside head of creative Marco Moroso in joint collaboration as they develop new product innovations. The progression brings new opportunities at HTI as it looks for an additional junior product designer to support its strategic growth this year and for the future. Meanwhile, the continual growth of the firm has seen further recruitment in the marketing department with the appointment of LUCY WARREN (pictured here) as licensing and marketing assistant. She will provide support across both licensing and marketing functions, having recently graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in marketing. The pair have been congratulated on their new positions with the company.
We can help. Whether you’re in Sales, Account Management, Design or Marketing, we’ve got the experience and toy industry know-how to find your perfect role.
01709 834777 • email@example.com • aswift.com 64 | toy news | September 2018
Out of office
A IS FOR… A STRANGE ENCOUNTER When ToyNews’ sister title Licensing.biz was given the chance to interview Sesame Street star Elmo, the editorial team made the decision that it would be a travesty to not run the result, in full Elmo, being so cheerful makes you an inspiration…how does that feel? Elmo, an inspiration? Are you having a laugh? Elmo is just a curious little monster who loves to learn new things, and make people laugh. It does make Elmo happy to know that his friends in the UK love learning with Elmo and all his friends. We’ve heard you're ticklish. What else makes you laugh? Elmo is very ticklish, haha! Elmo’s friends always make him laugh. Like when Cookie Monster eats all of the biscuits like, “nomnom-nom.” Or, when Ernie plays a joke on his buddy, Bert. Those two are really silly. Abby Cadabby is always telling Elmo jokes. Oh, she told Elmo a good one the other day. How do you fix a jack-O-lantern? With a pumpkin patch! Isn’t that funny? A lot of us have grown up with your Sesame Street friends. What are they really like? Is Oscar as grouchy as he acts? Elmo can tell you that Big Bird really is that big. Do you think Big Bird and Big Ben would get along? What’s that…? Oh, it’s a clock. Haha! Elmo’s friend Grover has tried all those different jobs! Elmo thinks he would make a good guard at Buckingham Palace. He’d look good in that hat, but Elmo doesn’t think he could stand still long enough. Oscar, well, he does really love rubbish… Elmo learned that word the last time he was in the UK. Oscar is very grouchy, he’s a grouch after all, but deep down Elmo knows Oscar is very kind and a good friend.
Don’t tell him Elmo said that though. What’s a typical day in the life of Elmo like? Elmo wakes up and has breakfast with his mommy and daddy. Elmo usually has toast with jam. Elmo then brushes his teeth and heads over to Hooper’s Store to see all of his friends. We play games, and there is lots of singing and counting. Sometimes friends come from out of town to visit, like Sir Ian McKellan and Ed Sheeran (Elmo is still trying to schedule a playdate with Sir Elton John). Elmo then heads home, but always stops by the trash can to say hi to Oscar. At home Elmo eats dinner with his mommy and daddy. Elmo then gets ready for bed, and his daddy reads Elmo a story before going to sleep. We know you’ve travelled the world. What are some of your favourite places? London! Elmo’s spent a lot of time enjoying tea time with all the yummy treats. Elmo hopes to one day have tea with the Queen.
Elmo really likes riding the London Eye. Elmo saw the whole city from way, way, way up there. London reminds Elmo of Sesame Street, it’s really clean and everyone is so kind. (Elmo may not have visited London). September 2018 | toy news | 65
IT'S BARTY TIME ...because the editorial team's favourite animated TV series could be getting a sequel movie, which is just super...
he really big news to have emerged over the last couple of weeks, by anyone’s standards, is that The Simpsons could be lining itself up for a second stab at the silver screen. Staggeringly, and I have run the numbers on this one, thrice over, The Simpsons Movie was released 11 years ago. Yes, it’s been over a decade since Spider-Pig first trotted its way across the ceiling and into our visual cortex, which means that I have been singing the theme tune that accompanied that bloody pig for about one third of my life so far. The reports of a planned emerged late last month via The Wall Street Journal. At the time of going to print and following the first steps of the Disney merger, the future of 20th Century Fox wasn’t entirely clear. By the time you read this, it probably still isn’t. Nevertheless, the film studio has decided to make a move to partner with its own television arm to produce animated films. The Simpsons is one of such projects. Now, as it prepares to enter its 30th anniversary, it’s arguable that The Simpsons is one of Fox’s longest standing properties. It’s certainly 66 | toy news | September 2018
the longest-running series on American TV. It is, of course, a mere flash of life when compared to the time Disney’s flagship cartoon poster-mouse, Mickey has put in, yet Homer, Bart, Marge, Lisa, Maggie even maybe Lenny have made just as much of a cultural impact. As a life-long fan of The Simpsons (Bart Simpson’s Guide to Life, anyone?) it will be interesting to watch just how Disney treats this, along with some of Fox’s other stand out properties such as Family Guy, as it prepares to swallow up £71 billion worth of assets. Underground mutterings are that any big screen endeavour from Matt Groening and the crew behind Springfield’s ensemble could well be a final bow for the 30 season strong animation. Elsewhere, others have suggested it was a move from Fox born more out of necessity to keep its hand in animated film, following the expiration of its DreamWorks Animation deal and after Comcast fell by the wayside in the bidding war with Disney. However this plays out, it will offer an indication as to what may be on the cards for Fox’s assets once the merger is complete. In the meantime, steamed hams, anyone?