Endless Games, the New Jersey-based company behind Pictionary, is looking to up the kid-quotient in its product line by getting into character licensing. And the move may be aptly timed, considering research from the NPD Group that shows the preschool game market (which includes board games) generated 21% more sales last year than in ’03, with 20% of the category’s US$500-million total take coming from licensed product.
But not every property converts well to the board, warns Brian Turtle, the company’s sales manager and self-described game ‘tweaker.’ What works best are interactive properties or ones that easily inspire interactivity, which is the essence of board game play.
Turtle found Cookie Jar Entertainment’s Seuss-based Gerald McBoing Boing animated series particularly appealing because of the monosyllabic noises its six-year-old protagonist communicates in. The idea behind Endless’s Gerald McBoing Boing game (US$24.99), due out next summer, is that kids must make the sound that goes along with what’s pictured on each square of the board (quacking when they land on a duck, for example). Then when they press a button and activate an embedded chip, Gerald will repeat the correct sound.
A Build-A-Bear Workshop game (US$29.99) that’s still in development reinterprets the custom-creation experience that has made the retailer’s stores so popular. Kids ages three and up travel from one workstation to another by rolling dice or reading instruction cards, and they collect materials to build their own fuzzy mini-bears as they go around the board. The first player to reach the end is considered to have completed his or her bear first, and wins. An additional ‘booster’ set (US$19.99), containing more bear bits, is in the works to support play that involves more than four players.
Endless is actively scouting for additional properties to kidify its 2007 development slate, but Turtle and his team are still fleshing out their acquisitions strategy. ‘Sometimes you have to look outside the regular run-of-the-mill properties that you see day in and day out and go with ones that kind of fly under the radar,’ says Turtle. ‘And then in some cases, you have to be the first guy in. With Build-A-Bear and Gerald McBoing Boing, I think we did a bit of both.’