Monday, December 8, 2014

A Very Sparkly Idea

In writing The Toy and Game Inventor's Handbook about the business of creating new playthings, Richard C. Levy and I used the words of  nearly one hundred professional inventors to describe their approaches when creating their next new product. In fact, in our inventor profiles published in the book, we asked the question, "What sparks original ideas?" Answers were quite varied. Among the replies: following trends, studying objects, watching children, daydreaming, fitful sleep, a refreshing shower,  and perhaps most unique, sunbathing au natural on an isolated tropical beach!

Some inventors use a more pragmatic and traditional approach to "spark" new ideas. They envision an unmet need/try to fill a void. That certainly was the spark for new games by Donna Christian and Leslie Lawrence who had a vision  to create games that respect and celebrate the Hispanic culture. The first two entries in a new product line marketed by Cass Group, LLC focuses on the celebration of young Latina girls' Quinceañera, a very important coming-of-age event in the lives of Hispanic girls. These “first of a kind” games hope to enhance the lives of young Hispanic girls as they dream about and prepare for their all-important 15th birthday.

My Quinceañera™ Countdown Game

My Quinceañera™ Angry Old Godmother Game

Both Donna and Leslie were volunteer mentors in Springfield, MA schools for years. During this time, these two former Milton Bradley Company creatives developed many relationships with young Latina girls which ignited a spark to fill a market void. They have since licensed My Quinceañera™ Countdown Game and My Quinceañera™ Angry Old Godmother Game to Cass Group, LLC, a start-up marketing group made up of three former Hasbro Game executives: Phil Jackson, Mark Sullivan and George Reich.

The link below shows these first products in what is foreseen as a line of games and activities targeted for a growing audience.

My Quinceañera™ Website

Monday, May 20, 2013

Have you hugged a toy inventor yet?

You should. It's National Inventors' Month! Inventors are the creative men and women, who toil mostly in anonymity, but through their inventiveness bring us new playthings year in and year out. We acknowledge in the The Toy and Game Inventor's Handbook that in the toy industry, product is king and inventors are king makers.

Here is how some inventors profiled in our eBook see their special talents.

An inventor is …

“someone that loves life and curiously explores it, dreams out loud so that others may participate, and strikes a great balance between persistence and practicality.”
Garry Donner, Random Toys & Games, Ann Arbor, MI
Most successful products include: Scrabble Scramble (Hasbro & Mattel); and Uno Roboto (Mattel).

“someone who thinks out of the box, doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer, persists despite repeated rejection, and can see things the average person doesn’t see.”
Clemens V. Hadeen, Jr., Fun City USA, Sturgeon Bay, WI
Most successful products include: MicroMachines (Galoob/Hasbro) and Nerf Sharp Shooter (Hasbro)

“someone who creates something out of nothing.”
Reuben Klamer, ToyLab, San Diego, CA
Most successful products include: The Game of Life (Milton Bradley/Hasbro)

“someone who is a bit crazy and has at least one foot in the twilight zone. Inventors are true magicians who can make something come from nothing; from a thought to 3-D reality is a very nice trick.”
Steve Rehkemper, Rehkemper Invention & Design, Chicago, IL
Most successful products include: Air Hogs (Spin Master)

“someone with the drive and audacity to think he or she can come up with something new and unique, even after so many rocks have already been turned over to discover so many great inventions. A relentlessly creative nut who, against all odds, continue to dream and build.”
Elliot Rudell, Rudell Design, LLC, Torrance, CA
Most successful products include: Geo Trax (Fisher-Price); Upwords (Hasbro Games)

“someone who gives the world something brand new or something that is a play on an old concept or theme that, in the end, makes it very different and unique. An inventor sees things in a very special way but can also see the practical aspects of the invention (it is marketable, particularly in our business).”
Howard Wexler, Howard Wexler, LLC, NYC, NY
Most successful products include: Connect Four (Milton Bradley/Hasbro)

Chances are you have played with some of their creations. So, go ahead, show a toy inventor some love this month dedicated to all they have done and will in all likelihood continue to do.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Funding a Fun Idea

Internet "crowdfunding" is replacing the age old method of "family and friend funding" to finance production of an idea. No more asking Grandma Maude or Uncle Charlie for their cash savings to turn an idea into reality. Kickstarter is one of several websites where an inventor can use a slick pitch video and incremental incentives to get "backers" to not only pledge dollars but get them to spread their "like" to their personal network of friends.
Acknowledged as "America's Wordsmith", David Hoyt has his word puzzles syndicated to hundreds of daily newspapers. JUMBLE puzzle books are everywhere. Hoyt's latest game creation, Word Winder, is already on the market in traditional board as well as digital forms.
So why is a pro inventor like Hoyt on Kickstarter? Inspired by numerous teacher interests in Word Winder, Hoyt has designed a special classroom version that is intended to be played where no word game has gone before; on the floor! His hope is to meet his funding goal and produce quantities of this school edition of Word Winder and get kids everywhere out of their seats and on the floor playing his game. https://Nightly Business Report

Checkout Hoyt's Kickstarter pitch. Perhaps you will become a backer, and oh yes, don't forget to pass on the Word Winder message to all your friends!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

From Whence They Came

Q: What does a person who has a PhD in psychology, a talent agent, and a rabbi have in common?
A: All three are toy and game inventors!

Richard C. Levy and I explored the "origin of inventors" in the 2nd edition of The Toy and Game Inventor's Handbook. We asked eighty professional inventors profiled in the Handbook the question, "What did you do before entering the industry?". The answers reveal highly diverse backgrounds including accountants, programmers, teachers, software engineers, trial lawyers, mechanical engineers, a biologist, a magician, a talent agent and yes, a PhD in psychology who was a co-development partner on the highly successful Tickle Me Elmo.

In addition, a few professional inventors were fortunate to swim in the right gene pool where inventive parents set the stage for them to grow up in the industry. After living with the early development of classics like Othello, Colorforms, Mr. Potato Head, Battling Tops, Yakity Yak Teeth, Trouble, and Lite Brite, this special group came of age to ultimately license their own toy and game ideas.

A trained priest has been a long standing member of the professional inventing community. But now add another church man to the list, Rabbi Jeff Glickman. In addition to his day job, Glickman is actively pursuing a newly cultivated passion for creating games. He claims to have licensed two game ideas within the past year. Rabbi Glickman sees connections between life as an inventor and the scriptures. Here are a few of his perspectives on how some scriptures relate to toy and game inventing:

Ecclesiastes 9:8-10: "Let your garments always be white...What your hand finds to do, do it with your might." JG: Don't do anything halfway. Make sure all your ducks are in a row. 

Ecclesiastes 11:4: "He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap." JG: "Get out there and knock on doors. Lots and lots of doors. Create the right moment, don't wait for it."

Ecclesiastes 1:9: "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again: there is nothing new under the sun." JG: "Learn from other games that work. Reinvent things in a fresh way."

Genesis 28:6: "And I did not know." JG: "Some very obvious things we don't see. Bounce your ideas
off other people. They will give you perspective on your ideas."

We found the origin of professional toy and game inventors to be incredibly diverse as evidenced from whence they came to annually offer limitless, unique ideas for new playthings. Hopefully, it shall continue forevermore!  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Aim to Please, Please

After decades around the Milton Bradley and Hasbro Games R&D Departments and after viewing thousands of inventor concepts, I have been convinced it is possible to make a game for any topic, for any age, and for any gender. Games can be designed for any challenge; be it skill and action, strategy, Q&A, twitch reaction video games, etc.

Now along comes games that expands that premise even farther. This introduction is apparently intended for screen obsessed, multi-tasking, physiologically properly equipped players when called to   a very necessary environment.

Check out the video to see a play platform coming to that special room near you.
World's first p-controlled video game

I never would have thought of such games since I have always seen visits to that location as a matter of necessity and not a place to seek amusement. It also begs a key question, how will this play experience be handled if it is to broaden market share to the opposite gender?

On the plus side, these games may well open sales opportunities at previously untapped retail outlets: local plumbing supply stores. Oh, by the way, don't forget to flush!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Newbie Exhibitors @ The Big Show

For anyone serious about the toy and game business, the place to be each February is New York City at the TIA sponsored International Toy Fair. For the really serious players, the Javit's event is likely the fourth fair in a lineup that has taken them to Hong Kong, London, and Nuremberg. After another annual bout with weather elements, many attendees question the wisdom of holding the fair in NYC. They would prefer some other cavernous hall in Orlando, Dallas, or Vegas. To me, weather is not that important. Battling the elements only seems to occur between the hotel exit and the entrance to a Javits bound bus. What is important in February is not outside on the streets, but what goes on inside the Center along its miles of aisles.

Rain, sleet, snow are certainly irrelevant to newbie exhibitors who come to Javits with high hopes and higher expectations. This year, the TIA reported Toy Fair included 239 first time exhibitors.

2013 newbies, Rob Appelblatt and partner Tim Crean, unveiled a spin on the timeless light strategy classic game, tic-tac-toe, with a uniquely designed version trademarked as TIC STAC TOE TM. Like other first timers, Appelblatt spent hundreds of hours on product preparation and thousands of dollars on the Javits floor space, product samples, and a booth display to confirm strong personal belief in the game. He says, "family, friends, and co-workers all loved the game, but presence at Javits was a true opportunity for genuine, outside validation".

Four weeks after the Big Show, Appelblatt is following up on what he calls, "great interest from retailers, distributors, and potential marketing licensees for TIC STAC TOE TM." He sees the positive results as payback for the amount of effort and energy put into readiness for Toy Fair. That effort included molded parts, multiple prototypes, packaging, a YouTube demo, and even an APP. Appelblatt says, "We were forewarned by many that we had gone way beyond what a typical inventor would do, but I think this is one of the reasons we had such a successful show."

How to Play the APP

As he sorts through opportunities from Javits 2013, Rob Appelblatt offers this advice to newbies who may appear at Toy Fair 2014. "Trust and follow your gut instincts. That should lead you to the right decisions as long as you do your homework and constantly critique and challenge yourself. You will meet people who will give reasons why you won't succeed. Hear their reasoning, but don't let them get the best of you. Stay true to your vision but be malleable as you learn things from others that will greatly improve your chances for success."

Hopefully, Toy Fair was as successful for the other 238 first timers as it was for Rob Appelblatt. The play industry needs the annual infusion by start-ups making the commitment to launch their dreams in the aisles of the Javits Center. Regardless of the weather on the streets of Manhattan, they bring sunshine and smiles into hundreds of booths.