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Introduction: First game being reviewed by Cranium

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Verseboy
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Joined: 12/31/1969

My name is Steve. I'm new to the forum. I live in Central Iowa, where I publish my wife's quilting books. I've designed a couple of games, with sketchy ideas for several others. My first game, From Bad to Verse, is currently being reviewed by the folks at Cranium. Ever the realist, I'm not optimistic about them picking it up. Still, they wanted to see it.... You never know.

I must admit my immersion in the gaming culture is not so complete as most of you. I grew up playing Risk, Clue, Scrabble, and such. In the early years of my marriage, it was Trivial Pursuit. Now when I get together with friends it's party games of one stripe or another, things like Scattergories, Balderdash, Apples to Apples, or my own From Bad to Verse. So heavily themed games or role-playing games or strategy games are not much a part of my experience. And as the discusssion here relate to such games, I'm afraid I won't offer much in the way of help or perspective.

The fact that I'm a book publisher would help if I were to self-publish a game. I know some about marketing, production, distribution. The fact is I don't want to run a game company. I'd rather develop game ideas than deal with receivables and payables and ad schedules. My efforts to this point have been in perfecting my games and in finding a publisher for them. In that respect I'm probably like most of the people here.

Anyway, enough about me. I've had an interesting time dredging through the posts and archives here. I look forward to participating as my time and talents allow.

Scurra
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Joined: 09/11/2008
Introduction: First game being reviewed by Cranium

As we keep saying, don't presume that we are only interested in one sub-genre of gaming: I suspect that most people round here are "gamers" in the proper sense; if it's a game, we'll play it.
Designing "party" games is just as hard as designing mid-level themed strategy games (harder in some ways as getting the balance right is often more difficult) and it'd be great to see some discussions of the sort of issues that those games raise too.
Oh, and welcome to the madhouse btw :)

Chip
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Introduction: First game being reviewed by Cranium

Steve,

I'm curious - do you get to interact directly with someone like Richard Tait at Cranium (one of the co-inventors of the game Cranium)? Or do they have other people at the company that evaluate submissions?

Chip

Verseboy
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Introduction: First game being reviewed by Cranium

Good question. Short answer is I didn't deal with Richard Tait (or haven't yet). I proposed a couple of game ideas to them online last April. That appeared to be the preferred method of proposal submission. In December I got a letter from Carrie Bosch, the Marshal of Mayhem at Cranium, asking to see both games, if I was still interested. Apparently the submission process was in flux during that time, but is now streamlined.

I spent most of January honing the presentation on one of the games, and sent it off the first week of February. Whereas the letter indicated they would get back to me 4-6 weeks after seeing the prototype, by the time I sent the game, the lead time was up to 8 weeks because the NY Toy Fair was looming on the horizon.

As it stands now, I hope to hear back the first week of April.

Steve

Chip
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Introduction: First game being reviewed by Cranium

I was at Toy Fair this year and didn't see anything new and spectacular from Cranium for adults. They have a number of children oriented games, one of which won the T.O.T.Y. for Game of the Year, but the only prototype/new adult offering was "Turbo Cranium" - a modified Cranium game that included some electronic components. They wouldn't discuss the details of it with me.

I wouldn't be surprised if your discussions with them continue. I would venture to guess they're itching to get some new adult stuff on the market. Or I should say, if they've received any feedback at all from store owners, they'd know these game store owners haven't been very impressed with their R&D efforts for new adult games lately. I had a few discussions with various store owners at Toy Fair that were more than willing to offer their opinions to me on the current state of Cranium games.

I've never met or spoken with Carrie Bosch. I did have the opportunity to correspond via e-mail and chat a bit in person with Richard Tait though. He was kind enough to offer me some business suggestions a while back as I was getting started. He seems like a nice enough guy. That being said, keep in mind that Richard Tait and Whit Alexander, the other co-inventor of Cranium, are both ex-Microsoft guys. They're very shrewd and good at what they do.

Chip

Verseboy
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Introduction: First game being reviewed by Cranium

Chip wrote:

I wouldn't be surprised if your discussions with them continue. I would venture to guess they're itching to get some new adult stuff on the market. Or I should say, if they've received any feedback at all from store owners, they'd know these game store owners haven't been very impressed with their R&D efforts for new adult games lately. I had a few discussions with various store owners at Toy Fair that were more than willing to offer their opinions to me on the current state of Cranium games.

Interesting perspective. I hope that bodes well for me and not simply ill for the company. Their games seem to fit into a very tight family. My game is strong on the creative component, and it would represent a departure for them on some levels and a logical extension of their line on other levels. It's those "logical extension" lines I hope they'll follow!

To Cranium's credit, they've done a good job of identifying what they do well and want to do, and they haven't deviated too far from the script.

Steve

Chip
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Introduction: First game being reviewed by Cranium

Steve,

Can you imagine your game being referred to as "Cranium From Bad To Verse"? If you look at the Cranium offerings, the first thing you should notice is that all of the games are branded "Cranium". Cranium isn't just a game or a company name, it's a brand - or as the company is trying to promote, a "lifestyle." Their games include Cranium, Cranium Hoopla, Cranium Hullabaloo, Cranium Cadoo, Cranium etc. You should ask yourself does my game fit into this lifestyle? How can I make a pitch to the company so that they see that it fits with this lifestyle?

As far as independent game store owners' opinions on the company's R&D, I'm sure a few of them are a little irked they've gotten undercut by Target, Wal-Mart, etc. Cranium doesn't need to cater to small game stores' needs. They have broader distribution, not only with Target and others, but they also still have Starbucks. An independent game store can't compete against the likes of Target. I know for a fact that many of them buy product at a price almost equal to what Target sells a game like Cranium for.

I hope you don't misinterpret my comments concerning Cranium either. I think they're a great organization and are to be emulated. They know exactly what they want to do, how to do it, and where they're going with the company. A company like Cranium doesn't get $21M in venture funding unless they're solid. I'll be interested to hear more about your journey with them at a later time.

Chip

Verseboy
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Re: Introduction: First game being reviewed by Cranium

Verseboy wrote:
My first game, From Bad to Verse, is currently being reviewed by the folks at Cranium. Ever the realist, I'm not optimistic about them picking it up. Still, they wanted to see it.... You never know.

To follow up, I heard back from Cranium this week, exactly on the timetable they promised. They passed on the game. I'm disappointed but not entirely surprised. When one tries to court the favor of a big player, the odds are invariably long. I received a stock cordial form letter. Then I called Cranium's Marshall of Mayhem to let her know I'd be issuing a UPS call tag for the return of the game. She offered some kind comments about the game. I got the impression she actually liked From Bad to Verse and wasn't saying something nice just to be kind to a rejected game designer. That made me feel good.

I remain undaunted. I had spent the interim researching game companies that I thought would be a good match for this and other games I have or want to do. I'll get busy initiating contact.

Steve

Yekrats
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Joined: 08/11/2008
Re: Introduction: First game being reviewed by Cranium

Verseboy wrote:

To follow up, I heard back from Cranium this week, exactly on the timetable they promised. They passed on the game. I'm disappointed but not entirely surprised. When one tries to court the favor of a big player, the odds are invariably long. I received a stock cordial form letter. Then I called Cranium's Marshall of Mayhem to let her know I'd be issuing a UPS call tag for the return of the game. She offered some kind comments about the game. I got the impression she actually liked From Bad to Verse and wasn't saying something nice just to be kind to a rejected game designer. That made me feel good.

Steve,

Although I'm sorry that the Cranium guys passed on your product, I'm pleased that they followed through with their decision in a speedy manner. I'm also glad that you'll keep up the good work. There's a lot of companies out there that live and breathe from outside submissions. You just need to find the right match, I think.

It's good that you're undaunted! Keep trying!

Best wishes,
-- Scott S.

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