Throughout the month of February, we are celebrating Breaking Games. Since their launch in 2015, Breaking Games has consistently released fun and easy to learn games such as We’re Doomed and Rise of Tribes. We were lucky to be able to interview Shari Spiro, the CEO and founder of Breaking Games, to find out more about what makes their company so unique.
(Mox) You act as publisher, manufacturer, and distributor for your games. How has Covid changed your operations over the last year?
(Shari Spiro) Covid initially slowed down our manufacturing – and has continued to raise the cost of shipping and the difficulty level of booking freight and importing in general. It made slow work of fulfilling a major, highly anticipated Kickstarter, Dwellings of Eldervale, because we couldn’t just bring in dozens of extra temps to ship the game to our many eager customers. To ensure our team’s safety, we had to use a much smaller core team in the warehouse and obviously, that took much longer than it would normally but as usual, we got it done. The silver lining is that while it caused stress and some scrambling, it did improve the process of managing consumer and retailer backer expectations. In addition, because many of our team members now work from home, like everyone else, we hold digital meetings instead of sitting in one large conference room. In addition, because we are not traveling to trade shows or conferences, this has enabled us to focus on projects more and improve certain aspects of our process. As is so common, working from home can also mean isolation. Many of us actually LIKE one other, miss seeing each other and working together in person. We miss the human interaction but we have found ways around it with Zoom and Google Chat. We haven’t been able to play-test in person but utilizing platforms like Tabletop Simulator, Tabletopia, BoardGame Arena and Discord have been helpful.
(Mox) You take a unique approach by working closely with designers regarding the marketing of their games. What does that process look like?
(Shari) We meet with a designer to brainstorm with our team, then we collectively decide how best a game can be brought to consumers prior to the game’s development. Because marketing is such an unusual mix of luck and skill, we all think differently, push the boundaries, stretch our creative muscles. Often we find that additional partnering or licensing is the best way to move a game that might otherwise stand still in the marketplace. We include the designer as much as possible beyond just the concept of the game. Our recent work with Cafe Chaos, for example, combined an existing game mechanic from one of our designers with a popular set of characters, and this collaboration led to a well marketed and received game.
(Mox) Could you give us a sneak insider preview of something we should be excited for?
(Shari) You should be VERY excited to KROMA and Meeple Mountain. Both are set for mass release this year, and we are looking forward to Kickstarting both of them. Kroma is Kickstarting in June 2021, and is a unique and beautiful light-up board game where you mix colored translucent tiles to create your target colors, which are made by combining two of the basic colors of yellow, cyan and magenta. As for Meeple Rapids, that’s a highly entertaining “meeple rolling” game that launches later this year.
(Mox) Is there a game from your catalog that has dramatically influenced or changed your processes? And how?
(Shari) Cards Against Humanity was the biggest game to ever hit our company and it dramatically changed the trajectory of our company. The ubiquitous card game helped us learn how to manufacture in different kinds of factories, helped us learn how to handle containers of goods, and ship worldwide with customs clearance and VAT requirements. It helped send us to trade shows to sell games, and even to establish relationships with retailers and distributors around the globe. Hands down, Cards Against Humanity helped change all of our processes for the better and enabled us to move into a 100,000 square foot warehouse, so we are able to handle fulfillment in our own facility to mass-market stores like Walmart and Target, direct-to-consumer fulfillment for our clients, and now to manufacture and fulfill client Kickstarters worldwide.
(Mox) AdMagic has been a well-known manufacturer for years. What pushed you to become a publisher?
(Shari) POOP the game pushed me to become a publisher. I was at BostonFIG demoing it, along with other games, and people from all walks of life were truly interested in POOP, it was something I had never experienced. Everyone kept asking how to buy the game but I didn’t have the answer, so I got on the phone with the game’s designer – Blaise Sewell – and said I want to publish POOP and partner with you. Then almost at the same time, we had the opportunity to publish Letter Tycoon, and the rest is history! In fact, Letter Tycoon is actually getting re-released within the next year and a half with brand new art – very exciting to see a game with so much interest. I also think that my background in graphic design made it easier for me to become a publisher because I was already creating layouts and mechanicals for large print runs. I actually started my career in a factory that made plastic credit cards and promotional items of sheet-fed vinyl, so I was very familiar with the printing process. I feel like that good game has a good ending – it’s like a movie. You feel good when it’s over and that’s what I look for as a publisher.
(Mox) You have your hands in so many pots. How do you maintain your level of quality while doing so many things?
(Shari) We constantly identify and fix problems, and this helps us improve as we grow. We wear many hats and manufacturing is one of them. We have always been good at planning and executing complicated logistics – we have had our own internal freight team for many years and we have learned many lessons while Cards Against Humanity was taking off.
In publishing and manufacturing alike, we have been amazingly fortunate to work with some of the best in their fields and that makes the job easier. Our newest offering is fulfillment and large-scale warehousing services for our clients in our 100,000 square foot facility. The secret sauce as to what makes us work well together is that this team has many innovative thinkers who are all dedicated to making this company a success. We managed to get into all of the major worldwide channels of trade – we are in all major mass-market stores – we are indeed handling many different sales channels. We continually refine our processes and administer those important key learnings to provide next-level of service for our clients. We intend to build on our past efforts and continue to find amazing inspirational people to work with, as we all strive to support our clients’ successes in any way we can.
(Mox) What theme or intellectual property would you like to see in a Breaking Games title?
(Shari) I really love some of the streaming shows on platforms like Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon, and Hulu. I would love to do a game based on some of their top shows!
(Mox) If you could live in the world of any Breaking Games title, what would it be?
(Shari) My current favorite world is Meeple Rapids, which is a water park full of exciting activities for meeples on vacation from their board games. It’s one of the first meeple-rolling games ever and definitely the most fun I have had with this type of tactile game. It actually feels like a Vegas craps game – as you’re rolling the meeples down a slide and shooting for a particular outcome, everyone yells in excitement or even support when you roll it. I also love the Sparkle Kitty world, full of princesses, witches, fantasy and magic!
(Mox) What is your favorite snack to eat while playing games?
(Shari) I love pie, dark chocolate almonds, BBQ-flavored chips, assorted fruit roll ups, yogurt with toppings — I can be found eating any of that while testing or playing games.
Breaking Games at Mox Boarding House
We’re offering 10% off any Breaking Game title during February when you stop by Mox, and make sure to check out your local store’s discord to find out more on how we’re celebrating Breaking Games. If you’re curious to find out how we’re keeping the stores safe and at what scale we’re operating make sure to check out our Covid-19 Updates blog post. With titles varying in theme and strategy, you’re sure to find the perfect game.
-See you at Mox