British game designer Alex Fleetwood describes his latest toys-to-life creation as a tasty blend of tabletop dexterity and digital strategy. The concept has already made headlines across the globe and now, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, it could be on its way to toy shops very soon. Robert Hutchins finds out more.
Can you tell us about Fabulous Beasts. What is it and how did the idea first come about?
Fabulous Beasts is a game of strategy and balance in which you build a tower of animals on your tabletop and help them evolve in a connected, digital world.
I am the founder and CEO of the team creating the game. I have been making games that connect physical and digital play for about ten years, mostly with my former studio, a firm called Hide&Seek.
I wanted to take the experience of making those games (most of which took the form of installations in spaces like the Tate Modern) into a more sustainable form.
Fabulous Beasts is the result of a year of sustained R&D.
What industry and consumer reaction have you seen to Fabulous Beasts so far?
The game has been getting some fantastic reception from players and press alike. We recently took home the Technology Award from prestigious US games festival Indiecade and the LA Times said Fabulous Beasts ‘completely reinvents the game of balance’.
How could Fabulous Beasts mark an important step forward within the toy industry?
Up until now, the only companies that have tackled toys-to-life products have been huge names like LEGO and Disney. We’re a team of five that combines skills in engineering, product design and digital game-making, taking advantage of a new set of technologies to prototype in hardware and software at the same time.
I think that the toys-to-life space is ripe for the same kind of disruption and expansion that we have seen in indie digital games over the last ten years.
Why did you take Fabulous Beasts to Kickstarter?
Kickstarter offers tremendous value for companies like ours. Not only does it bring in much-needed resources from a group of passionate early adopters, but it enables us to build relationships with manufacturing partners and investors based on concrete data from the market.
While we hope to engage retailers at the appropriate point, it is now completely viable to build a brand through crowdfunding and e-commerce – and while we are operating as a lean, agile start-up, the speed at which we can iterate with these channels is an advantage.
What have you done to build a community around Fabulous Beasts?
We have demoed the game at a range of events and festivals in the UK and the US over the last six months – Game Developers’ Conference, EGX, Essen, IndieCade and Game City being a few – while also building our mailing list and social media following.
Why should the UK market be excited by the potential of Fabulous Beasts?
The game is incredibly fun. A group of young gamers who played it at the weekend were overheard saying ‘maybe we should substitute our Smash Bros. night for a Fabulous Beasts night’. High praise…
We know that balancing games have mass appeal, and the sophistication and depth that lies underneath the surface of the game could engage fans for a long time. Our ambitions for the game extend far beyond the core set.
This is a game that gets more fun the more pieces you buy – build more elaborate towers, create more Fabulous Beasts – and the physical/digital hybridity means we can also sell in a range of digital upgrades – for example new game models such as a versus mode.
All of that adds up to a compelling multichannel retail opportunity, invented by a UK start up.