Gamemaster: Esdevium's Steve Buckmaster on the company's phenomenal year

Jade Burke

By Jade Burke

December 13th 2016 at 11:46AM
UPDATED December 13th 2016 at 11:55AM
Gamemaster: Esdevium's Steve Buckmaster on the company's phenomenal year

2016 has proved to be a terrific year for Esdevium Games, with Pokémon sales soaring thanks to the Pokémon Go phenomenon. Steve Buckmaster, MD of Esdevium Games speaks to Jade Burke about the growth in tabletop gaming, the effect of the Brexit vote and what the firm has in store at next month’s London Toy Fair.

As a toy supplier, Esdevium Games’ offering is varied, thanks to its assortment of genre-hopping tabletop games and collectables.  

Boasting names spanning Dragons’ Den favourite Accentuate to the new addition of record-breaking Kickstarter title Exploding Kittens, to classic titles such as Dobble and Codenames, Esdevium is one of the games sector’s heaviest hitters.

This year saw the phenomenon that is Pokémon Go take over the world, with fans of all ages from every corner of the world out and about catching the pocket monsters in the real world thanks to the AR-infused app.

Coupled with this year’s 20th anniversary of Pokémon, Esdevium has enjoyed record sales as demand for the Pokémon Trading Card Game soared. 

“Pokémon has been absolutely incredible,” Esdevium’s MD, Steve Buckmaster, tells ToyNews. 

“The game had been on a strong upward curve for a couple of years now, but we saw that demand step up a notch in the early part of 2016 with the 20th anniversary activity getting even bigger with the huge awareness created by Pokémon Go,” 

“The challenge for us now, and for Pokémon also, is being able to get enough stock to satisfy the huge demand.”

Following the vote for Brexit in the United Kingdom this year, 2016’s future looked uncertain for many toy suppliers and retailers alike. However, despite exchange rates proving problematic for some, Esdevium’s classic offering of games and toys helped to keep the company buoyant. 

Buckmaster declares: “Like many other toy suppliers, we have suffered from exchange rate changes after the referendum. 

“But the immense growth we have seen from key product lines including Pokémon and Dobble, paired with the rise in popularity of tabletop gaming culture has seen us flourish over 2016.”

 

Tabletop triumph

Keeping active in the toy sector via means outside of selling games has undoubtedly also helped to secure the company’s success this year, as 2016 saw Esdevium host its first own Fantasy Flight Games National Championships for a number of leading tabletop titles.

During the championships, gamers flocked to Birmingham’s International Convention Centre to battle it out, playing games such as Star Wars X-Wing, Android: Netrunner and A Game of Thrones: The Card Game.

The fact that 500 competitors attended the event just goes to show that the tabletop gaming revolution is continuing to build, as more and more fans choose to embrace titles such as Dark Souls, Pandemic and Imhotep. 

“I think that there is a shift in attitude towards tabletop games; groups of adults and families are regularly buying games to play,” claims Buckmaster. 

“We think that there is a real opportunity for retailers to look at how they can revitalise their 

games offering and how they sell games to cater for this surge of additional interest.”

Esdevium has witnessed this trend first hand, having enjoyed  a surge in sales for board games, as more people look to uncover new titles in the tabletop space.  

Buckmaster continues: “We are selling more games than ever before and I have to say the quality of the games we are selling has never been as high as it is now. 

“We notice it in terms of our marketing; journalists who want to discover more about games, or when we are at events, people tell us they have come just to see our latest games.” 

And it’s a testament backed by crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. Back in July, Kickstarter revealed that tabletop games campaigns have started to outpace video games on the site, having raised six times the amount of money over the last six months.

And the Kickstarter community’s thirst for game projects has helped Esdevium recently, with the firm acquiring the UK distribution rights to crowdfunding sensation, Exploding Kittens.

“Exploding Kittens was a truly record-breaking success on Kickstarter both in terms of funding and the number of backers, which has allowed the game to generate an even wider buzz and awareness,” adds Buckmaster.

“We feel Exploding Kittens fits particularly well within our range of quick-fire Party Games and we can’t wait to get started.”

2016 has also seen Esdevium hold its first ever take-over of the grown-up games night Board Game Club earlier this year. Dubbed a ‘triumph’, the company took guests on a guided tour of its portfolio, with titles including Colt Express, Spyfall and Sheriff of Nottingham making an appearance.

Thanks to the success of the first take-over, it seems likely that Esdevium will hold another event in the near future. 

“It was a great night and something we’d been looking to do for a while,” explains Buckmaster. “It’s a great opportunity for us to show new and classic games and I am sure we will look to do something again next year.”

Going for gold

During this year’s UK Games Expo, Esdevium was able to secure 11 awards thanks to it range of titles. 

The distributor and its partners came away with Best Board Game with Miniatures for Star Wars Rebellion, Best Party Game for Codenames and Best Game Expansion for Colt Express – Horse and Stagecoach.

Buckmaster said: “We had an incredible show and we feel very privileged not only to be bringing these great award-winning games to the UK, but also from the reaction of the attendees to our games and the show in general.

“It’s fantastic to see that specialist games have now grown to a size for such a show to exist in the UK.”

Having a presence at these kinds of events is clearly of importance to the games specialist, and it seems trade shows are no different with attendance at London Toy Fair, Spring Fair and the Independent Toy and Gift Show already confirmed. 

“We always exhibit at London Toy Fair as it is by far the best opportunity for us to show buyers our range for the coming year,” cites Buckmaster. 

“It’s also a great chance for us to meet many of our customers face to face and we will have plenty of keen staff ready to demo our latest games.”

Esdevium certainly is jam-packed with a variety of games and toys for fans to enjoy, along with its latest addition of Exploding Kittens, the games firm will be able to showcase its diverse offering across each of the trade shows throughout 2017, which will also boast a new Dobble set. 

Plus, 2017 will also see the return of the firm’s collectable favourite, Zomlings. 

Buckmaster adds: “Back by popular demand, we have the return of Zomlings to our collectables portfolio.

“Increased distribution of our demo/party games will be a huge focus for us in 2017, and next year, we are looking at around three additional Dobble sets, including a waterproof one you can take to the beach.“

With record Pokémon sales, plans for a second Board Game Club take-over and award wins at 2016’s UK Games Expo, Esdevium looks like the cat that got the cream this year. But with a brand new partnership teased for a big reveal in 2017, this is just the start of further great things to come. 

“All things considered, we’ve had a terrific year,” concludes Buckmaster. 

“I can’t say anything yet, but there is a major new partnership that we will be announcing at the start of 2017, so keep an eye out for that one.”