Now that the Escape the Room trend is bigger than ever in the UK, it makes sense that Thames & Kosmos is tapping into this theme with its own line of Exit Games. Jade Burke catches up with the firm’s sales director, Jo Drage, to chat about the company’s new partnership with Acer and it’s plans to adapt a book into a board game.
How is the games market shaping up for you guys?
We have been very lucky to have Kosmos’ great reputation for board games behind us and so our introduction into the games market has been easier than most.
Kosmos Games has been awarded many Spiel Des Jahres awards and nominations, and we have so many great titles to translate that we can choose how we develop the range. This year our games are going into some major retailers, so I think we’ll really put our stamp on the market.
This year you unveiled 12 new board games at London Toy Fair. Which of these are you most excited about?
I have to say the Exit Games, (of which there are three in the range). The escape room phenomenon has been sweeping through the UK, and our Exit Games are based on the same principal, so the launch is timed perfectly.
We’re confident they’ll prove popular and the English-language editions have been highly anticipated – the Exit Games were released in Germany in November and sold over 100,000 units before Christmas. At £13 each RRP, they are a very cost effective way for people to experience the escape room trend. We’ll be adding three titles to the range next year.
What new games should fans and retailers look out for from you guys throughout 2017?
In September, bestselling author Ken Follett is launching a new book called A Column of Fire, which we have adapted into a board game to be launched simultaneously.
The game is shrouded in secrecy at the moment, but it plays incredibly well, and will be popular with the legions of Ken Follett fans and gamers alike.
For families, Kerala is a really fun and beautifully presented game, whereby the player has to make elephant platforms for the Kerala Elephant Festival. The rules are so simple that any family member can play, but there’s a very strategic element to keep it fun.
Last year you teamed up with Mattel for new Barbie themed science kits. How well have these performed for you guys?
We feel passionately that it is important for science to be for – and to appeal to – everyone. So we wanted to partner with a brand that inspires storytelling and imagination to create a new and exciting project that would stay true to the Barbie brand, opening up a new audience, who historically may not have been interested in a Thames & Kosmos product.
This strongly reinforces our company ethos that knowledge of STEM subjects will improve the future of every child.
You guys exhibited at London Toy Fair this year. How important are industry events like these to you guys?
We absolutely have to be at London Toy Fair, it’s where all our major customers come to see us and where we unveil our new catalogue portfolio. We have also exhibited at Spring Fair for the last five years, and Autumn Fair for the last two.
We like to try out a new industry trade fair every year, so that we can mix it up a bit, and we all thoroughly enjoy them.
The popularity in board games is constantly on the rise and we are now starting to see an abundance of board game cafés open. Why do you think that is?
I think that the rise in popularity of board game cafés is partly because the British tradition of going to the pub is getting more expensive and so people want to be entertained at the same time.
Also, people are stimulated by different forms of digital media all day, and so it’s good to be able to put down the electronic devices, and get back to basics.
Code Gamer was named the 2017 tech toy of the year; do you think you’ll add more tech games into your portfolio in the future?
Yes, we are working on more tech toys all the time. We launched Happy Atoms this year, which is a very unique product encouraging learning about atoms through an app, and Robotics Workshop (available from September), which is another toy that teaches coding.
What does 2017 have in store for Thames & Kosmos?
Aside from moving into new premises complete with showroom and play space for product research, we were excited to be approached by technology firm Acer, who we’re partnering with to develop a coding kit for their summer schools.
These kits will subsequently be rolled out to the education sector as a classroom kit, which is a new market for us.
We are also partnering with our neighbouring Maidstone Museum to offer board game nights in the summer, which I’m really looking forward to.