Getting to know... Wildcard Games' Sean Byrne

An industry favourite making his way to London Toy Fair for another year running, Sean Byrne and Wild Card Cards have had quite the successful past 12 months as the firm approaches £6 million at retail. It's high time you all got to know him a little better...
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How long have you been in the industry and how did you start out?

We started in 2005. My wife and I quit our jobs and travelled the world for two years and spent a lot of evenings playing card games with other travellers over a beer. 

It was where I realised that there were no portable games about travelling as they are all board games so decided to invent a game to fill that gap, and came up with Backpacker – The Ultimate Travel Game.

What in innovation is Wild Card games bringing to the industry?

Our background in retail, marketing, new product development and market research means that all our games are based on identified gaps in the market, thoroughly tested before launch and we are continually adding new lines like 1st to Worst and Guessed List. 

Several of our products like the board game Ski Run, or Astronauts card game are targeted at large niches, as interests can often help consumers make purchasing decisions when faced with a choice of dozens of games.

Wild Card Games' mission is to create games that promote sub-conscious learning through play and appeal to children, families, parents, adults, educators and retailers alike by focusing on being simple, fun and easy to learn, but with hidden strategic depth which means that you never grow too old or bored to want to play. 

How have the past 12 months been for you?

We had another great sales year and are rapidly approaching the £6 million in UK retail sales. 

We signed up new key accounts with the large retailers, started supplying several new independents and continued to expand our range with our existing retail customers. New games 6 Suits and Globe Runner both won awards and several games were endorsed by the Good Toy Guide.

What have been the biggest successes for Wild Card Games to date?

Mapominoes is our biggest selling game. A top seller in leading retailers and on Amazon this portable award winning game is fun, easy to learn, educational and highly addictive. It’s like dominoes but with maps, as you build a map of Europe by connecting bordering countries. First to play all their country cards on the table wins.  

Our games like Who Knows Where, Backpacker, Frenzi and Ski Run are also proven top sellers in leading retailers both in the high street and online, and we have recently had strong growth from our award winners Astronauts, Arithmanix and Globe Runner.

What are the biggest challenges?

Last year was tough for a lot of small independent retailers and we try to support them in store with promotional point of sale, assistance with demos, national press coverage and sales aids. 

We also have free delivery on a low order of just £130 or more and discounts available at the show for both existing and new customers to encourage them to place a first order. 

We then pride ourselves on our long term relationships that we have built up with retailers over several years as they continue to take more and more of our range.

What does 2019 hold in store for you?

We had a great year in 2018 and we expect this to continue in 2019 when we will break through the £6 million barrier in the UK, with more retailers coming on board all the time, existing customers taking more of our products and new lines added to our range like 1st to Worst & Guessed List. 

We are planning to redevelop our website, a couple new apps of our games, and launch two new games and a social media phenomenon. 

We also hope to publish the long overdue and heavily in demand expansion deck for Backpacker, so should be very busy.

Toy Fair is always big for us where lots or retailers order to take advantage of our show offers with 10 per cent off standard prices for our new products like 1 to Worst and Guessed List and 5 per cent off all our other games.

We are also looking overseas for partners to help us repeat our UK success in North America and Europe.

What inspired you to get into the toy industry?

I’m from a family of game players, and had an idea that filled a gap in the market and combined my two loves of travel and games. So I invented Backpacker – The only game about travelling the world that’s small enough to take on holiday.

What one game from past or present would you always recommend to a friend?

Frenzi – It’s the fastest game in the world and simple, riotous fun for all

You're trapped in an lift - how do you pass the time?

Assuming there are other people, I’d play 1 to Worst, which is a great “how well do I know you” or “getting to know you” party game for families, friends, couples and even new acquaintances. 

Based on all the classic conversations people have about preferences and who or what is the best, the aim of the game is to correctly guess another player’s order of preference from three choices.

If I was on my own I’d use the time to think of a new game idea – maybe one about escaping from a trapped lift!

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