Savvy Solutions: Jumping Into the Toy Industry

The business of play

I have created a board game. I’ve gone to a variety of toy and board game companies to market it. Who can I turn to, to see if my idea is something in which a company would be interested?

—A. J. B.
Richmond, CA

The largest toy companies in the world, Hasbro Games (www.hasbro.com) and Mattel (www.mattel.com), do not accept unsolicited submissions for review. However, they do work with toy and game brokers as well as design houses who introduce and sell the concepts or prototypes on behalf of their clients (i.e., you). Keep in mind, a nominal fee to review the game is required. And all take a percentage of any royalties if they are successful at placing your concept at a manufacturer. For a list of such professionals, contact the Toy Industry Association (www.toy-tia.org).

Before identifying people who can help you, be sure your game is viable. Work out all the kinks by developing a prototype to test. Also, run your game through elements of a business plan. What is the game’s objective? Who is your target market? How much does it cost to produce? How many units will you need to sell to break even, or make a profit? A Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats analysis, or SWOT, is a good exercise for identifying the game’s potential. Protect the idea with appropriate trademarks and other legal documents. Read The Game Inventor’s Guidebook: by Brian Tinsman (Morgan James Publishing; $16.95), and The Toy and Game Inventor’s Handbook by Richard Levy and Ronald O. Weingartner (Alpha; $19.95).

This article originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

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