After spending a good 12 hours of running my butt around the beautiful gaming chaos that is GenCon, I got to take a bit of a breather and sat down with Shari Spiro of AdMagic. It was an absolute blast speaking with her (along with the amazing Kitty) about the games of AdMagic, what the busy company has in store for us and, of course, which games are the best for noobs such as myself. I'll tell you one thing, they've definitely got this girl as a new fan.
PopWrapped: What exactly do you do for AdMagic?
Shari Spiro: So I’m the President and CEO of AdMagic. I basically do the bigger orders for the business, so I’m handling the bigger clients: Cards Against Humanity, Exploding Kittens. I’m in charge of manufacturing all those things. The other things that happen in the company go by me – I see them, but its basically oversight. I do a lot of marketing day to day. I’m basically interactive with most of our partner designers for Breaking Games, so I’m liaison between them and the staff, so I can try to make their vision a reality. I do a lot of consulting with designers as well as day to day quotations. I deal with hundred of emails of day. And now I’m doing a lot of traveling to conventions.
PopWrapped: Where else have you guys been to?
Shari Spiro: Well this year we've been to Pax East, BGG (BoardGameGeek) Family back in May. We went to Origins, now we're here at Gen Con. We're doing Pax Prime next, and we're also going to BGG Con in Dallas in November as well as the Chicago Toy and Game Fair in November at the same time. Then we'll be in Essen, Germany for The Spiel in October. Pax Australia is in November, and then that's it! We're trying to hit up every major game convention in the world that we get into, to really try to push these games at the grassroots level first. And then the other things I’ll be doing is meeting with distributors and the major retailers.
PopWrapped: How did these games (in the Breaking Games Saloon) come into the AdMagic brand?
Shari Spiro: All the games here, minus 2, are printed by us. Discount Salmon, for example, was the winner of Tabletop Deathmatch, which was sponsored by Cards Against Humanity. We're all about life after Kickstarter but in this case they didn’t have to do a Kickstarter since he won the Deathmatch. As a part of his prize we printed his games, and he had leftover games thanks to the Deathmatch, so we asked him if he'd like to come here (Gen Con) and sell what's left. Some of the others like, Gothic Doctor, Game of 49, Hogger Logger, Poop: the Game, Billionaire Banshee – they all had Kickstarters. And we printed their Kickstarters, but then asked them if they'd like us to publish the games, to take it to the next level. I hate to say publish, because “publish” is more limiting than what we do. We partner with them; we help them promote their games, help them come up with ideas like this saloon we're in, with t-shirts and activities that can help promote the games. I have a background in promotion so now we're bringing all of that together.
PopWrapped: You've got the very popular Exploding Kittens and Cards Against Humanity under your belt – how long have you been in business just printing?
Shari Spiro: Well my first business was started in the 90s, and then we changed the name to AdMagic in 1997, so we've been around a while. But a girl never tells her age! (laughs) I really started in business when I was 10.
PopWrapped: Have you played all of the AdMagic games? Are you an active player?
Shari Spiro: Yes, I think that every single game in this booth I have played. I love Boomtown Bandits and I've played Discount Salmon but I am terrible at that one. Mr. Game is sort of like Flux on crack and in board game form. The first time I played that, the man who invented Flux was playing with us and said "this was the Flux board game I wanted to invent." He was such a nice man, and has some great games. Actually now that I’m looking around (at the saloon), I haven’t played Pocket Dungeon Quest. That one is actually here with us because of the recommendation from a girl on staff; she loved it. I've played Letter Tycoon many times. The Game of Phones is a game I’ve played and it rocks. This is like if you have your phone and you’re at a party with no gamers, you pull a card from Game of Phones and it could say "show us the oldest picture on your phone" and the judge figures out which they like best. Billionaire Banshee is hysterical and there's Hogger Logger, which those two are great ice breakers.
PopWrapped: So those two would be great for big corporations?
Shari Spiro: Actually, if a big corporation is going to buy something, don’t get Banshee since it's a little dirty (laughs). Honestly, a lot of our games are great ice breakers. We have Letter Tycoon, which is actually a Mensa mind game! It won Mensa for 2015 and it also won Creative Child's Family Game of the Year. Not only that, but I actually just made a deal with a guy from Korea who is taking 500 of them back with him, he loved it so much.
PopWrapped: Do you make a lot of deals at different conventions?
Shari Spiro: Apparently so! (laughs)
PopWrapped: How many games are under your brand umbrella?
Shari Spiro: I think we're at 25 to 30, and our goal is 50. We're aiming to get there soon and I saw three games here at Gen Con today that I liked.
PopWrapped: So are you going around at Gen Con looking for games?
Shari Spiro: No, they're coming to me and having meetings with us while we're here. We did meet some people at Designer Speed Dating last night and found a couple games there that we liked. There’s a lot of games, so many to choose from... but it's more than just the game. If I like the game, I also have to like the designer because we have to work together! I know how often we have to talk and how much we need to collaborate. So we need to be on the same wavelength and sometimes it just isn't a good fit, even if I want them to be.
PopWrapped: How much influence do you have on the games?
Shari Spiro: We help, but we prefer to work with people who have a strong sense of what their game should be. If we're talking to someone who is like “well... I don't know,” it's hard. We would rather follow somebody with a vision, and support that vision rather than build that vision for them, which is kind of what most publishers do. They take the raw game and then make it into something. I want something partially made and help them finish it. All the games that are here are special, they really are special.
PopWrapped: Where do you guys distribute from, is it mostly US?
Shari Spiro: No, we're going to be distributing from all over. We actually just set up plans for distribution in Europe. We're going to Germany, and we're going to meet more people after the German show. I'm actually going to be able to do my life’s dream of being able to travel around Europe and meeting with distributors and stores. Then in Australia we'll see what that's like when we go there. I have no preconceived notions of what it'll be like there. All I know is that I wont be talking; I’ll be listening, I love their accents.
PopWrapped: Oh my, yes, I'm totally with you.
Shari Spiro: Its not just me, right? England, too! Oh I love it, just say whatever word you want to me.
PopWrapped: Exactly, they could read a recipe to me and I’d be fine with that.
Shari Spiro: Are you a gamer?
PopWrapped: I'm working on it! I'm more of a video gamer, but I’m working on it. I like it, I just don’t have anyone at home to play with. I'm down here with my brother and his friends and we play at night when we get home and it's so fun.
Shari Spiro: I'd recommend something light like Poop or Billionaire Banshee, just one of the real light ones because you can just learn the rules in two minutes and play.
PopWrapped: Yeah! I was talking to the guy who does Discount Salmon at GenCon last year and it was so simple and so quick to learn and play.
Shari Spiro: It's nice to [play] games like that where you don’t have the time to commit to 3 hours of gameplay; you can commit to 5 minutes. You can have a good time in 5 minutes and that's what I like. Sometimes I do like the longer games but I always seem to get interrupted.
PopWrapped: The games here are a great stepping stone for people like me who can't handle the intense rules just yet but are looking for something to play other than War or Uno. Simple is good.
Shari Spiro: That’s a valid reason... so go play!!