Mark Thoma - Target to Buffalo Games, Crossfire!, Canned Pumpkin and More!

May 15, 2018


What do you do in the industry?


I’m a newbie at Buffalo Games as their VP of Business Development.  So, what does that mean?  One day it could be evaluating a board game concept.  Another day it’s pitching licensors.  The next it’s brainstorming with a colleague a new business model to take to market.  In short, I get to work on innovation, ideas & making connections. 


What are you working on now?


Being 90 days in, I have much to learn from the team at Buffalo.  I’m asking a lot of questions to learn the manufacturing side of the industry.  I’ve also been spending a good deal of time assessing more macro trends and assortment gaps to develop a point of view on product for 2019-2020.


Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?


After a variety of roles at Target, I became the buyer for board games, trading cards and puzzles.  I was in this role for my final 4 years at Target.  I loved it.  I was fortunate to work with a super talented and motivated Target team while getting to know many of the creative personalities in the industry.   


I wasn’t a gamer when I started the buying role, but as I started to play games from Spiel winners to kickstarter concepts I became hooked.  I became determined to introduce more games with different mechanics and higher quality components than were historically offered in the mass market.  I believe when more people play new games & have a positive experience, all ships rise.  Over the course of my 11 years at Target, I increasingly enjoyed partnering with manufacturers to build concepts together & bring them to market, so it was natural next step for me to explore the industry from a different angle.  I couldn’t have landed in a better spot.


What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?


I’m equal parts excited and worried about the amount of content there is out there for consumers.  We’re still breaking box office records, alongside weekly new series launches on Netflix…all combined with daily influencer videos on YouTube.  The content is stronger than ever, consumers are digitally connected, and we have data to support decision making.  However, while it’s exciting to know the next big thing could be seen by millions tomorrow, developing that toy or game before consumers & retailers move on to the next trend poses a challenge.  Speed and flexibility are more important than ever.


 (Mark and his nephew, Liam)


What is the most rewarding part of your job?


Watching sales after that big bet paid off.


What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?


Answer these 2 questions: What’s your story? What’s the story behind the new concept?


Then, most importantly let’s PLAY. PowerPoints go in the garbage.   


What advice would you give a young adult graduating from high school or college today?


Be authentic.  I wasted a lot of energy early in my career trying to conform to a specific leadership and communication style, one that wasn’t my true self.