(Elizabeth LoVecchio, Dougal Grimes, Ben Rathbone)
This year Spin Master is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Coinciding with this exciting milestone is the unveiling of Spin Master East, the Long Island City based epicenter for the company’s growing Games team which includes Elizabeth LoVecchio, VP Marketing Games, Ben Rathbone, VP of Design and Dougal Grimes, Senior Director, Global Games Inventor Relations and Joel Berger, President, Cardinal Industries.
What is your claim to fame in the industry?
Elizabeth: I am an industry lifer! I have been in Toys & Games since my first internship in college have never left the industry. I owe my first job to Stan Clutton, an icon in the Inventor community. He and I lived on the same street and he helped me get my first internship and the rest is history.
Ben: I have worked in the games industry for over 30 years, starting as a Junior Designer at in the UK. In that time I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of the biggest brands in games as well as working with some of the most talented games designers and inventors. Thirty years later, my passion and excitement for games still burns bright.
Dougal: I started in the games biz right out design school in Scotland in 2008. I worked in the UK, Germany and then started my inventor relations career in 2013, moving to the USA in 2015. I’ve been very fortunate to be involved in bringing some great, award-winning games to market.
Joel: I was born into the games business, my father started Cardinal in 1945 and worked in the games business until he was 95. Since I could walk I have been going into games factories and meetings. I started putting the dots in dominoes from the day I could get them in correctly. My son is in the business now, so it’s truly multigenerational.
What game best represents your personality?
Elizabeth: I have three young kids and when I come home from work we usually pull out a game to play together. For the past few months, my kids constantly want to play Bingo. We have the Classic version with the spinner cage – everyone always wants to be the one spinning the cage (including me!).
Ben: The game that best represents my personality is Upwords, it’s been around for a while but is still a great fun game that offers a unique take on a busy games category.
Dougal: I love to travel, am always up for a party and also love a good costume....so Travel Headbanz works for me ;)
Joel: Sunday night is games night in my family. We test out all sorts of different games but an age old favorite is Checkers. It can be played by a wide age range, one on one or in teams, and is always made more interesting with family wagers like “losers clear the table till next Sunday“.
DESCRIBE SPIN MASTER EAST.
Dougal: Spin Master East is within ‘The Factory’ in Long Island City which has and incredible history as the Macy’s warehouse and where Steinway pianos were made. Today it’s a vibrant hub of diverse companies, startups with a whole floor of cafes, restaurants and galleries. It has a very cool New York City ‘loft’ vibe to it and is literally a stone’s throw from Manhattan and Brooklyn on the subway. It is also home to the coolest elevator in the USA, which is a moving sculpture in itself.
Biggest WINS in 2019?
Elizabeth: The biggest win for us is definitely assembling a best-in-class Games team in Spin East. We moved some of our key people from LA to our NYC office. We have also attracted some of the greatest talent in the field with diverse experience from top game and toy companies alongside recent graduates fresh out of FIT in New York.
Another big win in 2019 was the acquisition of the international Hedbanz intellectual property (IP) and the launch of an all new Hedbanz App. We had originally acquired the rights to Hedbanz for the US and Mexico in 2011 and the game has become one of the most successful titles within Spin Master's portfolio ever since. The recent acquisition allows us to further penetrate into markets presently under license, as well as expansion into new territories.
What’s happening in 2020?
Dougal: We are launching over 200 games including a combination of our own IP as well as new licenses. We will also continue to grow our existing games team, seeking out fresh new talent and industry veterans.
We are also expanding our relationship with Big Potato Games. This past year we announced a three-year distribution agreement in the USA and Canada with Big Potato, an independent games company based in the UK, known for its range of simple, fun, family and party games. Already together we’ve launch Disney Colourbrain, Blockbuster and The Office games in North America to great acclaim. In 2020, we will introduce other bestsellers in their line up including The Chameleon, a whodunnit family party game and Linkee, a shout-out trivia game.
Describe the core goals, philosophy or values of Spin Master East?
Dougal: We make great ideas a reality. One of our values we hold closely is “open mindset”. We believe a good idea can come from anywhere and we really support that philosophy within the company.
We are very focused on investing in our people and creating an environment at Spin Master that is rewarding, respectful, offers opportunities and ultimately allows employees to be at their best.
Some of the most innovative items we’ve brought to life have come from our internal designers and Advanced Concept Team while others have been brought to us from inventors. We have cultivated an amazing community of more than 200 inventors around the world and we pride ourselves on being very collaborative with these brilliant and talented people.
What does Spin do best?
Elizabeth: Innovation! We pride ourselves in our ability to innovate. Fostering creativity and innovation both within our company and with our partners and inventors.
We’ve been able to put in place the necessary disciplines to run a large, global company while also allowing the freedom to break molds and try new things - which is precisely what we are doing at Spin East.
Our ability to partner is also what sets us apart. We recognize what our core competencies are and then we seek out partners who complement what we offer. Our partnership with Big Potato Games is a great example of this. Not only are we introducing new titles to North America in partnership with Big Potato, we are also sharing best practices between our two companies.
Ben: On the games side, Spin Master has put together an incredible group of individuals with a wide variety of different skills and backgrounds, empowering them to propel and shape the games division. It’s this flexibility that really inspires the team, driving their vision for Spin Master Games.
What’s the ultimate goal?
Elizabeth: Our goal remains the same – to produce toys, entertainment and games that push the boundaries of imagination, creativity and fun.
From an industry position, Spin Master's continued growth in the games category, with recent acquisitions, innovative partnerships, and unique IP titles has established us as the second-largest games company in the U.S. We definitely want to continue to climb within our share of the games space.
Dougal: With the opening of our new Long Island City office and the addition of many talented games industry experts to our team, we are creating an epicenter for Spin Master Games. We're working hard to bring adults, kids and families the best game experience.
Why New York?
Elizabeth: Our philosophy corporately is to go where the talent is. The city is bursting with the culture, energy a