“Almost everything we develop is born out of our manufacturing roots”: GPI’s David Blanchard on the studio’s design capabilities
We caught up with David Blanchard – Vice President of Business Development and Design and Development Lead at GPI – to discuss creativity, collaboration and the studio’s vast design capabilities.
David, great to catch up. To kick us off, talk us through how you came to be working in toys and games? Was it always on the cards?
Ha ha! Good one! I wouldn’t say it was “on the cards” exactly. I guess you could call taking the job at GPI more of a “roll of the dice!”
We’ve officially peaked. The interview can only go downhill from here.
Ha! Well, at the time, I was contemplating going back to school for a master’s degree so I thought that I’d be stopping by GPI only temporarily. But I immediately got a taste of game development, sales and marketing with GPI’s sister company The Haywire Group, which was sold to University Games in 2018. I absolutely loved the balance between the creative side and the business side of the industry. 15 years later, I still love it!
GPI is maybe best known for the manufacturing side of the business. When it comes to the design side, what should companies know about GPI’s capabilities?
Companies utilise our design and development services in a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s collaborative and behind the scenes, like the packaging design we helped Exploding Kittens with on their TOTY-nominated Cat and Mouth game. Other times our clients take advantage of our soup-to-nuts range of services: from ideation and playtesting all the way through to graphic design and manufacturing.
Can you give us any examples of games you’ve worked on?
We’re really excited about a couple of new games we made for Big G Creative this year. Hangry and No Filter were on an endcap at Walgreens this past Q4, along with several other titles that involved us in either the development, graphic design, or manufacturing.
Great stuff. Hangry and No Filter are both party games – is that the main type of concept you’re pitching to companies?
The games in our current portfolio are actually quite diverse. The common threads tend to include culturally relevant themes built from a foundation of tried-and-true play mechanics with a unique twist. Oh, and easy to understand rules so you’re up and playing quickly!
Family party and light strategy games tend to come most naturally to our particular crew, so that’s a sweet spot when a client asks us to design something for them.
We should also mention you’re open to collaboration with inventors – and helping new inventors too. What sort of ways do you like to collaborate?
While most of the games in our portfolio were designed in-house, some were designed in collaboration with – or even exclusively by – an outside designer. We’re fortunate to know a lot of great designers in the community just from being in the industry for so long, and we’re happy to get some of their ideas in front of publishers they might not personally have access to.
Sometimes an inventor reaches out to GPI because they’ve been considering self-publishing and they need our manufacturing services… It’s great to have this separate design and development arm where we can potentially pitch their game to other companies should they decide not to self publish after all.
On that, does the manufacturing arm of GPI inform your approach on the design side?
Absolutely. Almost everything we develop is born out of our manufacturing roots. I’ve seen a lot of first-time inventors design and develop their game in a vacuum only to have their dreams of self-publishing crushed when they see how much it’ll cost to produce.
Having the experience of quoting hundreds if not thousands of games over the years, we’re constantly doing the math as we design a game to ensure we don’t develop something that isn’t economically viable.
Yes, that makes total sense. Now, before we wrap things up, let me ask you this: How does the GPI team fuel its creativity?
We’ve got a talented group of people here. Whether it’s discovering an exciting new play mechanic, having a fun idea for a theme, or even starting with a clever name and working backwards, our ideation sessions can be brutal for whoever is tasked with taking notes!
But having ideas is the easy part. Having the resources to turn an idea into a product people actually want to play is the work. Admittedly, it’s pretty fun work!
Finally, how can inventors or companies interested in collaborating reach out?
Simply drop us a note at email@example.com – we’d love to discuss how we might collaborate with you!
To stay in the loop with the latest news, interviews and features from the world of toy and game design, sign up to our weekly newsletter here