Distributor Roger Martin on choosing games, the changing industry and what inventors can do to succeed
Founding a U.K. game-distribution company with only two titles may seem both oddly unassuming and beautifully bold… In 2004, though, Roger Martin did just that!
Now Coiledspring Games distributes a wide range of jigsaws, puzzles, soft toys and games. Among the jewels in the company’s crown are Sushi Go, The Mind and Kingdomino.
We caught up with Roger to learn more about the origins of Coiledspring, and what he feels inventors should be doing to help their creations enjoy success.
Roger, you’ve been in the industry a while. How did you get into it?
I really enjoyed playing Triolet, a sort of Scrabble game but with numbers. I just couldn’t find it in any shops and thought that more people needed to experience it. Obviously, the only way to get Triolet this recognition was to set up a company and start distributing it!
Obviously! So as the founder of Coiledspring, what do you do on a day-to-day basis?
My role is to set the overall vision for the company. I make sure that all team members are clear with that vision, and all work towards a common goal.
In what way do you think the U.K. board-game market has changed in the past ten years?
It’s significantly grown and expanded. This can be seen through the growing popularity of UK Games Expo expanding into another hall. Soon they’ll take over the whole NEC! The volume and quantity of games being published and sold has also grown year on year, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for a new game to enter the market.
Publishers are also innovating and experimenting more with the boundaries of game design and development. It’s very exciting to be a part of it.
So how do you choose those publishers? What makes them great partners?
Our U.S.P. is working with companies that are market leaders in their own territory. We bring their products to the UK and fulfil their sales potential. Some might think we have untraditional methods as we only take on a small number of publishers. We feel it gives us a better relationship with them, though, letting us work towards their goals as well as ours.
A little dab’ll do! And what is it that you’re looking for when you take on a product?
Sales potential! I wonder if it can be sold. What I specifically look for is something that will excite the market; something innovative – The Mind, for example. It’s more than just a game, it’s an experience. It’s sold over a million copies worldwide!
The Mind is terrific! You’ve also published some games, haven’t you? Why not do more?
We have published a few in the past, yes, but I made a decision to focus on our strength – distribution. We do still licence games and have our logo printed on them – for example Anomia. Based on its sales potential, I decided to licence it. In the five years it’s been in our range it’s sold well; thousands and thousands of copies.
You’re in the odd position of buying ideas, then selling the same thing yourself. What do publishers and inventors need to understand about your company?
We have a curated range, where we support our products through marketing and sales. Our sales team is extremely knowledgeable of our range and can recommend products based on individual client’s needs. We’re very selective for our range. After we select a product, we work hard to fulfil its potential in the UK market through personalised marketing and sales.
So you’re selling toys and games with your clients’ needs front and centre?
Yes; it’s all down to understanding your client base. Once you understand to whom you’re selling, and their specific needs, you’re then selling to a more receptive audience… That enhances your chance of making a sale. You wouldn’t try and sell Quacks of Quedlinburg to someone who wants a five-minute filler for example!
As a distributor, what do you feel new inventors can do to better their chances of success?
Playtest, playtest, playtest! Don’t just get your family and friends to test your games, get people who won’t be afraid to tell you the negatives! Also, understand that you’ll be in the industry and job for the love of board games; it’s a fun industry with a great community.
If you could change one thing about people’s perception of games, what would it be?
I would wish that people be more open-minded about them. It seems that the majority of the public will be put off trying board games because they’re nervous about ‘looking silly’ when they lose a game or don’t understand it.
A huge hit from Essen is Ishtar; proving to be very-popular at recent events. We’re excited to have it in our range.
Also, the Wrebbit 3D Downton Abbey puzzle that came out in line with this year’s theatrical release. We also have plenty more exciting releases we can’t talk about just yet… They’ll be announced at Toy Fair.
Finally, then, what’s the most interesting thing in your office?
Of course it is! Very smooth; thank you Roger!
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