Scott Dean, Amanda Birkinshaw and Rich Heayes discuss the launch of their new studio, 7pips
Hello there… Triple whammy! Thanks for joining us. Let’s do a bit of admin… Amanda, we interviewed you last year. People can read that here. Rich, you’re a longtime friend of Mojo… People can read some of your thoughts here, here, and here. So Scott! I’m going to start with you… What’s your background? And how do you know these two?
Scott: Back in 2005, Rich actually hired me as a games designer at Hasbro! Time flies when you’re playing games! At Hasbro, I worked with Rich and Amanda at the Stockley Park office, collaborating on some amazing games. In 2013, I joined the Branded Gaming team, which turned out to be an incredible experience. I got to see how other teams around Hasbro operated and had the privilege of working with many talented individuals on both sides of the Atlantic.
That wasn’t at Stockley Park, though?
Scott: No, for that I moved to Rhode Island. And I stayed there when I transferred over to work on preschool games, which proved to be a fantastic year for me. We created successful games like Toilet Trouble and Pieface Showdown, and our team had a blast together… Even if it meant creating a lot of mess! After that, I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime – leading the Family & Monopoly team. It was truly a dream job. Our team had an absolute blast developing game-changing products, all while having fun throughout the process!
You know, I don’t really like the words ‘game changing’, but this is the one context in which it’s literally true! And after that?
Scott: Later on, I worked with the Quick Strike team. They chase new, exciting and trend-worthy experiences across games, toys, and collectibles. It was an incredible experience, as we were constantly challenged to break the rules and deliver amazing products.
You’ve really got a terrific CV, Scott. What a brought you back to the UK?
Scott: Well, my family and I had started to feel homesick… So in 2018, we decided to move back, leaving behind my dream job with a heavy heart. We settled in the serene countryside of the south-west UK – where I’ve been consulting and inventing ever since. Interestingly, fate has now led me back to working with Rich and Amanda, the same colleagues I started my journey with 18 years ago.
Right! And in terms of your back catalogues, what kind of things have you three worked on? What projects show your affinity for each other?
Rich: We’ve worked on many of the game industry’s global ‘power brands’ out of the Stockley studio. Monopoly, Clue and Cluedo, Game of Life, Yahtzee, Connect 4, Scrabble and many, many more. Lots of the products we worked on are still on the market in the forms we created some over 15 years ago.
Including some pretty big hitting Monopoly variations…
Scott: Yes, our Monopoly variations include the E-Banking, Empire and Cheaters editions. They were huge hits and showed the business how you can take a classic and give it a modern refresh, increase the price and increase the sales. Beyond Monopoly, we took some other classic products – great games that were, perhaps, looking a bit tired – and gave them a big makeover to keep them relevant and improve the game experience… Kerplunk and Buckaroo come to mind. We also developed some of the first app-enhanced board games to hit the market, as well as new classics like the Monopoly Deal card game.
Monopoly Deal! oddly enough, Ben Rathbone was raving about that the other day. Apparently, it’s the one game he takes everywhere! So now… The three of you recently launched a new studio, 7pips. First – obvious question, but I’m keen to know – why call it 7pips?
Amanda: Several. Many cultures view seven as a lucky number. Seven is the most common total of two dice, and many games use this value as a driver of action and quirk… Think Catan and the robber, or any number of casino games.
Oh, I like it! And seven is also in our psyche from numerous things: seven days a week, seven holy virtues, seven deadly sins, seven seas, seven dwarfs. And why pips? Suits on a card?
Amanda: Well, spots on a die – and also because of the connection to seeds… Because we work at that early precious phase; planting concepts that we hope will grow into big ideas that last generations. That’s us!
Got it. And there are, in fact, seven pips in your logo, aren’t there? Quite subtle…
Scott: Yes! And can we take a mo to thank SomeOne in London for designing that logo? It’s really playful that sums it all up beautifully!
We absolutely can do that. In fact, we can just give them a big old plug! What’s their website?
Scott: Thank you! It’s www.someoneinlondon.com
So tell me: What advantages are there to working as a team? What does each of you bring to the table?
Rich: We’ve always stayed in touch and worked on inventor items together over recent years. We not only enjoy working together, and have a creative shorthand with each other, but we all have our own angle. Between us we cover ‘blue sky’ concepts all the way through to manufacturing and marketing insights. We understand what a good toy or game needs to have to be successful, the play pattern, the FOB cost, the game mech and the brand.
Amanda: I think it’s fair to say those different angles mean we tend to get to solutions quicker as a team than as individuals.
Good answers, thank you. And just so I can picture the dynamics… Which TV show most closely resembles what it’s like when the three of you work together?!
Rich: What a great question, Deej. This caused lots of debate when you sent it over… We had a few!
Oh, crikey! I didn’t want to start a row!
Scott: Ha! Well, we narrowed it down to three… Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – boldly going where no designer has one before. Inside the Factory – because of the hidden skills and processes it takes to make product a reality… And Paw Patrol… Whenever you’re in trouble, just hoot for help.
Hoot for help! Brilliant! Alright… Collectively, then, what are you aiming to do? Is there a mission statement, or specific experience you’re looking to offer?
Scott: We’re the consultancy we always wanted to hire but never found! We’re built around play, but we understand the commercial triggers that turn a good idea into a great profitable product. Most companies in the play industry have limited resources, and managing consultants can be a full time job! However, because we’ve all worked as in-house designers, inventors and consultants we’re able to ask the right questions and help in-house teams accelerate their thinking and execution. We like the term ‘Embedded Consultant’ – this is the ideal way of working, where we get to know what the client wants before they know themselves.
And in practical terms, what might that include?
Amanda: We can work on every aspect: brand-expansion ideas, visuals, detailed design, electronics, game rules, models, production details and final artwork. The goal is to keep working in an industry we all love, while paying the bills!
Amanda: Not to be flippant… Success isn’t just another product hitting the shelves, it’s about the interaction with the client to answer their needs – and ultimately engage consumers with the best play experience possible.
Given that you’ve all known each other for so long, and worked on so many different things already, why is now the right time to do this?
Scott: A global glitch is enough to spark change – as we saw when covid revolutionised working from anywhere. For us, using new software with our different talents has accelerated our creativity and the ability to get stuff done. Working smarter as a team became the next right thing to do.
Great answer! And I know you’re already up and running with some projects… Anything you’re able to talk about? Or is it too soon to share?
Rich: We can’t share too much, but we’re working with some great European and US companies. One of our recent games tested number one in a playtest of new product, and the feedback to our new inventor product line has been very strong so far. We’ll be sure to share more when we can.
Please do. Final question, then… And you know what’s coming! What’s the one thing I could’ve asked you about 7pips but didn’t?
Yes, another big debate on this one but we settled on: How much coffee does it take to fuel 7pips? And the answer is a lot – we’re looking for Nespresso sponsorship!
Ha! Love it. Next time you update us, I’ll ask what the most interesting objects on your desk is… I want the answer to be: my new Nespresso machine!
Rich: I’ll see what I can do!
Brilliant! Listen, this is been fun: thank you all for your time – keep us posted. And of course, if anyone wants to visit your website, where’s that?
Rich: Thanks Deej – https://7pips.org.
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