Coronavirus outbreak forces board game maker to think outside the box

By Eric Strauss
Netcong | Mar 17, 2020 at 12:12 pm

For Netcong’s Breaking Games, a creator and manufacturer of board games that are sold in retailers and elsewhere, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a few headaches.

That’s especially true, given that many products in the burgeoning industry are manufactured all or in part in China, one of the first countries to lock itself down due to COVID-19.

Breaking Games — whose catalog includes names like Keep Calm, Rise of Tribes and Sparkle Kitty — has more than 30 employees in its New Jersey office and warehouses, with plans to consolidate four smaller industrial sites into one 100,000-square-foot warehouse in April, as well as facilities in Washington and New Hampshire.

We talked with founder Shari Spiro about how the coronavirus situation is affecting her business.

ROI-NJ: Has the coronavirus problem in China and elsewhere affected you? In what way?

Shari Spiro, founder of Breaking Games.

Shari Spiro: Breaking Games has been very fortunate in that little of our production has been affected by China. While one of our games has a delayed delivery date, we do not anticipate any additional associated costs.

One of our most highly anticipated games, Dwellings of Eldervale, will be delayed about a month and a half due to the manufacturing factory (being) in China. However, we don’t anticipate that being a significant problem, as our client understands the delay during these especially challenging times.

There is no slowdown with our manufacturing for Target and Walmart at this time, nor do we anticipate any changes with those national retailers.

ROI: How are you handling things on the business front?

SS: We are always upfront and honest with everyone we work with. If related to Kickstarter (a funding platform), we will let our backers know immediately if there is any delay. If possible, our employees are working from home. Those who must come into work can, but they must take the necessary precautions, as well as work reduced shifts.

Naturally, we are taking every precaution due to the coronavirus, but we are still shipping out games to our national retailers on a daily basis.

ROI: How is the game industry in general, and Breaking Games in particular, coping with the outbreak?

SS: The tabletop industry was continuing to thrive before the virus. We attended numerous trade shows, both domestically and internationally, that targeted consumers as well as (business-to-business) — this was a large part of our ongoing efforts. The trade show and convention scenes have basically come to a screeching halt, so we’re planning to focus some of our efforts toward online marketing and visibility.

While that is going to be a challenge in terms of business growth and expansion, the silver lining is that we provide entertainment and fun for people of all ages, and this holds especially true during this challenging period.

ROI: Any new initiatives as part of that?

SS: We have completed a podcast room, so we will be able to provide our audience with interesting and fun content starting in April. We’re calling it ‘Breaking It Down with Shari Spiro.’ I plan to cover everything tabletop, including game play, game design, the business of how to get your games on retail shelves, just to name a few topics.

ROI: Do you think it will be easy to bounce back, or … ?

SS: While we are growing in many areas of business, we are nimble and can pivot quickly. This is the time to be super-creative, not only to go outside the box, but explode the box and really tap into our employees’ resources. We are in constant communication and continue to move forward, so there won’t be too much of a bounce back (needed).

ROI: So, business as usual to some extent?

SS: We are prepared. Our team has been researching different kinds of government programs to assist small and midsize businesses like Breaking Games, should we need it. Business as usual in terms of working hard and keeping focused.

We are taking it one day at a time, but the highest priority is to keep the team safe.

Read more from ROI-NJ on coronavirus:

Eric Strauss | estrauss@roi-nj.com | @acerimrat