Patricia Lasker can rightfully call 2003 her year. It was only last March that her company, Vida Games, launched Green Alligators. Within a few months, the game had amassed an impressive slew of plaudits, including Dr. Toy’s Best Vacation Products Award, the Creative Child Seal of Excellence and a Parents’ Guide Children’s Media Award. And the company shows no sign of slowing down in 2004.
“We have three new games this year,” says Lasker. “The bilingual version of Green Alligators, another game called Birds and Binoculars that allows players to cheat (you can go around and look at other people’s cards); and a game called Pink Elephants that’s made for adults—the name should tell you what that one’s about; it´s definitely a party game.”
But more than offering people a fun get-together, Lasker is most proud of her games’ educational value. “Teachers found Green Alligators and took it into the classroom. It was their idea [to use it],” she says. “Stock Market Tycoon is being used in social studies classes.” Sounds like more fun than memorizing states’ import/export ratios.
From Advisor to Entrepreneur
I created Stock Market Tycoon while working as an Investment Advisor. I wanted it to be fun for everyone to play, but I also wanted people to learn about the stock market at the same time. That concept has worked well; 60 percent of its sales are in the educational market, and the rest are in the gift and specialty markets. The game proved to be successful, so I gave up my investment practice and created Vida Games; a game publishing company.
Young and Hungry
Vida Games, LLC was two years old in November 2003. I see my job as coach of a very talented team. [The company] now has four full-time employees, plus me, in the office creating games, publishing, marketing and selling products. We are already an award-winning company with one of our products [Green Alligators] winning multiple awards. Our other products have received glowing reviews.
Our products are successful because they´re designed first for fun, and second, to be educational. We disguise the learning and make it fun. People go to specialty stores looking for games that are fun and unique. Vida Games stand out from the average, mainstream game that is found in the mass market [stores].
We meet our customers at trade shows, and then we follow up with phone calls. Vida Games has two full-time customer service representatives who give personal attention to our customers. We focus on working with the small and mid-size retailer. We create shelf-talkers, do in-store demos, training seminars, give away demo products, give favorable terms; we do just about anything to help the retailer grow his or her business. The retailer is our partner in this business and we need to work together to get our product out. If the retailer does well, so will we.
The Future Looks Green
I have three grandchildren between the ages of 4 and 8, and I needed a game for them, so I created Green Alligators. Again, because it was designed to be fun first and educational second; they didn’t know that they were learning. Green Alligators has become a big hit in just a few months. Not only has it won multiple awards, but we ran out of inventory and were in backorder for a little while. This was a delightful problem to have for a new product with almost no marketing dollars to promote it.
We have heard many, many times over that Green Alligators is being used to teach English as a second language. We have also heard many times that it is being used in early education for language development. With 38 million Hispanics trying to learn to speak English, doesn’t it make sense to help out?
We created a second version of Green Alligators, but this one is a bi-lingual game. I believe that, not only will this game be the first of its kind, but it will fill a need for a language game that makes learning fun.
A Good Time For Games
I have read statistics showing that, last year, sales for games were up 20 percent over the previous year. I think people want to get together and hear their friends and family laugh, something you cannot do with a computer game. People are looking for activities that will bring them together. Schools and parents want games that make learning fun. Vida Games is well positioned to help fill the need.