June 21, 2021

TDmonthly Magazine

February 2012 | Vol. XI - No. 2

Q&A With Thierry Denoual, co-founder of Blue Orange

By Justina Huddleston
February 2012

Blue Orange Games may only be ten years old, but since its founding, the company has been creating high-quality, eco-friendly games that could arguably be called "new classics." Spot It! has been named a best seller by retailers surveyed by TDmonthly more than 12 times since 2010, and has spent 350 days in the top selling 100 toys on as of January 10, 2012. Gobblet, the company's first game, has won more than 20 awards. TDmonthly was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with Thierry Denoual, creator of Gobblet and co-founder of the company. Below, he talks about the design process, and how the balance of creativity and marketing savvy can make or break a game.

Q. What career path did you originally envision for yourself? Did you ever anticipate working with children’s products?

A. I have always been interested in creating things. Games represent an endless outlet for a creative mind, so I feel very comfortable in it. Working with children's product helps me stay young at heart.

Q. How did you come up with the idea for your first product?

A. My first game was Gobblet. This game is a tic tac toe based game. Each player has little cups of different sizes that can be used to cover the opponent's pieces. I got the idea while having my coffee at a local coffee shop in Mill Valley, CA at the end of last century. I was day dreaming while looking at their different size coffee cups.... It came as a flash. I asked them for some cups and I started playing right there in the coffee shop.

Q. How long did it take to go from the original spark of an idea to actual production?

A. I takes between 1 and 2 years.

Q. How much money did you need to create the first prototype?

A. None, all of my game prototypes are made from recycled parts.

Q. What other games have you designed for Blue Orange?

A. I have designed games like Bendomino, Yamslam, Sumoku, Pengoloo and a couple of dozen more.

Q. Do you work as a team of designers, or do you come up with ideas on your own?

A. I mainly work alone in the creative stage, then I work closely with the Blue Orange marketing team to finalize the themes and the rules of the games.

Q. How many games do you invent each year? Of those, how many actually make it to store shelves?

A. 10 to 20 creations per year. 2 to 3 make it to store shelves.

Q. How do you play test your products?

A. I test them with friends and family. If they pass that first stage, then we test them at Blue Orange. Finally, if they are still good to go, we start to test them with kids in selected schools and key accounts.

Q. What do you think is the key to creating a successful, popular game?

A. You have to come up with simple, easy to learn and easy to play concepts that are also fun. Then you need to develop an excellent marketing around them.

Q. What did you do before starting Blue Orange?

A. I had my own business in home decoration.

Q. What is your educational background?

A. International business.

Q. What were the top two or three most significant obstacles you had to overcome to achieve success and how did you do it?

A. You have to feel the market to adjust your initial idea into a sellable item. You cannot just come up with a good idea. A lot of good ideas go to waste because they are not well marketed. This is the main obstacle: being able to match the creative process , which is very free, with the marketing aspect, which responds to very strict rules and demands.

Q. What one piece of advice would you offer to someone just starting out in the toy industry?

A. Study the history of the industry, learn from successes and failures, then put that aside and try to be as creative as you can be.

Q. What obstacles did you have to overcome in your formative years, and how have they helped your persevere in business?

A. As in all businesses, you make mistakes, you learn from them, learn from the market responses, and try to improve. This market is based a lot on continuous innovation so you always have to be alert and ready to adapt.

Q. Are there any trends you notice in games on the market today that you try to avoid? If so, why?

A. We try to stick with classic games that stay away from electronics and or batteries. The less gimmicks the better : the game has to be good by itself to stand in the long term.

Q. What is your favorite game?

A. Backgammon.

You can check out some of Blue Orange's hit games below, and see what new games they are offering for 2012 at American International Toy Fair booth #311


Gobblet by BLUE ORANGE GAMESPlayers try to get four wooden columns in a row. The pieces can be moved after they’ve been initially played on the grid.
— Kathie Dockstader, buyer for Top Ten Toys in Seattle, said, "people like it because it´s visually stunning … it adds an element. It makes you want to play." Jude LaRene, owner of Izilla Toys in Seattle, recommended this for Christmas because: “It’s still a game many don't have yet and everyone loves.”
— “Customers are looking for word games; I call them logical-thinking games. [Games] such as Gobblet by Blue Orange,” Terry Myers, owner of Kaleidoscope Toys in Round Rock, Texas, told TDmonthly.
— Two of 44 retailers named Gobblet as one of their absolute best sellers in late fall 2009. (Watch the Gobblet Video Watch Video) 7/15/2005 (MSRP: $29.95; Age: 7 and Up)

Bendomino, Dominoes With a Twist by BLUE ORANGE GAMES

Bendomino, Dominoes With a Twist by BLUE ORANGE GAMES

Bendominos play like regular dominoes, but the innovative, curved design gives players more control over the game. In this twisting game, a new Bendomino must match by number to either end of the chain, but also has to fit. "Watch a new pattern emerge as the shape creates a chain that snakes and twists across the table. The high-quality pieces are visually stimulating and irresistible to touch" Adeline Beatrix, sales manager of Blue Orange Games, told TDmonthly. "In addition, the design of the pieces presents new opportunities for creative play beyond dominoes." Under the new “Tree Campaign,” Blue Orange Games is committed to planting two trees for every tree used to create its games. Awards: 007 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold, Parent to Parent Adding Wisdom, Spring 2007 Dr. Toy Best Products, 2007 Creative Child Seal Of Excellencep; 2007 Toy Man Seal of Approval, Award of Excellence and E-Choice awards. Launch date: February 2007.
― "It was a clever twist on a game that everybody knows how to play,” noted Patti Guetschon, co-owner of The Learning Station in Newark, Del.
— Bendomino makes its mark as a winner of a TDmonthly Top Toy 2007 award due to its innovative recreation of a familiar game. The packaging is sharp and eye-catching, as is the twisted playing field that emerges during play. The satisfying heft and chink of the playing pieces also puts Bendomino notches above other plastic games.

Where to Buy: Poopsie's; Berkira (Watch the Bendomino, Dominoes With a Twist Video Watch Video) 2/19/2007 (MSRP: $15.95; Age: 5 and Up)


YAMSLAM, Roll to Win by BLUE ORANGE GAMESCalculated chances and strategic choices will place the odds in favor of players as they let the five dice roll them to a win with Yamslam. After each roll, a player chooses the dice that will get the best combination. Each combination is worth a different value and has only four chips, so it's important to take the best ones before they run out. Players race to get special bonuses before their friends do, keeping the suspense rolling until the end. The game has appeal for all ages and is convenient for travel, as it is "self contained in a beautiful tin box," Adeline Bertrix, sales manager for Blue Orange Games, told TDmonthly. Launch date: February 15, 2009.
Awards: Dr. Toy's 100 Best Children's Products 2009; 2012 TDmonthly Top Toy Award. Why it won: This dice-rolling game from Blue Orange is fun for both kids and adults. With each roll of the dice players must strategize how they can win the chip with the highest point value. Without even realizing it, kids are learning basic math skills like addition and probability. The game is self-contained in a red tin, making it easy to play on the road or tote along to a party.  
— Yamslam is on the best-seller list at Golden Apple Learning Store in Pleasanton, Calif., Owner John MacDougall told TDmonthly in summer 2009.     
— "Right now, a game called Yamslam is our best-selling game," said Sue Banducci of Games Unlimited in Danville, Calif., in late 2009. She was anticipating sales of about 250 units during December.    
— Three of 38 retailers cited Yamslam as a best-selling game in Feb. 2010.
(Watch the YAMSLAM, Roll to Win Video Watch Video) 1/23/2009 (MSRP: $19.99; Age: 7 and Up)


Sumoku by BLUE ORANGE GAMESSumoku is a unique crossword-style game with numbers that can be played five different ways. Players add up the tiles to multiples of a number shown on the die. Once all the tiles are connected together, it's a sumoku. "Whether you look for fast action with friends, a challenging pastime, or an addictive game that brings family together, sumoku has it all! Packed with endless challenges, sumoku is pure adding fun!" Bert Devort, Sales Department, Blue Orange Games, told TDmonthly. Launch date: February 14, 2010. (Watch the Sumoku Video Watch Video) 2/4/2010 (MSRP: $14.99; Age: 9 and Up)


Pengoloo by BLUE ORANGE GAMESThe wooden game will help children enhance their memory skills. The game invites children to guess which penguin is hiding which brightly colored egg. Each egg hides perfectly inside each penguin. Launch date: 2008.
— In late fall 2009, Sue Banducci of Games Unlimited in Danville, Calif., estimated sales of 150 to 200 Pengoloo games in December. Two of 44 specialty retailers named the game as one of their overall best sellers. (Watch the Pengoloo Video Watch Video) 2/14/2008 (Age: 4 and Up)


Trigger by BLUE ORANGE GAMESIn Trigger, players answer "True" or "False to various statements using their right hand for "True" and their left hand for "False." The first to answer using the correct hand signal collects a card. An example of one of the statements is "If I am your mother's brother, then I am your aunt." Players collect a card if they are the first to answer correctly, or lose a card if they are the first to answer incorrectly. "Trigger is a fast, fun party game. Your brain has to think quickly so you can answer the statement correctly and answer using the correct hand," Nicole Britton from Blue Orange Games told TDmonthly. Launch date: June 2011.
Awards: TDmonthly Top Toy Award, January 2012; 2011 ASTRA Best Toys for Kids
— Why it won: Super fun, for small or large groups of friend or strangers. Rapidly paced and often hilarious, players learn new facts about their opponents, and about their own abilities to be observant. 3/22/2011 (MSRP: $12.99; Age: 8 and Up)


Fastrack by BLUE ORANGE GAMESFastrack is an all-new kind of sports game. It consists of a wooden tray with an elastic band across each end and a bridge in the middle with a slot opening. Each side starts with 5 wooden disks. Using the elastic cord, players must be quick and aim well to be the first to send all of the disks zooming across to the other side. The first to successfully clear all 10 disks to the opponent's side wins the round. "Fastrack is high quality, eco-friendly, durable and made of wood," Nicole Britton from Blue Orange Games told TDmonthly. Launch date: June 2011.
Awards: 2011 Dr. Toy's Best Green Product; 2011 ASTRA Best Toys for Kids
— In a July 2014 survey, one out of 14 retailers told TDmonthly that Fastrack was their store's best-selling toy. 3/22/2011 (MSRP: $19.99; Age: 5 and Up)

Froggy Boogie by BLUE ORANGE GAMES

Froggy Boogie by BLUE ORANGE GAMESIt’s naptime at the pond, and Daddy and Mommy frogs want all Baby frogs to get rest on the big Water Lily. But the Baby frogs still want to play. They try to be the first to hop around the pond and cross the 11 small water lilies without being seen by the adult frogs. Under the new “Tree Campaign,” Blue Orange is committed to planting two trees for every tree used to create its games. This product received a 2007 Parent’s Choice Gold Award, a 2007 Dr. Toy Best Product Award, a 2007 Major Fun Thinking Award, a 2007 Parent to Parent Adding Wisdom Award and a Creative Child Award 2007 Game of the Year Award. Launch date: March 2007.
― Owner Linda Angel of Kidoodles Toys in Norman, Okla., told TDmonthly in spring 2007 that Blue Orange Games is one of her favorite vendors. (Watch the Froggy Boogie Video Watch Video) 2/19/2007 (MSRP: $24.95; Age: 4 and Up)


Spot It! by BLUE ORANGE GAMESSpot It is a party game for two to eight players. It's played by laying a random assortment of cards on the table and all players racing to find one image that matches between two cards. This fast-paced game is designed to never be the same twice, and though it has very few rules to remember it requires a sharp eye to master. The set of 55 round cards transports in its own carry tin. Watch Spot It: Top-5 Video, Toy Fair 2010
— Spot It has been been a top seller for retailers surveyed by TDmonthly since early Spring 2010.
— In a March 2012 survey, 3 out of 12 retailers told TDmonthly that Spot It was their overall best selling product, and had been for more than a year.
— Dean Smith, Co-owner of JaZams in Princeton, N.J., told TDmonthly in a Summer 2011 survey that he sells 50-60 copies of Spot It each month.
Awards: 2010 TDmonthly Top Seller, Dr. Toy 100 Best Children's Products - 2010

Where to buy:
NORTH WEST (Watch the Spot It! Video Watch Video) 2/11/2010 (Age: 6 and Up)

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