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Game On!

Game-makers are definitely not sleeping in Seattle.

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This story appears in the April 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Seattle, long the coffeehouse hometown of the ultrahip, is also home to some of the hottest board games. Entrepreneurs have picked up the torch lit by Seattle-based games like Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit. Is there something in the air that inspires game creativity? "Seattle is a magnet for smaller companies," says Jonathan Albin, marketing director of The Game Manufacturers Association. Even VCs are taking notice.

  • Cranium Inc., makers of Cranium:
  • Founders Richard Tait, 40, and Whit Alexander, 42, got their start in 1998, and their game became a cultural phenomenon among the Starbucks crowd-it's sold 3.5 million copies as of December 2003. Named "Game of the Year" by the Toy Industry Association (TIA) in 2001, Cranium invites players to compete at 14 different activities-from sketching to spelling backward. They've recently raised $21 million in venture capital to expand into 20 international markets and create new games for adults, families and children. Successful with a children's line (Cranium Cadoo was "Game of the Year" in 2002), Tait notes Seattle "has always been a pioneering market." With cool weather and emphasis on family, says Tait, "you have a city with a hotbed of gaming productivity."
  • Screenlife LLC, makers of Scene It?:
  • Dave Long, 42, and Craig Kinzer, 47, started their company in 2001. At a 1992 Halloween party, Long came up with the idea of showing horror movie clips to guests; the team guessing the correct movie title wins. It was a hit, but the limitations of VHS technology made it hard to go further. When Long bought a DVD player in 2000, he realized it was possible to watch clips in a nonlinear way. Securing licensing rights from movie studios was priority No. 1. They partnered with Mattel to distribute the board/DVD game-which was in 8,500 stores in 2003-and raised $10 million in venture capital to distribute the game worldwide. "Our [annual] flight to the Toy Fair in New York City [a TIA event] is filled with [Seattle] game companies. There's camaraderie-it's great to get together with everybody."

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