W. Eric Martin
If you're like me, you've seen the game depicted at right in any number of stores, often showing up as one of the lone representatives of games in a store that is otherwise gameless. Spot it! has, as the saying goes, broken out in the mainstream, and you and I are far from the only ones to have noticed this.
Thus the announcement today that the Asmodee Group has acquired "the worldwide publishing, commercial and brand rights of the Spot It!/Dobble game from the Divertis Properties Group, Play Factory, Blue Orange publishers and individual successors".
Asmodee is no stranger to Spot it!, having published the game under its original name Dobble since 2010 when it acquired the rights from original publisher Play Factory, which first released the game in 2009. (Play Factory was founded in 2005 by Jean François Andréani, who is also Chairman of Divertis Properties Group; Divertis, founded in 2010, owns a number of board games, including Dobble, and in 2014 it reported revenues of €1.7 million.)
What's the big deal, you might think? Sure, Spot it! is found lots of places, but why make a big deal about Asmodee buying one more game following its 2014 acquisitions of Days of Wonder (BGGN post) and Fantasy Flight Games (BGGN post)?
First, Asmodee itself is making a big deal about this announcement, reaching out in advance of this deal going public to invite me to ask questions about it and talking about this acquisition in its press release as part of its broader plan: "[Like those earlier acquisitions], this deal is part of Asmodee's strategy of expanding its portfolio and international presence in order to offer the most innovative and leading games to the core gamer community and to the largest number of players in general. The Group is growing its U.S. presence, the world's top board game market with about $1.8 billion. Its strong organic growth rate of over 100% and its latest acquisitions account for the continuing success." (Asmodee Editions' director of marketing Ruby Nikolopoulou explained to me that the $1.8 billion sales figure is mostly based on data in the "Games and Toys" category from market research company The NPD Group. "With NPD representing 70% of the market, we have used our market knowledge to evaluate the full market size.")
To continue from the press release:
Stéphane Carville, Chairman of Asmodee Group said: "I am very happy and proud that Spot It! [sic] is joining our game portfolio. Through its simple and perfect concept it has managed to tear down the generational and cultural barriers to become one of the very few games that all generations can play together. It made sense that Spot It! would become for us and our major shareholder, Eurazeo, a large part of our development strategy. We have big ambitions for this game in North America, particularly in its digital version."
Second, while the game itself is tiny, Spot it! has had a big impact on the market, with 7.7 million units sold in Europe, North and South America and Asia. In its press release, Asmodee notes that "Of those 7.7 million, more than 3 million units were sold in North America in 2014." That's a lot of tiny tin cans!
Until now, Blue Orange Games has had co-publisher and distribution rights to Spot it! for the U.S. and Canadian (English-speaking) markets — with BOG developing multiple versions of the game for all types of specialized markets — while Asmodee had similar rights for the rest of the world. Now Asmodee will have worldwide ownership of the game, with BOG continuing to market it during a transition period before Asmodee sets up distribution for the game in North America. Asmodee will continue to market the game as Dobble in countries where it's already known by that name.
"Dobble/Spot it! is one of the greatest successes in the gaming industry in the last ten years" says Nikolopoulou. "This acquisition will allow Asmodee Group to accelerate its growth within the U.S. and international markets." Asmodee refused to disclose the cost of this acquisition.