Shannon Swindle, Inventor Relations Manager; Games – Moose Toys, on pitching, ghosting and more!

Shannon Swindle, Moose Toys, Deej Johnson

Shannon, welcome! It’s an exciting time to be talking!
Hey Deej, thank you! It’s an exciting time for sure!

Tell me: how have you settled into your role at Moose?
As one of the most innovative companies in the toy space, Moose is now bringing their passion for great product to our new games division. Having the opportunity to help grow this new category is an absolute dream… We have the energy and enthusiasm of a startup, backed with the resources and support of a well-established organisation – or as I like to call it “Moose muscle.”

Moose muscle! I rather like that. What’ve you been looking to do there?
Our journey has just begun, and we’re already experiencing promising developments with Bluey Keepy Uppy, Doo Doo Kangaroo and the newly acquired Worst-Case Scenario, Nine Arches and That’s What She Said games… With more to come! Looking ahead, we’ve developed an expansive lineup of games for the rest of ’23 and ’24.

Are you allowed to say what that includes?
I can in so much as that includes a mix of inventor concepts, licensing deals, and strategic acquisitions. Our team’s actively brainstorming ways to disrupt the category and produce “WOW” hits in games.

Great stuff. And as Moose continues to make its mark in the games market, what are you looking for? What qualities do you think all Moose games should have?
Our vision is to create a diverse portfolio of games that brings the Moose “WOW” to all age groups. Our secret sauce is rigorous playtesting and we’re looking for games that people love to play. Bringing people together and creating experiences that provide both entertainment and lasting memories is our goal. Ultimately, we want our games to be a source of joy, creating moments of laughter, excitement, and connection.

Shannon Swindle, Moose Toys, Deej Johnson

And in terms of your settling in at Moose, what’s the most noteworthy thing about the culture there so far?
I remember when I was first talking to my boss, David Norman, about the position last summer. He told me that Moose has some of the nicest people he’s ever met… This is so true! Not only does Moose have a knack for finding nice people, but most importantly, Moose genuinely cares about their people.

Can you give me an example of that?
They recognise the importance of a healthy work/life balance. The company is dedicated to diversity and inclusion, ensuring everyone feels welcome, heard, and valued. Moose also prioritises learning and development, and fosters an environment that encourages employees to expand their skills and knowledge. We’re wholeheartedly committed to our sustainability roadmap and giving back to our local communities.

Wow. Now I’m thinking about jacking it in at Mojo… Anything else?
Yes… You can bring your dog to work – which is the icing on the cake! Aside from having an incredible company culture, Moose also cares deeply about innovation and making kids ‘SuperHappy’!

Sounds like they’re doing things right. Let me ask this: how important is creativity in your role?
From ideation to execution, creativity is a significant part of my role. It extends beyond simply searching for the next great game. It also includes providing feedback on names, themes, gameplay, art, and content. I’m passionate about creative collaboration and love working with our team to help bring ideas to life. I’m also a fan of high-quality artwork, disruptive packaging, and games that visually stand out on shelf.

And how do you balance that, Shannon, with the more practical side of things?
Indeed, there are many games I’ve come across that I’d love to bring to market – but we aren’t able to for one reason or another. While we find some games enjoyable, we may have reservations about their potential sales volume to justify pursuing them. Additionally, others might pose manufacturing challenges which make them difficult to do.

Shannon Swindle, Moose Toys, Deej Johnson

What steers your vision of that, then?
David always says we need to understand the history of what has worked – and what hasn’t. After almost 30 years of experience in the industry, he has a wealth of knowledge of both current and past trends. This expertise helps us make more informed decisions, and focus our efforts on projects with a higher probability of success. There’s a delicate balance between artistic vision and commercial viability. We strive to create games that are both innovative and financially sustainable.

Great answer, thank you. Also, there’s something I’ve wanted to ask you for ages… How do you like to be pitched to?
Well, nothing beats being pitched to in person and having the opportunity to play games in person. However, when that isn’t feasible, there are a few things that can enhance the virtual pitching experience. First, please tell me a bit about yourself…

Interesting! Not everyone likes that!

No; some people like to get down to ‘brass tacks’. It’s good to know!
Yes! Well, I enjoy getting to know inventors on a personal level… Building authentic relationships is important to me and often lays the foundation for future collaborations. Second, high-quality videos are paramount. If I can’t play a game in person, having a video that shows the gameplay is crucial.

As a visual learner, I rely on videos to quickly grasp the concept and mechanics of a game. Lastly, I always appreciate it when I receive follow up notes with a brief description of a game. Even though we take notes during a pitch, it’s possible to miss something. The more info you can provide, the better.

Fantastic answer. Also, one question that’s been coming up quite a bit recently is inventor ‘ghosting’… In other words, ongoing radio silence from a publisher! What might be an appropriate way to handle being ghosted, do you think?
I try to communicate with our inventors, and keep them informed at all times, so they always know where they stand. One important part of the selection process is setting realistic timelines and letting inventors know when to expect feedback. Inventors should feel comfortable checking in with a publisher after a significant amount of time has passed. Follow up politely to check on the status of your submission and ask if there are any updates. Check-ins within a reasonable time frame are always welcome.

Shannon Swindle, Moose Toys, Deej Johnson

Can I push you on that? What’s a reasonable time frame?
Absolutely! I generally aim to provide feedback within two weeks to a month. However, the timeframe can vary based on our ongoing commitments and the specific season. For example, during periods when I’m travelling and participating in back-to-back inventing meetings, or we’re managing tight production deadlines, the review process might take a bit longer due to increased amounts on our team’s resources.

And to put that in perspective, from September to July alone, I reviewed nearly 1,000 concepts, and I tried my best to respond to everyone in a timely manner. With that said, if – for some reason – you haven’t received a response within a month, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a quick check-in. We value every submission we receive and want to ensure that each concept has given the time and consideration it deserves.

Fantastic answer, Shannon. Thank you. I always appreciate specific numbers… That really does give us a great perspective. So! What’s your background, Shannon? How did you come to be at Moose?
Prior to the toy and game industry, I worked in the music industry, hospitality and tourism – and education.

Quite a mixed bag…
Yes, but throughout my career there’s been a common thread: I’ve always worked in a creative industry and been surrounded by creative people. Whether it was in the realm of music, travel, teaching, or game design, I thrive in environments where innovation, imagination, and self-expression are valued.

But Moose isn’t your first job in toys and games, is it?
No. I’m so grateful to be able to say that I stumbled upon this industry almost ten years ago… Before joining Moose, I worked for two different board-game publishers. As the Director of Product Development, I had the privilege to work closely with some of the most talented people in the industry. Together, we successfully brought over 20 games to market, which provided me with a solid foundation and invaluable experience. This background served as a catalyst for my transition to Moose where, as I say, I now have the exciting opportunity to help build our games division.

You do seem excited by it!
Well… I’d always dreamed of working in Inventor Relations, and the stars aligned when Moose brought David out of retirement to head up Moose Games. I value human connection and believe that we’re happier when we feel connected to others, which is exactly what games do. They bring people together for laughter and fun. I also think playing games teaches kids how to win and lose with grace, which is an essential skill in life!

Great stuff. Final question then, Shannon… What’s the most interesting object in your office or on your desk?
A statue of Lady Justice, which was a gift from my former boss, and a framed piece of art my son made when he was 10.

What’s the art piece?
They’re words of wisdom from my then 10-year-old. He’s 12 now. There are 19 tips on how to live a happy life.

Very profound! Look at those… These are great, Shannon! Let’s sign off with a picture of those!

Shannon Swindle, Moose Toys, Deej Johnson

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