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Playing With DVD

27 May, 2005 By: Jessica Wolf

What started out as a Halloween party game among friends has become a DVD phenomenon.

Dave Long, co-founder of Screenlife LLC and creator of the Scene It? DVD board game, started out splicing movie clips together on VHS tapes and making up games 12 years ago for friends and family. Everyone loved it.

Early on, he thought of making it a marketable game, but he knew it just wouldn't work with VHS. So Long set it aside — until DVD came along.

Now, just three years after the original Scene It? game hit the market, there are seven versions, including a sequel to the original Deluxe Movie Edition, the Jr. Edition, the TV Edition, the James Bond Edition, the Turner Classic Movies Edition and a “The Movie Edition continues to be the best-seller for us at the moment, but all the products are doing well,” Long said.

Screenlife will release a “Harry Potter”-based Scene It? game this summer. It includes images and scenes from the first three “Harry Potter” movies and bonus content from the upcoming theatrical Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The company, which has grown to 80 employees in three years, also is looking at creating professional sports-based games and an MTV-themed game testing players on music trivia, Long said. At February's Toy Fair in New York, Screenlife launched Scene It? Squabble: Chick Flicks vs. Guy Pics and took home the Toy of the Year Award for the Scene It? TV Edition.

Holiday sales for Screenlife games reached 2 million units last year, helping the overall board game business to a 4.5 percent fourth-quarter sales increase from the same quarter of 2003, according to Screenlife.

Retail support has been tremendous, Long said.

DVD games can be a lucrative side business, said Larry Mansdorf, buyer for Boston-based Newbury Comics chain. He's surprised at how well this kind of product performs all year long, especially at a hefty average price of $40. Newbury's best-selling DVD game is the Trivial Pursuit The Pop Culture Edition, he said.

Hasbro, maker of the Trivial Pursuit board games, quickly followed Screenlife into the DVD game market. The toy maker added a DVD element to its ubiquitous trivia board game with special editions such as The Pop Culture Edition, The Saturday Night Live Edition, The Star Wars Saga Edition and The Lord of the Rings Edition. This month, Hasbro is releasing a follow-up to The Pop Culture Edition.

For the Star Wars game, Hasbro senior game designer Scott Clark and a production team filmed costumed “Star Wars” fans at the annual Comic-Con gathering as they read scripted questions for use in the game.

DVD games are a great way to expand the universe of a popular film franchise, said Dave Imhoff, SVP of worldwide licensing and merchandising for New Line Cinema.

“Having creative new product in the market continues to drive interest in ‘Lord of the Rings,’ he said. “We know [the Trivial Pursuit game] has had an effect on the DVD sales.”

New Line soon will announce another DVD game based on the studio's “Austin Powers” movies, Imhoff said.

Tower Records and Video started carrying the games about two years ago and now has them in about 80 percent of the its stores, said Kevin Winnik, director of merchandising.

“With the growth of the DVD market, DVD board games are becoming increasingly popular, especially when they include exclusive content,” he said.

Other suppliers have picked up on Screenlife's and Hasbro's successes over the past year or so, launching DVD-based games, even without the board-game element. Hasbro itself offers the Shout About Movies DVD-only trivia games.

• b Equal has an animal trivia game based on DreamWorks' Memorial Day theatrical release Madagascar.

• Snap TV offers many trivia-based DVD games, including Trivideo: 20th Century, NCAA Football Challenge, NCAA Basketball Challenge and Eco-Rangers, an educational game for kids. “We're very bullish on this category,” said Nicholas Wodtke, CEO of Snap TV. “We think the DVD interactive game market is going to be huge.”

• Pressman Toys has a horror-themed DVD board game, Atmosfear.

• Imagination Entertainment has Family Feud “Survey Says,” SpongeBob SquarePants Fact or Fishy as well as the upcoming Nick Trivia Challenge DVD Game and Name That Tune.

Far from viewing all the newer entries to the market as fierce competitors, Long and Screenlife look at them as growing the genre.

“We really see DVD gaming as an emerging platform,” he said.

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