My Toy Fair Blog – Laurence King
- Please introduce yourself and your company:
My name is Marc Valli and I am the Publisher at Laurence King. For about 10 years now we have worked on creating new formats, non-book formats, and bringing together great content (our rich book publishing heritage) with innovative formats and great gameplay and interactivity. Our main market is the US, where we are 50% up on our sales from last year. Other strong markets for us are in the UK and Australia, but we have also successfully expanded into German and Dutch-language markets in the past 3 years.
- What products are you launching at Toy Fair?
This year we are launching two very wonderfully immersive board games.
The first one is called ‘The Shakespeare Game’ and every player is a playwright in Elizabethan London, trying to gather actors and all the elements necessary to put up a play (whenever they reach a theatre or a tavern or a court they can do so) and earn enough money to build your own theatre, The Globe, and build a beautiful house for a happy retirement in Stratford. But all that is not easy: the plague may shut all the theatres down, or you may be sent to the Tower of London for offending the monarch, etc. The historical and literary references have all been carefully worked out and the game does what a lot of our games do: you have great fun while learning something at the same time.
In the second, ‘You Are the President’, every player is a politician trying to win elections and the approval of other players, while facing scenarios and dilemmas, from very realistic ones such as ‘a rogue country is developing nuclear weapons (ie. North Korea), how do you respond? Do you 1. Engage in talks… 4. Attack them’, to facing threats from outer space. The game encourages debating amongst players and often pits people against their principles and moral values: would you betray your values to win an argument and/or a game? Perfect pub game.
- How did you get into the toy industry?
Well, I don’t think I ever got into the toy industry, but I launched a start-up retail company with my best friend back in 1999. It was (and still is) called Magma and after a few successful years we realised that the future of retail in this country was dire and decided to diversify into publishing, first launching magazines, then books, then the gift list we developed for Laurence King Publishing. It has now been 10 years and the list grew considerably every year since.
- What was your favourite toy growing up?
I grew up playing Ludo/Parcheesi with my family at our farmhouse in Brazil where I come from. We had tasks for the weekend and the winner was allowed not take part on any of them, and instead just chill out for the day. Whenever I happened to win I would take my fishing rod to the river and fish the afternoon away while my sisters did the hard work around the place… Bliss.
- What is the one “special ingredient” that makes a great toy?
I believe you have to get up in the morning, every morning, thinking: I have to create something amazing today and then being creative at every step of the way, making every nook and crane, every detail, of a project count. The ultimate goal should be that when someone encounters one of our products, they stop and think, ‘but this is amazing, I love it…’ and hopefully buy it.
- Other than your own, what toy brand really stands out to you today?
Our first bestseller was the game ‘Bird Bingo’ which we published in 2012 and I still think it encapsulates all the key values of the brand: an original idea, amazing design, great and reliable content, and lots of fun.