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Why golden fields and lush forests mean so much to Rollacrit’s CEO, Erin Zipperle.
Erin Zipperle. I appreciate your time; thank you so much… Let’s start in the obvious place: tell us a little bit about Rollacrit. What’s it all about?
I love tabletop and board games, and I wanted to create a place where tabletop fans could find things to show off their fandom in the same way Star Wars or Marvel fans can. We created Rollacrit to be a lifestyle community for those who share a love of all things tabletop.
That’s a very niche goal! And what does your job involve, specifically?
I’m the CEO but you know how it is with a startup… I wear a lot of different hats. My background is marketing, I was in marketing at ThinkGeek, but I also have experience in product development and event management.
How did you come to be in the industry?
I grew up with a healthy dose of tabletop and board games, which gave me the mindset that life can be exponentially cooler with imagination. After working plenty of bland jobs, ThinkGeek’s 8-Bit Tie – story for another time – led me to a marketing job at ThinkGeek…
The 8-Bit Tie… I’m familiar with it! Let’s come back to that story another time. Just to check, when was this, roughly?
This would be 2011. Anyway, I came to realise that you don’t have to hate your job if you love what you’re doing. So, in 2015, I began a consulting company focusing on other companies in the gaming and pop culture industry as a way to share my passion with others, which reawakened my childhood love of board games, a space that I thought needed some love.
That’s when I formed the concept of Rollacrit – a hub for those of us who share a love of game days, where we’d unplug, get together and fight dragons, evil wizards, industry tycoons and the most evil being of all—social responsibilities.
“We’re SO excited to be making Catan products for Asmodee Entertainment…”
Ha! That’s a pretty good mission statement! So now, Rollacrit has a licensing partnership to produce a new line of CATAN products for Asmodee Entertainment. What kind of products?
We’re SO excited to be making CATAN products for Asmodee! We’ve launched two lines: Greetings from Catan and Catan Seaside Resort. They feature apparel, accessories and home goods. And that’s just the start of what we want to do.
We believe retailers are starting to pick up on the growth of the tabletop industry, which will lead to our product getting in front of more customers and being able to expand our offerings.
It’s clear you feel very passionate about this. How did the deal happen?
I know Ron Magin going back to when he was at Mayfair Games and I was at ThinkGeek. Our booths were next to each other for years at Pax West. We struck up a friendship that involves a lot of rounds of CATAN…
This is Ron Magin: Chief Operations Officer at CATAN Studios?
Right; one and the same. Anyway, shortly after I started Rollacrit, I reached out to him for any advice he might have. He loved the idea for Rollacrit so much, he introduced us to the team at Asmodee to discuss the possibility of working with them. A couple of pitch decks and dozens of product ideas later, and we signed on to make officially licensed merchandise.
Brilliant. And how much fun was that to work on?!
Oh, it’s been an absolute blast. CATAN has given us an opportunity to do some things with the brand that haven’t really been done before, creatively speaking, so you can’t help but let the ideas run wild. We’ve got over 200 ideas on a spreadsheet, trying to figure out what to do next.
I can imagine! Because, actually, this ‘island resort’ theme isn’t an obvious direction to go in. How did that approach come about?
Going back to ideas running wild, we were looking at the game, the resources, the art and the lands… And we just thought “What about CATAN as a vacation destination?” It’s already on an island, and you have the ships coming into port, so it just kind of spiralled from there.
And is it a bold decision, do you think our fans going to see it as almost blasphemous not just copying and pasting stuff onto a shirt?
It’s bold but not necessarily daring! I think people want something that’s not just a logo slapped on a shirt… They want designs that celebrate the games they love, and that are creative enough to catch the eye. We think of it like a secret handshake: if you get it, you get it – but it’s still a cool shirt to wear if you don’t.
Great answer! Love it. And once you have a sense of where you want to take a Rollacrit product, what process do you go through to develop it?
We have a very open and collaborative environment when it comes to product ideas. We actively encourage every member of the team to share their ideas, whether they’re for physical products, art concepts, or even licenses to pursue.
And is that formal process? Or an informal one?
A bit of both. We regularly hold brainstorming sessions – the best part of the week! Sometimes that’ll be around a specific idea, sometimes just ideas in general. And if you can work a pun in there somehow, we’ll love it even more!
What’s the old quote? “A good pun is its own reword”?! And once you’ve got an idea on the design concept… What next?
We’ll hand it off to one of our artists to create! After some fine tuning on the art, we’ll work through the best items for the design, the best way to present it before putting it into production. Ahead of the launch, we’ve got a couple of copywriters that will come up with a story for the item, including those puns I mentioned earlier. Then, as the item launches, we’ll promote it with ads, social media posts and e-mail. Then, we pack and ship your orders and you love them forever – or something like that!
“Why not take that creative energy and create a space where we can all celebrate this world love?”
Wow. That’s thorough… From your mind’s eye to the customers’ hands! So how important is creativity in what you do, Erin?
It’s the reason we founded Rollacrit! The team we’ve built here – well, we’ve spent most of our careers working on products for video games and movies and TV, but almost never on board games or the world of tabletop. Analog gamers deserve better, so why not take that same creative energy and create a space where hardcore roleplayers or the casual game night group can celebrate this world we all love?
Why not indeed! We need to wrap this up, I’m sad to say. Before we do what’s the one question I could’ve asked you today but didn’t?
Are you working on projects outside of CATAN? Where can people find you next?
And what’s the answer?
As of 2021, we’re the official store for Gen Con!
Thanks! So, we’ll be in person at that show in August. We’ll also have a Rollacrit booth where we’ll be debuting our newest Catan line, ‘The Guild’.
Fantastic… Anything else?
We’re also about to launch our own board game, Heroes of Barcadia, to the public. We held a Kickstarter campaign last year that exceeded our expectations in a great way and it’s arriving in Q3. If you stop by the demo area at Hall C & D at Gen Con, you’ll be able to play it. We’re excited for people to finally be able to play it!
Well, I certainly hope you’ll come back and tell us a little bit about that after the launch. In the meanwhile, where can people see your stuff?
You can visit Rollacrit.com to see all of our CATAN merchandise and to sign up for e-mails when we launch new items, as well. You can also find us as @Rollacrit on the usual social platforms.
Fantastic! Thanks, Erin, for making time.
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