More Than Monopoly – How the OP Games connect players across ages and interest areas

05/23/2024
by Victoria Ritter

For Brian Greenwald, director of marketing at The Op Games, games are vital for personal and inter-relationship growth. One of his favorite games when he was growing up was hearts. He formed many happy memories playing the card game with his grandparents when he visited them for a weekend or camping trip. Now, as a part of The Op Games team, he can help bring similar experiences to many other families.

“Nowadays, people are so tethered to short-form entertainment; our cell phones are only an arm’s length away,” Greenwald said. “Board and card games can create a moment for people to pause, put that stuff aside and come together around the table for a shared moment in time.”

The Op Games got its start in 1994 by Dane Chapin and his sisters. The company, then called USAopoly, initially licensed Monopoly games. Chapin and his family ignited the company by providing a La Jolla Monopoly; eventually the company became a licensed partner of Hasbro. Monopoly has been The Op Games’ largest driver for many years, with other licensed games such as checkers, backgammon and Clue joining later.

“We were only able to do five or six licensed Monopoly games a year because of how labor-intensive they were,” Greenwald recalled. “Now it’s grown to 17, 18 different varieties of games we produce, plus countless more licenses we work with.”

About 15 years ago, the company began producing more party and family games. Its first game in that category was Telestrations, followed by Blank Slate, Tapple, and Hues and Cues. Five years ago, USAopoly rebranded as The Op Games “to be more encompassing of what we offer at the company.”

 

Games and fadoms unite

The most popular games in The Op Games’ catalog are Hues and Cues, Blank Slate and Tapple. “They’re really fun games to play and really quick to pick up,” Greenwald said. “They take less than a minute to learn how to play, but they’re games that you can play over and over again.”

As an added bonus, all three games have done well on social media platforms. Greenwald observed how people raise awareness of certain products by posting short clips on how to play. Within minutes, the videos and posts reach thousands of viewers.

A wide age range of players can find something to pique their interest among The Op Games’ offerings. While kids as young as 5 or 6 years old can enjoy Monopoly and licensed titles, there are a few games that have more mature content. The majority of the company’s family and party games – its most popular categories – are geared for ages “8 to 108,” according to Greenwald. “When you’re at a table, no matter who you are or where you come from, everybody is going to love these games.”

As a licensed partner of Hasbro, The Op Games is able to produce product lines including Clue, Jenga, Trivial Pursuit and Yahtzee, with multiple variations of each. Its puzzles category also features a wide and varied selection of licenses.

When producing a new licensed product for a certain interest area – for example, a Squishmallows Clue game – The Op Games considers whether it’s a fandom that they can steadily support and enjoy. To keep abreast of current trends, some team members keep up-to-date on happenings in the licensing world while others research the latest board game mechanics. Meanwhile, the social media team keeps an ear to the ground about current topics. Together, they get an idea of what’s going on in the gaming and various fandom circles, bring those ideas back in-house and brainstorm.

When producing a novel game, a major factor is the play experience; that’s the key when differentiating a good game versus a great, Greenwald observed.

“If it’s a great game, it sticks with you,” he stated. “That’s the type of thing we look for when building a new game and working on new mechanics. It’s a game that I can play over and over again and not get tired of it. It’s a game that I want to bring to the next game night. It’s a game that I want to share with my friends and family and make sure they have the same experience I did.”

 

The business of play

Greenwald observed that, overall, business is good. He acknowledged that although the toy and game industry has been down post-COVID, The Op Games is expanding steadily. “We’re seeing great growth in our hobby line,” he said. “We continue to see growth in our party and family games. Overall, we’re doing really well. It’s exciting to see the growth potential.”

The Op Games team is looking ahead to this year and 2025 while laying the groundwork for 2026. Due to the fact that game development takes several months, their team wants to ensure they’re doing it right, Greenwald added.

The company exhibits at several different trade shows, including the Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Gen Con, PAX Unplugged and Astra Marketplace & Academy. Reps also attend licensing expos and San Diego Comic Con.

“The team is really excited to be presenting at Astra,” Greenwald said. “We’ve got a lot of cool stuff that we have been promising all year that we’ll be showing.”

The Op Games has between 130 to 150 SKUs in its catalog. This year, it’s planning to launch 65 to 70 products. Its newest launch was Monopoly: The Beatles, which was released in April. The game is a refreshed and rebranded version of the game, with new packaging to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the band’s first appearance in the U.S.

The newest novel game is Dadada, a language communication game that is set to launch this July.

“It’s a cooperative game where you are building a language together by grouping images around sound and trying to communicate with each other using only those groupings,” Greenwald said. “It sounds a little crazy, but it’s one of those games that really draws people in. It goes back to what our main goal is: to have people have a great time and bring people together around the table.”

 

On the front line

Greenwald and the team at The Op Games view specialty toy stores as the front line of their business. As a result, the company seeks to support their retail partners by ensuring they have the inventory and resources needed

for success.

“The retail employees live and breathe this stuff,” Greenwald said. “They are able to give great recommendations and they’re a voice that so many people listen to.”

To best sell The Op Games’ products, Greenwald advises retailers to personalize the games. By sharing stories about what they experienced when playing, how they felt and what the results were, retailers can further build a rapport with customers.

“We’re looking to hear the stories of our consumers,” Greenwald stated. “We want to know what they enjoy, what were the memorable moments that they had with their friends and family. That way, we can keep going and make it more than just transactional.”

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