Inside a sunny, living room-like office near Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road, Eric Poses lays out his board game Loaded Questions and pulls out a card: “What would you do if you wanted to annoy someone?”
Poses, the founder and president of the game company All Things Equal, happily explains how the game works — the roller reads the question, each player jots down an answer and then the roller guesses who wrote which one. Soon, he pulls out other games from his bookcase, showing them off and explaining the rules.
It’s clear Poses loves what he does, devising every aspect of a game, from the board to the markers, content and methodology.
“I turn everything into a game,” said Poses, 38, who lives in Miami Beach with his wife and two young daughters. “It makes ordinary things more fun.”
Poses is turning fun into financial gain, as his 15-year-old company is poised to double its sales volume, with expanded distribution of new games, and, for the first time, puzzles and picture frames.
Awkward Family Photos, created through a licensing agreement and launched last July, will be available nationwide at Target and Walmart by fall.
This summer, Awkward Family Photos will debut four jigsaw puzzles, each with 999 pieces and a collage of four photos.
Poses also has just obtained the rights for Awkward Family Photos picture frames, which should be available in stores by Aug. 1.
In addition, The Greatest Day Ever Game, a colorful kids game inspired by his daughters, ages 6 and 3, should expand to more specialty stores later this summer.
Most of All Things Equal’s games are aimed at adults, as “creative games for active minds,” Poses said.
But they appeal to everyone from high school and college students to young professionals and families, or anyone “who wants to have a fun game night at home with a bottle of wine,” he said.
All Things Equal’s games are sold in more than 5,000 stores nationwide, including Target, Barnes & Noble, Kmart and Toys R Us, as well as at smaller stores. They are also sold online, at amazon.com and the company’s website, familyandpartygames.com. The games are also available in Canada, and Poses is working on expanding to the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
Barnes & Noble has been carrying Loaded Questions since it first began offering games in 1999, said Ellen Heaney Mizer, the chain’s buyer for games, puzzles and collectibles. The classic version of the game is available at all 681 Barnes & Noble stores that carry games, and the adult version, as well as Awkward Family Photos, is at 450 select stores — including a few in South Florida. The games are also sold on Barnes & Noble’s website.
“They are an important brand for us,” Mizer said.
For Poses, who grew up in Miami and went to Ransom Everglades before graduating from Emory University, game playing is in his genes. His mother’s family’s last name is Todman, of Goodson Todman Productions, which produced shows like Family Feud and the Price is Right, and he grew up watching game shows and playing card games.
“Game playing is the biggest way we entertained ourselves growing up,” Poses said.
He came up with his first game idea, Loaded Questions, in 1996, while he was working as a copywriter for an ad agency in Coral Gables.
On his way to the airport to pick up a former girlfriend he hadn’t seen in awhile, he started wondering what to talk about, and he realized that a single question could spark an hour of conversation, like “If you became president of the United States, what is the first thing you would do in office?”
It was a question he never asked her, but it sparked an idea.
Sitting at his desk at work, he began creating his first board game. And though his boss at the ad agency offered to invest in it, Poses quit and struck out on his own in 1997.
He test-played Loaded Questions with friends and family before producing 5,000 games. He set off on a four-month drive around the country selling the games out of the trunk of his car, before Toys R Us became his first major customer.
As the years progressed, he created other games.
“The games I come up with are games I could basically play with my friends,” he said.
All the games are manufactured in Indiana, and range in price at retail from $11.99 to $24.99.
He has added five travel-size versions of Loaded Questions, each with a different set of questions. He launched the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Game in 2006, but no longer makes it because the game’s licensing agreement has expired.
“It had a good little run, then it died out, and we decided not to renew it,” he said.
Other games have come and gone, like Busy Bodies, the Joke Game and Hollywood Shuffle. He is in the process of redoing Words of Wisdom.
Still, others never made it to market, like Face the Facts and Talent Show.
Overall, sales of board games generated $1.1 billion in revenue in 2011, down slightly from $1.2 billion in 2010, according to figures from the New York-based market research firm NPD Group.
It’s a stable industry, said David Riley, executive director of NPD Group.
“Board games are far more recession-proof than other categories, because of the price,” he said. “Consumers are always looking for value, and if you can’t afford to go to a movie, you can certainly afford to play a board game.”
In fact, the average price for a board game was $14.72 in 2011, down from $15.09 in 2010, according to NPD figures.
“If I can’t afford to go out, I get all my friends together and we drink and play board games,” said Riley, 43. “That’s the genius of board games.”
All Things Equal, which has two employees — Poses and National Brand Manager Breen Halley, plus contracted workers, generated $1.5 million in revenue last year. Though Poses declined to discuss profits, he said the company has been profitable for 13 years.
Often purchased for family get-togethers at Thanksgiving and the holiday season, 75 percent of all sales occur in the last four months of the year, he said.
In 2012, revenue is projected to reach nearly $2.5 million, due to the new products and expanded store distribution. In all, Poses is projecting to double sales volume, to 300,000 games this year, up from 150,000 last year.
It’s clearly a good time for Poses, who named his company All Things Equal to stand up to competitors like Mattel and Hasbro.
“When I started 15 years ago, I was told I couldn’t compete with large manufacturers,” he said. “I pictured a level playing field, where all things are equal.”