S'pore toys and games go global

By Kenny Chee

TOY enthusiasts might remember a Singapore made toy called the Cubedron.

Sold in stores like Toys "R" Us, Action City and Comics Connection from 2009, the Rubik's Cube-like puzzle toy was popular enough to inspire YouTube videos from enthusiasts, who shared different solutions to the puzzle.

Now, the Cubedron is going places. The toy, developed by home-grown start-up MindStrat Puzzles, will be sold in Britain from next month.

MindStrat Puzzles has licensed the product to independent British toys-and-games firm Drumond Park, a company that is among Britain's top 30 traditional toys-and-games companies.

But, in Britain, Cubedron is getting a new identity, and will be rebranded as the Oginov Tumbler.

The toy is also headed for international stardom. Drumond Park - which is ahead of Toys "R" Us in terms of market share in Britain, according to figures from research firm Euromonitor - will take the product to the United States next year, and to the rest of the world shortly after.

Dr Pantazis Houlis, MindStrat Puzzles' director and inventor of the toy, told my paper that the deal with Drumond Park was the result of discussions that spanned the past two years.

Dr Houlis, who runs the firm with a Singaporean and two permanent residents, said that despite a lack of marketing efforts, Cubedron and its variants, like puzzle toy Dots, sold at least 20,000 units through retailers and the firm's Web store.

Customers hailed from countries like the US, Germany and Japan.

With the support of Drumond Park, Dr Houlis, a Greek-Australian, believes the Oginov will sell in the "millions" in the next few years.

Ms Claire McCool, co-founder and marketing director of Drumond Park, said that "substantial" orders for the toy have come in from many big toy-shop chains and department stores.

Oginov will be featured in a television advertising campaign that will start next month and run up to Christmas. There will also be a promotions campaign for the Oginov via newspapers, radio, YouTube, online social media, roadshows and demonstrations in large British cities.

Other toys and games from Singapore firms have also been making their mark overseas.

Play Imaginative's Trexi collectible vinyl toy has sold over two million pieces since it launched in 2005. Overseas orders make up about 80 per cent of sales, with customers hailing from the US, Hong Kong, France and Australia.

Card-game firm Strategy Entertainment launched its Chinese trading-card game, called Generals Order, in Hong Kong nearly two years ago, after the Singapore launch in 2007.

The firm is in talks to take the game to China. About five million cards have been sold so far, with more than 80 per cent of sales from Singapore, and it is popular with students.

Mr Dennis Soon, the firm's director, said: "We hope to take the game to more countries and create more merchandise related to Generals Order."

The merchandise could include computer games, novels or comics.

Another toy that has put Singapore on the world map is the Stikfas model-kit figure, which has sold over four million figures globally since its 2001 launch. Most customers come from the US and Britain.

But Stikfas creator Ban Yinh Jheow has some advice for those who want in on the toys-andgames business.

"If you don't have guts, you won't be able to take it. It's not a walk in the park," he said.

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