“Fans first.” That’s the slogan at Cryptozoic Entertainment — the maker of games, trading cards, and collectibles based on some of your favorite fandoms — and we couldn’t agree more. Whether you’re a comic book fiend, a Walking Dead devotee, or an Outlander binge-watcher, Cryptozoic is tapping into the passions of fans and collectors far and wide to create the content that consumers want.
It all started with World of Warcraft (WoW), the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) from Blizzard Entertainment. The year was 2010, and Cryptozoic had an exclusive deal to make a WoW Trading Card Game. That was Cryptozoic’s very first product, which held a special place in the hearts of WoW fans, who are a dedicated bunch. At the time, WoW held the Guinness World Record for the most popular MMORPG game in the world, with 10 million subscribers.
Some could say that Cryptozoic played its cards right because what started as a trading card game company branched out into geeky games. “Very early on, we got access to some excellent IPs, such as The Walking Dead, DC Comics through Warner Bros.’ Smallville, and some popular fandoms,” says Amanda Barker, associate product manager at Cryptozoic. “One of our big hits early on was the DC Deck-Building Game [pictured above]. That has been one of our most popular products. Still to this day, I sell copies of the original DC Deck-Building Game.”
As much as Cryptozoic invests in its fans, the fans show the love right back. The company tapped into its fanbase in the past to help bring some of its creative projects to life with four different Kickstarter projects to fund games based on Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II, The Walking Dead, and an original intellectual property called Cult.
“As far as our Kickstarters go, we started with Ghostbusters in early 2015. That was one of the biggest Kickstarters that we’ve ever done,” Barker says. “The original one was in the top-five, highest-grossing games on Kickstarter at the time. That has definitely been a really cool feather in our cap to have.”
Ghostbusters: The Board Game garnered 8,396 backers, who pledged more than $1.5 million to help fund the game in 30 days. It’s an episodic adventure game for one to four players who are tasked with busting ghosts and sealing gates to the Spirit World. The game is customizable, cooperative, and highly replayable — so replayable that fans are still passionate about it four years after the Kickstarter. “We still have reviewers covering that game simply because they enjoy it,” Barker says. It features unique illustrations and figures based on original artwork and designs by Dan Schoening, the artist of IDW Publishing’s Ghostbusters comic book series.
Barker says that The Walking Dead: No Sanctuary game was also very successful on Kickstarter. The game redefines the survival horror genre with gameplay that mimics the group dynamics from the AMC series. One player takes on the reins of leadership, and the other players decide whether or not to support his or her choices. Fans can play as detailed, miniature versions of their favorite characters from the first season of the show: Rick Grimes, Daryl and Merle Dixon, Glenn, Andrea, Shane, and Theodore “T-Dog” Douglas.
“They’re a labor of love. It takes a lot of work to go into the Kickstarters, but we always want to make sure we can make the best game possible,” Barker says. “The Kickstarters allow us to do a lot of fun things that we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise — the stretch goals, miniatures, game upgrades, and things like that.”
Cryptozoic now has a growing alphabet full of games to spice up any game night, including adventure games, board games, card games, dice and deck-building games, and episodic games.
“I think DC Comics is one of our biggest brands that we love to embrace,” Barker says. “I’ve seen great feedback on our DC Deck-Builders. The DC fans are definitely very active and important to us. Also, Rick and Morty is a long-time fandom that we continue to embrace. We got in pretty early as far as the wave of popularity … and we’re able to make some exciting games for the Rick and Morty fandom.”
In addition to its evergreen products, fans can also catch Cryptozoic on the convention circuit, where its exclusives have struck a chord with collectors.
Cryptozoic’s collectibles first launched in 2016, and the Golden Goddess DC Bombshells vinyl figures made their debut the following year at Comic-Con International: San Diego (SDCC). Cryptozoic’s other SDCC exclusives that year included the Metallic Red 25th Anniversary Harley Quinn, Lil Bombshells vinyl figures, DC’s the Joker Calling Card Statue — “Bloody Noir” Edition, and Orphan Black Trading Cards Season 2 and Season 3 Premium Packs.
“We sold out; the lines went around the booth, and we had to get line management to handle. Seeing people run to the booth is incredible and exciting. The feedback was really great,” Barker says. “A lot of the exclusives, like the Golden Goddesses for example, were so popular that we turned it into a line.”
The Golden Goddesses were originally just a one-shot idea, but Barker says they turned into a comic con tradition — and an entire line — thanks to the fan frenzy.
Fans can keep their eyes peeled for an exclusive Wonder Woman Movie Collectible Golden Goddess at this year’s New York Comic Con (NYCC). “That one’s pretty special because Wonder Con has had a Golden Goddess, and SDCC has had Golden Goddesses, but New York Comic Con has not had one yet.”
In addition to the comic con exclusives, one of Cryptozoic’s most exciting new releases this year is the 14-inch Wonder Woman: Princess of Themyscira statue (pictured above), a depiction of Wonder Woman as a classical Greek statue. “She’s actually based off the Venus de Milo, but given the nods of Wonder Woman with her tiara, her golden lasso, and her shield, with Wonder Woman’s epitaph written around the rim of it. It’s a lot of throwbacks to Greek mythology and Wonder Woman’s origins,” Barker says.
As for that “fans first” slogan, it actually holds two meanings. “The fans come first, but we’re also fans first ourselves,” Barker says. “When we approach items, such as games or trading cards or collectibles, we actually go around the office and ask, ‘Oh, are you a fan of this show? How does this look?’ And involving fans becomes a really important part of the development process.”
Barker says that when the Cryptozoic team is crafting its episodic games, such as the Rick and Morty games, it tries to make sure the gameplay fits the episode as much as humanly possible so it can feel as if fans are playing as part of the episode. When they make new collectibles, they try to offer niche things that people don’t usually see, such as their resin hand statues.
The Joker Calling Card (pictured above) is a statue of the Joker’s glove holding a playing card, zoning in on the imagery that makes him so recognizable rather than an obvious, full-body figurine. “It’s kind of like a creative, different interpretation of the Joker. It’s just his hand, but yet you know who that is, and it’s an interesting representation of the character,” Barker says. “We handle a lot of licenses that people have seen a lot of times, but we try to always bring something fresh and new to the table with whatever it is that we do.”
This article was originally published in the Pop Insider’s Fall 2019 Issue No. 5, click here to read more!