I can’t tell you how often it’s happened in my career that I show a concept to one company’s inventor relations representative and they give me less than glowing feedback, but the I show it to another company’s inventor relations representative and they can’t wait to bring it in. This always blows my mind – how one person can react like I showed them something that smelled foul and the next is as giddy as a child on Christmas morning. You’d think it doesn’t make sense that two people who are experts in the same industry and see thousands of games every year can react so differently, but they can — and do.
Rejections happen a lot in the toy and game invention industry, but there are some steps you can take to minimize the number of rejections you get. I’ve always said that being an inventor requires some matchmaking skills and showing products is like setting up first dates. You do a little research and show concepts to companies who have been known to “dance” with similar products in the past. This seems obvious, but over the years I’ve had to explain to plenty of new inventors that big mass-market companies like Hasbro and Mattel are probably not going to be interested in an educational math game or a game that only appeals to small niche markets like train collectors. As an inventor you should strive to license your toy or game to a company who knows and excels in the market your concept is in. So that game for train collectors? I wouldn’t advise licensing it, or even attempting to license it to a company who knows nothing about train collecting. Realistically, you probably would never get a company who doesn’t have experience with train collecting interested in it, but you also shouldn’t be showing it to them either.
Showing companies concepts that in no way, shape or form fit into their current product line is a bad idea. For example, a game company that only does party games is probably not going to be interested in infant toys. It’s okay to ask if they are looking for products in an area they aren’t currently in; but jumping straight into a pitch without asking is a big no-no. Not only does it indicate that you haven’t done your homework and researched what they do and what products of theirs are doing well, but you are wasting their time. And as most professional inventors will tell you, time is precious when you are meeting with an inventor relations representative. They probably have a bunch of meetings tightly crammed into their day and the last thing you want is to be the meeting that they think back on and say “what a waste of time.”
Back to my initial remark that “one inventor relations representative’s trash is another rep’s treasure.” Many games I create could find a happy home with a variety of manufacturers and if a rep gives me negative feedback, I listen to what they say (because they might be saying something I needed to hear) but I also may just make a mental note and show it to someone else and hope they see it in a better light. Overall, it’s not just matching the right concept with the right company – it could also be timing, trends and a variety of other factors that may make one inventor relations representative giggle while another groans. Just don’t let it get you down. It’s time to worry about a concept if you’ve shown it to a couple strategically selected companies and you’re still hearing lots of negative feedback, then maybe it’s time to revisit the drawing board.
Side note: Since T&GCon is coming up, I want to reiterate that “making a mental note” does NOT include arguing your point with an inventor relations rep. If they say “no, it’s not for us” that is not a jumping off point to start negotiating how it can fit in their line. Instead if you get a “PASS” ask why. Ask if there’s something they like about the idea — or conversely what they don’t like. Ask if they can think of a company your product might be a better fit for. At the end of the meeting, you want to walk out a little more educated about their company and why they are or are not interested in your concept.