Given the manner in which Innersloth’s hit mobile and Steam gaming title, AmongUs, has managed to capture the world’s attention over the course of 2020, it was always to be the rather fortunate firm indeed to whom the licensing and toy rights finally fell.
Launched in June 2018, it took a global pandemic to give the free multi-player game the airtime it needed, driven in popularity by a number of high-profile Twitch channels that picked it up as the ultimate antidote to Coronavirus boredom, to officially become the most downloaded game globally of the past year.
Beating other popular mobile games such as PUBG mobile, Roblox, and Call of Duty, AmongUs hit a total of 264 million downloads globally last year. 41 million of those were in the US alone.
The game fired the collective imaginations of gamers the world over and incited much chatter over who – indeed if anyone – would be the company that aligned itself with the sensibilities of its studio, Innersloth, enough to take the game into the physical consumer products space.
It came as little surprise then when, only last week, the toy, licensing, and entertainment industry guru, Darran Garnham, declared that the honour had fallen to him and his boundary-pushing, multi-discipline business venture, Toikido.
The big news for everyone keen on tapping into one of the biggest entertainment IPs to have emerged from the 2020 pandemic – and most likely its ongoing 2021 twinned experience – is that, with the global master toy rights to AmongUs, we can expect to see launches across a number of categories, including – “but certainly not limited to” – collectables, figures, plush, play-sets, RC, and more.
The partnership will mark the first for Toikido, a business itself born out of the last year, as it looks to “push the envelope of innovation” in not only the kind of toys and IP it delivers to a contemporary toy industry, but in the way the industry itself operates. From the outset, Toikido certainly appears to be one of the many silver linings that the children’s industry has striven for over the last 12 months.
“Toikido has been born by handpicking amazing people who I have always wanted to bring together,” Darren Garnham, the business’ founder, tells ToyNews. “We’ve developed an ecosystem across many disciplines and skills that are really going to shake things up a bit.”
First and foremost, Toikido will be doing so by partnering with existing studios as well as developing its own brands, games, and content. Secondly, states Garnham, is that Toikido has been designed from the ground up, to push the envelope of what toy companies of the 21st century look like.
“We are a young team and between us have decades of knowledge, strong relationships throughout the industry, and we are trusted,” says Garnham. “It’s a group that includes Grammy and BAFTA winners, inventors, investors, social media, IP and tech experts, and it’s this unique blend of talent and skills that will make the difference.”
A name well-known in the toy, licensing, and entertainment circles, Garnham’s career has seen him attached to some of the biggest companies across the space, including the likes of Nintendo, Pokemon, LEGO, MTW Toys, and Mind Candy as part of the team that built Moshi Monsters into a multi billion-dollar retail business. It’s an enviable CV and one – through his experience with Moshi and a tenure at Universal (where he managed over 4,000 licensees) that has given him the skills needed to run a global IP business.
“I have worked with the very best toy companies, watched how they pitch, what they pitch, how they innovate and where opportunities exist to do things even better,” says Garnham. “I have also been exposed to models well outside the toy industry and this has led us to conclude that there are untried models we can pull from other industries into the toy space and make a real difference to how business is done.”
It’s through a career as diverse as the people and talent he has met throughout it that Toikido begins to be pulled together. It’s not just a team drawing from the toy or licensing industries, but backgrounds working with some of the biggest artists (in both music and social media) in the world.
“This allows us to not only launch toys from different platforms, but also from unexpected places,” he says. “This cross-functional, cross-platform integration and knowledge is one of the things that sets us apart.”
Garnham makes it abundantly clear that Toikido is here to “turn things on their head” in the toy space. A career spent watching innovation in product give way to cost in order to meet the demands of each part of the chain, Garnham wants to prove that “it’s still possible to make amazing products that give each part of the chain what they want without having to drop the quality bar.”
“Retailers want as much margin as possible, licensors as much royalty as possible, but also the best products, and the end consumer wants value for money. The we include R&D costs, marketing, shipping and placement, and compromise and mediocrity take over. This often leads to cheap, disposable toys making innovation difficult,” Garnham says.
“But we will be delivering toys that will be kept and passed down the generations because they are great toys with great play value.”
With a hand in Mediatonic, the wellness app Calm, KidsKnowBest and SuperAwesome, Garnham makes no secret of the fact that he likes to be involved in “fast moving, disruptive companies.”
“I love the journey, the energy, the belief to win,” he explains. “I also like data driven decisions. Research and launch, but don’t be afraid to kill or pivot if required.”
As a result of such mind-set, Toikido will be partnering with kids and family market experts Kids Industries and Kids Know Best as part of its service to partners, utilising the expertise of each to drive the firm’s insight and design strategy as well as targeted marketing initiatives through influencer programmes.
So to write 2020 off as the year we’d like to forget is to do a disservice to the leaps in innovation and forward-thinking that have been taken because of it. The toy industry itself has managed to find a new stride and has given space for opportunities as it has continued to grow during the challenges presented to it.
“Personally, I have taken 50 less flights this year and spent that time with my kids, while the negative knock-on effects for business has been minimal,” says Garnham. “I think we will question the need to spend the first quarter of the year running around the globe from fair to fair. With that being said, we work in an extremely sociable sector, and I can’t wait to bump elbows with friends when we next meet.”
When that will be, who’s to say. In the meantime, Garnham and the Toikido team have enough to keep them busy. Handling toy roll-out for the biggest mobile gaming IP of the past year is no small undertaking, and it’s a tone for the future of Toikido that the team is keen to pitch right.
“We are building a culture that will support our partners, avoid cannibalisation, and as a business, dedicate itself to supporting the shared visions, rather than taking in too many IP and getting distracted,” says Garnham.
“Within the team we have experts in numerous fields, so if the licensor requires, we can help expand IP from one platform to another – bring games into movies, toys into animation, social media talent into toys or music.
“We’re a new type of toy company for a brand new type of world, and we look forward to bringing a number of you on the journey with us.”