Local game maker Conor McGoey

June 2024

To me, rainy days at camp are always ideal for breaking out board games and enjoying some old school fun. But there is a subculture of board game enthusiasts that simply can’t get enough of playing whenever they can.
Recently I was told about a locally based games company that has achieved some amazing success with their game creations.
According to Global Market Insights, the board game industry was valued at
12 billion dollars U.S. in 2023 and is expected to grow by 4.5% in 2024.
The research asserts that board games are no longer a niche hobby. And nobody knows this better than Inside Up Games, ‘Decider of All Things’ (that’s his job title, really!) Conor McGoey.
Conor was born and raised in Thunder Bay and got the bug for game design while working in construction. He decided to pitch his first game idea eight years ago on the Kickstarter fundraising platform with a video. “Kickstarter campaigns are tricky to navigate, because you only have a certain amount of time to fund your project, and you’re not allowed to fund them yourself. Our initial game pitch raised $63,893 from 684 backers that helped bring the idea to life”, says McGoey.

He was happy that the board game industry saw healthy growth during Covid, while friends, families and solo gamers were stuck at home and wanted new or different ways of connecting and spending time.

In 2022 his Kickstarter for his game ‘Earth’ put Inside Up Games on the map, raising $731,072 from 10,512 backers. “Lots of players from around the world fell in love with the game and it’s been translated into over a dozen languages since. We initially produced 40,000 units of the game, and today we’re into a 4th printing.”

The success of ‘Earth’ led to a further expansion of the game called ‘Abundance’, which raised 1.3 million dollars in just 15 days.

Earth earned numerous accolades throughout the past year including 'Board Game of the Year' for 2023, and the coveted 'Golden Geek' as voted by gamers from around the world.

Many people have taken notice of McGoey’s remarkable talent for game design and development including Trey Parker, the creator of South Park, who named ‘Summit’, McGoey’s first game, as his “number one game of all time.” This celebrity endorsement created an immediate sell out of all Summit copies in the US.

So what’s in it for Kickstarter supporters? Conor says, supporters on the site consist of everyone from game lovers to family members. You can pledge as little as $1 to help the campaign, or maybe contribute $30 or more and you’ll receive a copy of the game as a ‘thank you’ gift. “For the first few years I prided myself on writing an individual message of thanks to each and every backer, but with the increased backer counts over the past few years it’s become impossible’, says McGoey. Instead McGoey includes ‘Family Updates’ monthly that are sent out to the supporters of each campaign. In this way they are kept in the loop as to the progress of the game, and get a sneak peak behind the curtain to see that it’s a family business.

Developing a game is a whole process, where each game gets tested in advance. “After games submission from outside designers have past the initial triage and online plays, their physical versions are mailed to the Thunder Bay office so that I can test them in-person with our local game-testers. We have a vibrant gaming community here and they can be brutally honest with their feedback”, says McGoey.

“Last year was our most successful year with an astounding amount of income and expenses - the vast majority being the manufacturing, international freight, regional shipping and of course advertising for each game.

We’ve moved into an office on Camelot Street where our local employees and I work to create the next big idea. I’ve got a great team, and our office encourages having a healthy balance of fun at work. We’re even planning a retreat this summer so all of our local and remote staff can get together, play games and plan the next few projects”, says McGoey.

Judging by the success of Conor’s games, he’s clearly winning, and keeping other industry players on their toes.

To find out more about Inside Up Games and their game titles, go to www.insideupgames.com

Bill Wrightsell is a marketing consultant and regular contributor to Bayview Magazine. Email him at wrightselladto@rogers.com

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