The Fortune Seeker Game History...

I didn't know at the time but my life changed at about 8:30 pm on January 18, 1988. My wife and I were entertaining a friend who was going through a divorce. After dinner, our guest wanted to play a board game that he had brought. I agreed to play only because he asked.

The idea is born

I am not a game player but it was a good change of pace. The game was fun the first time but it was like most games. If you were able to accomplish a few key things, it would be just a matter of time before you won the game. I told my wife and guest that I can invent something a "heck of a lot better than this" and I went upstairs that night and sketched out what is now Fortune Seeker.

I still don't know what drove me but I began immediately designing the game on my home PC. I still have the first computer printout. The original design included the current 4 quadrants. I remember that I had to take tape to fit all the individual pages together. Once I could see it, changes began. After numerous weekends, I was ready to play it.

The first test

We invited some good friends over for dinner and after dinner, we began to play. What was interesting now is that I had gone to the Schoolhouse store in Green Bay to get some game pieces. The Schoolhouse store turned out to be the first store to carry Fortune Seeker. For the most part, things went well but there were problems with the flow of the game. We talked about it after the game was over but my friends said there was no doubt that this was a unique concept and was definitely a "winner."

I continued to work out the bugs and then showed it to other friends. As time went on, I kept playing it with different friends and making changes after each game. I then began working with my artist and we started to get "the look" of the game down. Just getting it from a PC printout to a professional look helped alot with the testing. After each revision, I had to tape another board together and hand color each square to simulate the color coordination. This became very demanding over time because it was a 2 hour process each time. I now hate coloring.

Test marketing begins

I then began exposing it to college students. A good friend who was a Marketing Research teacher helped me by allowing me to come before his class and solicit students for testing. We did this at the start of 4 different semesters. There was always a student who made the testing their semester project. They would line up the students and let me know when they were going to play. I would go and just watch and observe. This was the beginning of the rules writing. As I watched, I go see what their questions and problems were. As it turns out, it took 4 years to write the rules. Students from NWTC, St. Norberts, UWGB and the University of Nebraska were all involved. The college students absolutely loved the game.

While the college testing was underway, there was also testing going on with different focus groups in Milwaukee and Green Bay. I would try to attend as many as I could just to watch. There were many late Saturday nights away from the family. The college students would often play 3-4 games a night. Coming home at 2-3 am on Sunday's was not uncommon because I didn't want to miss any potential feedback. It made going to church hard.

Virtually all games ended up with some sort of problem to overcome. By the time all the "after game" discussion was over, the flow problems were solved and at least 1 new good idea how to make the game better emerged. My wife began to wonder when the design would be finished because there was always changes. I kept telling her that we will not stop until the changes stopped. They began to really slow down the winter of 1995-1996. The last 7-10 games had no changes. The final game was played on June 29, 1996 in Green Bay. The game was played with a very key focus group. There were no changes. The champagne was cracked.

Designing the packaging

Now came time to design the box. This turned out to be a much bigger task than I had anticipated. We first met with the box maker so my artist knew what dimensions we had to work with. After we had those, we began all the artwork. Once again, I was starting from scratch. Like the board, I sketched out what I wanted and we began developing the look. As the artwork evolved, I showed it to all key people in my focus groups. There was plenty of feedback. I took it all in and continued to evolve it. By November 1996, all was ready for the presses. The games were then printed and assembled. Distribution began November 14, 1996. The first game was officially sold to my wives aunt.

The game is named

Other items of interest include the name Fortune Seeker and all the game parts. The original testing began under the name "Wheel and Deal." This seemed to fit "the nature" of the game but it was already spoken for so it could not be trademarked. When I received this news from the trademark office in Washington, DC, I was not disappointed. For some reason, I had a calm about me and I remember thinking that there must be a better name for what was evolving. After about 6 weeks, it came to me on my way to work. I knew that Fortune Seeker was part of this destiny. Sure enough, the name was available and on July 17, 1990, it was registered under my name.

The finished product

The entire winter of 1989 was spent collecting game parts from every major distributor in the United States. It was critical that I find pieces already made because building plastic molds cost anywhere from $5,000-$15,000. As I saw the pieces, I knew instantly which ones I wanted. We then finalized all artwork to fit the pieces. There are parts from distributors in Minnesota, New York, and North Carolina.

We have ended up with a high quality product because there were no compromises. There is absolutely nothing that I wasn't satisfied with before I gave permission for the presses to roll. This was critical because I had promised my father on his deathbed that I would do my best to make this game a success.

Our immediate marketing plan is to concentrate on Internet distribution and game "speciality" store distribution. This has been alot of work and alot of fun but I am glad that production has begun. The demands of my "day job" and my family would not allow me to start from scratch today.