Posted by David Miller as Modern Board Games
On Thursday, Asmodee announced that it had acquired the worldwide rights to Spot It!, also known as Dobble. The acquisition represents a consolidation of rights previously held by Divertis Properties Group, Play Factory, and Blue Orange Games.
Spot It! is a game that’s quite simple and fun to play. The idea is to find the one and only one pair of matching images on any two cards. Yet this simple formula has been very profitable for the game’s publishers. According to Asmodee, 7.7 million copies of Spot It! and Dobble have been sold worldwide. Divertis has stated that as of last year, sales had totaled $91 million since 2009.
Before the acquisition, Divertis and its subsidiary, Play Factory, owned the game. Blue Orange was licensed to produce and distribute it in the United States and English-speaking parts of Canada. Elsewhere distribution was through Asmodee.
The acquisition of Spot It! should allow Asmodee to consolidate the game’s diverging product lines and international distribution, as well as pursue a Spot It! app for mobile devices. The announcement quoted Stéphane Carville, Chairman of Asmodee Group, as saying:
We have big ambitions for this game in North America, particularly in its digital version.
Certainly the move makes sense for Asmodee, a company that’s been in acquisition mode recently. But there’s more to this story. Another driver of the consolidation appears to be the settling of a lawsuit filed by Divertis against Blue Orange.
In August 2014, Divertis filed in U.S. District Court a suit against Blue Orange Games for violation of copyright and trademark rights [PDF], seeking a court order to stop any further sales of Spot It! by Blue Orange. In fact, the suit was an effort to enforce in the United States the judgement of a French court that terminated Blue Orange’s license and required it to pay Divertis €70,000 in penalties and legal fees and approximately €500,000 in royalties. Divertis’s complaint alleged that Blue Orange violated its license agreement by registering unauthorized copyrights, failing to pay royalties, removing Play Factory’s name from the packaging, and sublicensing the game to Disney without permission. As of March (when the judge in the case refused Divertis’ request for a preliminary injunction) the lawsuit was ongoing.
Asmodee declined to comment when I reached out to them. However, I think it’s fair to assume that the company would not move forward with the acquisition if rights issues remained in question. The announcement quoted Jean François Andréani, Chairman of Divertis Properties Group:
Turning Spot It! over to Asmodee is certainly the best option for accelerating consolidation and development of the game on a worldwide level and taking the lead in market share in the process.
Thierry Denoual, Chairman of Blue Orange, also said:
It makes sense that we divest the business over to Asmodee Group, which has all the strengths needed to enable Spot It!/Dobble to the long term leadership in the card game market.
In fact, I would suggest that settling the suit and consolidating the rights in one organization should allow Asmodee to take an already very successful product even further.