Celebrating 25 years of 'Toys for Bob'

In 1989, friends Paul Reiche III (CEO) and Fred Ford (CTO) joined forces and created the video game development company Toys for Bob. Twenty-five years later, the company is going strong as a subsidiary of Activision and a developer of the ultra-popular Skylanders video game franchise and toy line.

Reiche told News10 about how he and his co-founder met at a friend's game night and soon found themselves with a Novato, Calif., based start-up video game company to call their own.

"Fred and I started small - just the two of us," Reiche said. "...and we sort of agreed to try out a game."

That game turned out to be Star Control, a science fiction game that released for Amiga, PC and SEGA Genesis. It proved a success and was followed up by a sequel two years later. All-in-all, Toys for Bob developed 11 games before being given the opportunity to create Skylanders.

"In a way, each of the games we made led us to Skylanders step-by-step," Reiche commented. "So when the opportunity for Skylanders emerged, we were ready with pretty much every tool we needed."

Since Skylanders hit the scene in 2011, a couple of imitators have emerged. Toys for Bob, it seems, is unworried about new-found competition from Disney and (soon) Nintendo. Why not? They feel their ability to innovate within the "toys to life" genre keeps them a constant step or two ahead of anything their competitors could make.

"We're not going to win with increment change year after year going back to the same characters and doing the exact same gameplay," stated the CEO. "So what we're doing with [Skylanders:] Trap Team where we're going to toys to life - sure, other people are doing toys to life - but guess what: we're ripping that up and putting it upside-down. And now you're ripping characters out of Skylands and storing them in your toys. You're bringing life into your toys."

Skylanders: Trap Team is scheduled to release Oct. 5. While finding success with its in-house developed games keeps the lights on Toys for Bob, Reiche doesn't credit that aspect of his business as the reason they've made it a quarter-century.

"We have very shared values about treating people well and respectfully and trying to make sure you create an environment where you do ask people to work hard and to contribute a lot, but at the same time it's a place you want to be," Reiche explained.

This place - one that's themed to look like a pirate ship on one half of the office and a collection of tiki huts on the other - truly does seem like one that tries to make it fun for those who work there. Around the office, there is no lack of character -- starting from the office's themed halves to various Skylanders toys and geeky paraphernalia celebrating the likes of Dr. Who and Anne McCaffrey novels.

"It's a pretty cool place to be 12 hours per day," Reiche said.

And, should Rieche have his way, it'll stay that way for at least another 25 years.


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