Family launches collectors card game

Randy Toltz consulted and aided in the startup of 27 successful businesses reaching as far as a shrimp farm in Guatemala.

By By:Adrienne Anderson
Posted 3/30/06

Randy Toltz consulted and aided in the startup of 27 successful businesses reaching as far as a shrimp farm in Guatemala. But for his latest venture, …

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Family launches collectors card game

Randy Toltz consulted and aided in the startup of 27 successful businesses reaching as far as a shrimp farm in Guatemala.

Posted

Randy Toltz consulted and aided in the startup of 27 successful businesses reaching as far as a shrimp farm in Guatemala.

But for his latest venture, it was Toltz who needed a consultant, and from an unlikely source - a group of 7-year-old boys.

A brief mention about a football card game by Toltz's son, Logan, three years ago led Toltz on a long journey of creating a collectible card game (CCG) he named Street Proz.

"Why not?" Toltz asked himself that day. "Get it done in 90 days, throw a few thousand dollars in it and be on our merry way."

After researching the market and talking to a printer who specializes in CCGs, Toltz soon realized this was more than just a lark.

CCGs first emerged in the gaming world in 1993 with the wildly popular role playing game, Magic.

Riding on the coattails of the Dungeons and Dragons fan base, this fantasy wizard game quickly spread among role-playing circles and by 1995, gamers bought more than one billion cards worldwide.

Since then, games like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! have sprung up, catapulting the CCG business into a billion-dollar industry - one dominated by big names and national brands.

Now, three years after Toltz's original idea surfaced, he and his wife, Kim, have poured more than $400,000 and countless hours into the card game while running a real estate company and distribution service dealing mostly in poker chips.

The once-envisioned side project that transformed into an ambitious family dream released this month.

The cards feature urban comic-book-style caricatures who play each other in a football game guided by the roll of dice.

The game also pits these street personas against each other every Saturday in an online fantasy football game.

"The game is as much luck as it is skill," Toltz said, adding that the game fills a void he sees in the market for younger kids.

"Both the sports card and gaming card industry have gotten very sophisticated," Toltz said. "One thing they have kind of left out is the kids, the little guys."

After spending most of his adult life as an entrepreneur, dating back to a glass fixtures company he opened with his dad when he was 20, Toltz knew where to start - with the experts.

"If you don't know what you are doing, hire someone who does," Toltz said.

Beyond enlisting his son's expertise, he hired a prominent printer in the gaming card industry, Yaquinto, which is one of four printers worldwide for Pokemon.

The printer had a vested interest in their success and often offered unsolicited advice about the gaming industry. Initially, Toltz was going to create 50 cards. But the printer urged the family to produce at least 270 cards to add variety and longevity to the distribution.

Toltz found a graphic artist online and flew out to Minneapolis with Logan to meet the artist.

And then all the players were in place, almost.

Toltz and the now 10-year-old Logan sat down at Ted's Montana Grill at Aspen Grove three years ago with a yellow tab of paper and a pen and started coming up with personas, some 300 names.

"In my original business plan, that was something I thought was going to be easy," Toltz said. "But in reality, it turned out to be a lot of work."

The two spent hours upon hours creating characters like Ghost Chopper, named after Logan's grandfather. Logan derived the name from a story his grandfather used to tell about a ghost that chops wood at his mountain cabin.

"It's not a true story, though," Logan said.

Logan's sister, Taylor, was quick to sshhh Logan. "Jake still thinks it's true," she said in a whisper.

Each of Toltz's three younger children have a caricature in their name as does all of Logan's friends who consulted on the project.

Five-year-old Jake's card is aptly named Jakester, but his favorite card is the Clown.

"Kim hated that card, but when Jake opened up a booster pack and screamed, 'I got the clown! I got the clown!' her mind changed," Toltz said.

Beyond the caricatures, Toltz also created the game. One night he spent six hours rolling dice and calculating touchdowns. The simple game that accompanies the cards took Toltz several hours to manifest.

Kim, on the other hand, spent weeks in front of the computer proofreading cards that the artist designed.

"Sometimes an arm would be reversed, or a hand would have six fingers," Kim said. "At times I thought my eyes were going to bug out."

Finally, in January 2005, the Toltz family was ready to release the product. The family paid close to $10,000 to sponsor the Snooper Bowl that rap artist Snoop Doggy Dog started to raise money for inner city youth.

The event, held in conjunction with the Super Bowl, provided great publicity for the game and their three kids got to meet the famous rapper.

"I had the printer on hold and ready to launch," Toltz said, "but something didn't feel right."

Toltz felt the drawings were too amateur. The artist used simple black lines to create muscle definition and no shadowing. So the family scrapped the launch and decided to a hire a new artist to perfect the characters with more detail.

"You can't nickel and dime something like this," Toltz said.

As they neared the final stages of production, Logan and his sister Taylor went to camp for the summer. In mid-July, as Kim and Randy were scrambling to finish last minute touch-ups, the most important decision maker could not be reached.

"We couldn't call them," Kim said.

So Kim Fed Exed the changes and background options to Logan. Next to each design she placed a like or dislike check box. Logan circulated the pictures to his friends at camp and sent the results back.

"The kids had the ultimate and final say," Toltz said. "Each card needed a kid stamp of approval."

The family finally took the cards to press in November. Kim and Randy flew out to Dallas to oversee the production. They spent almost twelve hours a day reviewing prints under bright fluorescent lights and magnifying glasses, making sure every last detail was perfect.

Two weeks ago Kim picked up Logan from school and told him he would have five minutes to pack his bags when he got home. She rushed Logan to the airport to catch a flight to Las Vegas to meet his father for a gaming convention, where they would introduce their new product together.

"It was so cool," Logan said.

The family plans to attend at least four more trade shows this year to market the product. And Toltz will travel to about 12 cities and hold Street Proz tournaments, pitting caricatures like Fang, Psycho and Gravedigger against each other at local hobby shops.

And according to 30-year industry veteran Mark Simmons, who owns Gaming Quarterly Magazine based in Broomfield, one of the keys to succeeding in the industry is creating a fan base.

"We have done a great job at creating a product," Toltz said. "Now we need to create a brand."

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