You can credit crowdsourcing website Kickstarter for getting the card game Cards Against Humanity made, but Kickstarter only raised the money for the project. Money that went to the creators of the project, and when the group of friends who designed the comedy card game needed someone to physically make them cards, they looked up a custom card maker.
The company responsible for actually making all of those black and white Cards Against Humanity cards, as well as the parts for many other Kickstarter projects, is the small manufacturing and production company AdMagic.
AdMagic is based out of Netcong, a borough in Morris County, New Jersey. It’s not a particularly large operation, with the company photo showing only nine employees. They are all led by its president, a warm and quick-witted woman by the name of Shari Spiro.
"Turning your ideas into products, just like magic,” Spiro said if what her business is about in an interview with iDigital Times.
With the overwhelming success of Cards Against Humanity, magic certainly seems applicable.
AdMagic was originally conceived as a promotional materials manufacturing company. Spiro would help design and produce special cards or other objects for companies to put their name on and hand out. After Spiro was tasked with making a special deck of playing cards for a customer, she realized that playing cards were easy enough for her to make, so opened up a website dedicated to customized decks. A good Google ranking had her end up on the front page when people would search for the item. Then, poker became the big craze in America.
Poker was in, and demand for custom decks of playing cards was higher than ever. This gave AdMagic a massive boost in reputation, sales, and knowledge of how to start manufacturing on a bigger scale. All of this helped when, a few years later, this group of old high school friends would come to look up someone to make them some playing cards. These wouldn’t be ordinary playing cards though, they would be printed with some of the most bizarre, offensive, and hilarious ideas and sentences put on paper. AdMagic was happy to help print out what would become Cards Against Humanity, but they would have no idea about the massive hit they had on their hands.
While the Kickstarter was a success, it wasn’t one of those runaway Kickstarter campaigns that immediately makes more money than you can comprehend. Ultimately, only about $15,000 was raised. This was still enough to begin production, however, and even enough to add an additional 50 cards to the total number each backer would receive.
May of 2011 rolled around, and it was time for the release of Cards Against Humanity. After all Kickstarter fulfillments had been met, Cards Against Humanity was on sale on Amazon.com. Within a month, Cards Against Humanity had become the number one selling game on the Internet megastore. As soon as one person would introduce it to a group of friends, every one of those friends would go out and purchase their own copy.
Cards Against Humanity would go on to print more expansions, and continue to maintain its success. In 2012, one expansion was released with all profits being donated to the Wikimedia Foundation. Sales of this expansion ultimately resulted in a donation of more than $70,000 to the Internet encyclopedia. The demand for Cards Against Humanity was so great that even when, as a joke, they hosted an “Anti-Sale” on Black Friday of 2013 and raised its prices higher than normal. The company still saw a spike in sales.
The success of Cards Against Humanity inspired other people with game ideas to start realizing the possibilities of Internet sales. When they would finalize their game ideas, who else would they go to, but the same company who helped Cards Against Humanity become what it was? AdMagic quickly shifted into the games scene, taking on many new clients looking to make their ideas a reality.
Spiro also knew that if she wanted to keep up with the success of her other clients, she should go out and find these new games to print herself. That found her travelling all over the country to different game conventions such as GenCon and IndieCade. Here she could meet with the designers, play the games herself, and see if she was interested in having AdMagic enter production of what she saw. Winning, of course, helps make that decision a little easier.
Fast forward to today, AdMagic has now printed many different card and board games, with even more entering production, finalizing art, or about to start raising initial funding on Kickstarter. Once a game has been finished, the job still isn’t done. Spiro’s new initiative has been to break into the Expo circuit, attending as many conventions as she can along with as many designers as she can tow along. PAX has been a great partner for AdMagic, even granting them more space for the first PAX South. More space means more games get to be played by gamers and more developers get to interact with fans.
AdMagic will also promote games in different ways depending on the audiences for that particular game. For example, there will be a national championship coming up for The Game of 49, one of the newest AdMagic-manufactured games. There will also be a championship for Letter Tycoon, a word-themed game. This championship may even be tied to a spelling bee, to reach out to the audience who would best love words.
What’s next for the small company from Netcong? After managing to ship out 30,000 boxes of literal bull droppings, it seems that AdMagic has its next big hit on its hands. Exploding Kittens, a card game featuring artwork from famous Internet comic The Oatmeal, is currently sitting at $3.7 Million on Kickstarter, with a few weeks left to continue raising funds. Now that is one of those runaway Kickstarters that makes more than you can comprehend.