Asmodee, one of the world’s biggest board game companies, announced a “strategic investment” in tabletop publisher Exploding Kittens on December 3rd, claiming the move will allow the former to become more involved in the latter’s growing catalogue of casual party games.
The two companies have a pre-existing relationship dating back to 2016, though that initial agreement largely covered European distribution of Exploding Kittens’ titles. Founded by Matthew Inman of webcomic The Oatmeal fame and game designer Elan Lee, Exploding Kittens grew from one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of all time to a household name within half a decade.
“We are thrilled to join the Co-founders and The Chernin Group as shareholders of the business, which will enable us to strengthen our go-to-market strategy in the U.S. and more closely collaborate on game design,” said Stéphane Carville, Asmodee CEO.
Asmodee writes in the press release that this further direct investment springs from an apparent desire to “leverage the Exploding Kittens team’s creative talents”, though what that means in material terms is unclear. Asmodee now owns 21 different board game outfits, including Arkham Horror publisher Fantasy Flight Games and Z-Man - responsible for the Pandemic series.
One possibility is reprints of certain titles from Asmodee’s portfolio, a la North Star Game’s raucous party game Happy Salmon. Exploding Kittens recently republished the game - albeit replacing the original art and fish-shaped bag with its own distinctive art style - after lead designer Ken Gruhl joined the company earlier this year.
Asmodee’s extensive ownership likely contains a fair number of party games that would fit - or even expand - Exploding Kittens’ current offerings. At the time of Happy Salmon’s acquisition, Exploding Kittens head of creative development Zach Schiff-Abrams indicated the team was hungry to expand.
“We want to develop new games and brands, whether that’s through our internal team, working with external designers, or by acquiring IP and talent like we did with Happy Salmon,” Schiff Abrams said.
A more practical answer might be that Exploding Kittens negotiated a deal in order to take advantage of Asmodee’s extensive global shipping network. Recent reports show that the congestion in ports and on cargo ships is slowly improving, but the recent Omicron variant of COVID-19 could cause yet another throttling in the future. Tapping Asmodee’s resources would provide Exploding Kittens some insulation in such an event.
Dicebreaker reached out to Exploding Kittens and Asmodee for more information about the pairs’ plans for the future, including which - if any - board games the public can expect to see reprinted under the Exploding Kittens umbrella. Neither responded by time of publication.