BILLION-DOLLAR COMPUTER GAME companies such as Activision, Blizzard, and Zynga are unusual in the electronic arts industry, which consists primarily of small developers. One such firm is Koala Fun (KF), located in Baltimore, MD. KF was started seven years ago by Owen Charles and Tessa Benjamin, who between them had over 15 years of experience with various computer systems design companies.
The partnership initially blended very well. Owen, reserved and introspective, is creative with a flair for designing games and spotting trends. Mainly as a result of his genius, the KF brand is synonymous with intriguing electronics with high graphic appeal. Tessa, more outgoing with a strong marketing focus, has assumed the role of the firm's chief operating officer.
THE PARTNERS' FIRST SUCCESS
The first successful product the two partners developed was a game called Koala Fun, which they used as the company name. The game uses a cute image of a koala bear cub chasing treasure and villains around coastal Australia—the koala homeland—while helping “rescue” heroes and animals. The game was so successful that various spinoff products were licensed, including stuffed toys and a movie. The Chinese even picked up on the idea and joint-ventured games with KF using a giant panda as the theme.
Tessa was particularly good at marketing opportunities like the panda deal and working with resellers like the retailers GameStop and Target, the online merchandiser Amazon, and other large ...