Beginning in 2005, the video game industry was caught by total surprise when Nintendo's unassuming Wii system and family focused products dramatically expanded the video game market and audience from males 15-35 years old to both males and females 9 to 99.
While nearly everyone within the game industry failed to recognize or comprehend the magnitude of this emerging trend, Dan Mueller, a game industry veteran with over 11 years of successful achievements and entrepreneurial spirit (who would later go on to found Judobaby Inc.), left Sony, sold his home in San Diego, and returned to the Bay Area to begin researching an innovative game concept and business model that would take advantage of this new and growing demand for high quality family friendly game entertainment.
With $350k from the sale of residence, Dan began developing, focus testing, and previewing a number of never-been-seen-before game concepts with industry veterans and consumers at large resulting in an overwhelmingly positive response to the notion of dogs playing football and, whereupon, he began developing a comprehensive design document and production schedule for what would ultimately become known as Jerry Rice & Nitus' Dog Football.
Thereafter, to support said design document, Dan called upon industry colleagues, including some former employees of Disney and Pixar, to develop cost effective 2-dimensional game characters, props, environments, and storyboards, and, based on resulting positive response from both consumers and industry insiders, a 3D video build-out was produced to further clarify the marketability of Dog football, and, said 3D video subsequently proved to be a smash hit with male and female audiences of all ages. The next challenge was to acquire talent, purchase equipment, and open a studio to begin production of Dog Football.
In contrast to the traditional approach of funding the “cost” of game development wherein developers secure financial requirements from well capitalized game publishers, and, therein, not only receive limited royalties, but suffer the loss of their intellectual property, Dan and fellow co-founder Vern Justus constructed a unique and strategic plan to fund development expense and retain ownership of its valuable intellectual properties through the use of private investment capital.
Judobaby initially raised $875k in “community funded” private investment capital to open studio, purchase equipment, hire required staff and develop the first in a series of games under the company's Pet Sports League brand (e.g. Jerry Rice & Nitus' Dog Football), in order to acquire a Publisher to market, sell, and distribute Judobaby’s flagship product.
As an affirmation of the strength and viability of Judobaby's original concept of combining pets and sports, analyst Michael Klotz of the NPD Group, the leading provider of reliable and comprehensive consumer and retail information for a wide range of industries, confirmed the company's cutting edge strategy in 2009 stating "the best chance for future retail success is to be first to market with an innovative blend of known game genres" and, whereupon Jerry Rice & Nitus' Dog Football not only combines known game genres but uniquely blends the most popular U.S. pet, dogs, and America’s #1 choice in sports entertainment, football, resulting in a never-before-seen (e.g. "first-to-market") product in the game industry.
To provide perspective concerning potential sales of Judobaby's Pet Sports League product line, pets and sports account for two of the largest retail successes in the game industry, and, the highest grossing title within the sports category is Electronic Art’s Madden NFL whose series accounts for over $4B in gross revenue. Additionally, the Nintendogs series has grossed over $1B in retail sales.
In July 2010, Pierre Buljan, a Judobaby investor, surprised us by visiting the studio with his long-time friend, Jerry Rice, to review an investment opportunity with Judobaby Inc. After touring the studio and experiencing the innovative sport of Dog Football, Jerry excitedly called Pierre within minutes of their departure, wondering how he could get personally involved. Upon hearing of Jerry's strong interest, the company quickly went to work preparing a special presentation wherein Jerry would become an investor through "name and likeness" participation in the game, along with his dog Leonitus (aka Nitus), and endorsement of the product through live appearances, print, radio, video, and all other forms of media.
August 31st, 2010, Jerry Rice accepts a position with Judobaby as Commissioner of the Pet Sports League as well as President of Dog Football, wherein, the game is officially titled Jerry Rice & Nitus' Dog Football featuring Jerry's voice and likeness, and, whereupon, Jerry expressed excitement to be associated with a game that brings together families and features 2 of his favorite loves, football and pets.
Rise From Developer To Publisher
As for results of Judobaby's lengthy search for a publisher to effectively market, sell, and distribute Jerry Rice & Nitus' Dog Football, the company was successful in negotiating agreements that included above average terms, conditions, and royalties for a developer, but, wherein, developer royalties would ultimately be based on the "net" amount of publisher reported revenue (i.e. gross sales less non-fully disclosed "cost of goods sold"), and, whereupon, in the best interest of the company and its shareholders, Judobaby applied for a publishing license from Nintendo in December 2010. In spite of the degree of difficulty and rarity of a developer obtaining a publishing license, Judobaby, as a result of the extensive background, experience, and achievements of its team and management staff, secured said license on January 17th, 2011.
With publishing license acquired, and intent to effectively market, promote, and sell Jerry Rice & Nitus' Dog Football along with a variety of other game products, Judobaby now required employment of a highly experienced publishing and sales staff, and, as if on cue, Bill Gardner, ex-CEO of two top-ten game publishing entities, and his team, were introduced to Judobaby through a mutual contact, and, subsequently hired, to ensure the company's goal of becoming the next $1B+ video game company.
Bill's credentials over the past 20 years in the digital entertainment industry include Senior Vice President of Panasonic Interactive Media Company, President & CEO of Capcom (a top 10 game publisher), President & CEO of Eidos (a top 10 game publisher), Managing Partner of Digital Entertainment Insights, and founder of O-3 Entertainment. Amongst his many accomplishments, Bill, along with his veteran team, engineered the rapid sales turn-around of Capcom and Eidos which ultimately produced Market Caps of $1.3B & $1.7B respectively.
Judobaby Inc., now positioned as both Developer and Publisher, required approximately $5M in additional funding to effectively market, sell, and distribute the company’s said flagship product. At that time, said funding was achievable through existing shareholders, however, sudden enactment of the Dodd-Frank legislation significantly amended qualifications for Accredited Investors wherein calculations of $1M minimum net worth no longer included investors primary residence. As a result, few existing Judobaby shareholders could now qualify as Accredited Investors, severely impacting funding goals required to effectively market, sell, and distribute company products.
At E3, the video game industry’s major retailer trade show, buyers representing Walmart, Best Buy, Toys R’ Us, and Target, expressed strong interest in Jerry Rice & Nitus’ Dog Football and requested sales meetings. However, due to said legislation limiting the company’s ability to quickly generate sufficient funds to effectively market, sell, and distribute said product, and warnings from industry veterans concerning the financial risks associated with sales to retailers wherein payments are frequently delayed and historically reduced to retailers net cost (i.e. wholesale price, less un-disclosed sales expense), Judobaby was forced to significantly downsize its marketing budget and restrict production, sales, and distribution to only 13k units to a handful of selected channels, as follows:
* Gamestop & Fry's 78%
* Amazon 6%
* Pet Food Express 1%
* Schoolastic 15%
Product marketing included the following:
Video: You tube videos & “Webisodes.”
Promotional Items: Celebrity Autographed items (ex. books, sports memorabilia), and, PSL exclusive items, distributed via Twitter, Facebook, and live events.
Android App: Launched a free Android App to market the Wii & PC products which resulted in over 150,000 downloads and a 4 out 5 star rating (Only 11% of all Apps achieve over 100k Downloads).
Trade Shows: Presence at Major Industry Conferences such as E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), Game Developers Conference (GDC), & the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
Celebrity Personal Appearances: Jerry rice at the Nintendo World Store, Pet Sports League Tournament, and ESPN's “First Take” (during development).
Radio: 22 stations across 7 major markets (New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle, San Francisco, & Los Angeles).
Print: Sports Illustrated Kids, Nintendo Power, Scholastic, and the Hall of Fame Yearbook.
Mall Directories & Billboards: San Francisco, Dallas/Austin, Philadelphia, Boston, and Orlando / Tampa.
Web promotions: New website design and updates.
Posters & Stickers: For trades shows & events.
JUDOBABY's flagship video game Jerry Rice & Nitus' Dog Football launched August 16th 2011 for the Nintendo Wii & PC and was awarded International Gaming Network's AAA rating, the same recognized achievement as Electronic Art's Madden Football game, and, received positive response from public schools and pet friendly retailers.
On October 19, 2013, JUDOBABY INC. hosted the first in a planned series of game tournaments. Players, associated with non-profit youth organizations, competed in the Final-Round where winners, and their associated organizations, received funds donated by sponsors to benefit local Art, Music, Sports & Computer Programming education. In addition, the star of Jerry Rice & Nitus’ Dog Football was on hand for photo opportunities, meet-&-greet, and, awarding prizes to tournament winners & their organizations.
As a result of Judobaby's pre-release marketing activities, including well-timed exposure at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) for retailers, and, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Jerry Rice & Nitus' Dog Football has not only drawn buying interest from traditional retailers such as Walmart, Best Buy, Target, Game Stop, and the like, but also, from pet lovers and pet retailers. Therefore, the company has created and plans to further develop its "www.DoggieMaps.com" beta site to build targeted consumer awareness, non-traditional business partnerships, and increased sales of Judobaby's Pet Sports League line of products. Doggiemaps.com site visitors, through use of mobile or PC web browsers, can view a Google Map of any city in the U.S. (currently beta testing the city of Carmel), and, by simply navigating the map and clicking on icons from Jerry Rice & Nitus' Dog Football game, obtain details regarding local businesses and points of interest such as dog friendly hotels (i.e Cypress Inn), animal shelters (i.e. Doris Day's "Duffy Day" dog rescue foundation), dog parks that need funding (i.e. city of Oakland and San Carlos), and even local retailers that simply provide "watering-holes" for their pets. Further, the site allows users to make donations, adopt rescued pets, and volunteer for programs, and, whereupon, "Doggie Maps" business partners may participate in cross-promotional opportunities (i.e. users have a chance to win a free stay at Doris Day's dog friendly Cypress Inn hotel in Carmel by donating or volunteering to help build a dog park).
As for initial results, Doggie Maps is already attracting the attention of entities such as the Adopt-A-Pet program (a Nonprofit group providing a searchable index of pets available for adoption from over 6,000 shelters) which is funded by such well recognized national companies such as Purina and Bayer Health Care. Expected future partners include a number of well-known celebrities whom support animal causes, cities that can benefit from pet related donations and volunteers, and other pet related programs and companies. Of further interest to partnering businesses and programs, Doggie Maps allows partners to reach a broader audience through the inclusion of user tweets and posts to social networking sites.
Given the universal love of pets and initial response to said program , DoggieMaps.com is being developed for national participation, and, whereupon, Judobaby anticipates progressively increasing sales revenue from all Pet Sports League products and related merchandise through its Doggie Maps website. Future plans also include additional revenue from sales of advertising space on the Doggie Maps site as well as receiving fees from referrals, and, additional compensation for subsequent purchases of goods and services.
On March 26, 2014, Marshawn Lynch (like Jerry Rice before him) signed agreement with JUDOBABY INC. to become an investor through "name and likeness,” and, along with his dog Ice, appear in the upcoming game Dino-Dogs Football VR. Marshawn will also endorse said product through live appearances, print, radio, video, and all other forms of media.
We would like to thank Andrew Forthmann and his wife Lori of True Capital Management for introducing Marshawn Lynch and his cousin Joshua Johnson (NFL QB) to Judobaby Inc.
Marshawn and Joshua created the Fam 1st Family Foundation, serving under privileged youth in Oakland California, on March 2011. JUDOBABY INC. remains a dedicated supporter since inception. On February 2, 2014, Marshawn Lynch, famed NFL running back, aka “Beast Mode,” carried the Seattle Seahawks to a Super Bowl win.
As a result of Judobaby's Game tournament to benefit non-profits ,and, subsequent syndicated article about the event by the San Jose Mercury News, Ricky Medina, Senior Manager of Business Development for the NFL Players Association, contacted JUDOBABY INC. regarding association with the Pet Sports League brand. Ricky stated “There is nothing else on the market like the Pet Sports League (PSL) product” & “It is important for the NFL Players Association to integrate with the PSL franchise."
In May, 2014, JUDOBABY INC. and the NFLPA agreed to terms whereupon the NFLPA will advise and facilitate meetings with select NFL athletes for inclusion in Pet Sports League Dog Football products.
In addition to inclusion of current NFL players (Jerry Rice & Marshawn Lynch), representing teams in California & Washington State, association with the NFL Players Association provides JUDOBABY INC. with the opportunity to leverage its growth strategy nationally with emphasis on select players representing NFL franchises within the top 20 grossing markets.
Initial 2011 sales of Dog Football exhibited the unusual and exciting “ever green” (longevity) trajectory, with the product continuing to sell units almost daily in 2017. Judobaby seeks to follow in the footsteps of great products in video game history which began modestly before growing into sales juggernauts. Examples as follows;
- Rock Band
- In 2001, Harmonics launched the video game “Frequency” as a wholly new music game IP. The product enjoyed critical acclaim but abysmal sales. However, a trickle of sales indicated an audience was there to be served, so, in 2003, the company followed with the sequel “Amplitude.” Sales were still extremely low, but there was growth, so the company persisted with the franchise. In 2005, they released “Guitar Hero,” which earned over $45 million in revenue with approximately 1.5 million copies sold. They followed in 2007 with the game "Rock Band," selling over 13M units, and, netting more than $1B in total sales.
- Grand Theft Auto (GTA)
- With the 1997 initial release of “GTA,” the product remained little more than a cult underground anomaly. The subsequent 1999 iteration of the product only produced a modest increase in sales volume. However, the 2001 release of “Grand Theft Auto 3” resulted in sales of approximately 17.5M units, and, franchise sales revenue to date is over $2 Billion.
- Brain Age
- In 2005, “Brain Age,” a new video game IP concept (games that train your brain), launched and exhibited the same “ever green” (longevity) trait as Jerry Rice & Nitus’ Dog Football. Below is a quote by George Harrison, Sr. VP of Marketing & Communications at Nintendo.
- “We’re continuing to support the original Brain Age game, it’s more than a year old now. These things do not have the typical lifecycle of a video game product where in twelve, sixteen weeks you’ve pretty much got all the business you’re going to have and then you’re done, where it’s more like a movie model. These things have a long, long life to them.”
Judobaby growth plans seek to leverage the “ever green” (longevity) appeal of Dog Football with the subsequent launch of Dino-Dogs Football VR, starring Marshawn Lynch, which the company anticipates will generate an increase in overall product sales volume. Additionally, the company plans to leverage its worldwide Pet Sports League fan base with an international launch of a third product, Cat & Dog Soccer, to exponentially increase overall sales revenue.