1 Aug 2007
Bright Brains(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 08,2007)
Toys & Games
|Dilemma Games Ltd produces more than 300 different types of wooden puzzles and complex brainteasers|
Games and puzzles to stretch the mind may have been around for centuries, but a 10-year-old Israeli company is making huge inroads into popularising hundreds of brainteasers that are captivating players around the world.
Dilemma Games Ltd produces more than 300 different types of wooden puzzles and complex brainteasers that general manager and CEO Shlomi Bar-Lev claims encourage thinking outside of the box.
"The main concept behind our games is to release the mind from fixed thinking patterns," he explains. "In so doing, our puzzles can help improve mathematical and topological abilities as well as enhance creative thinking, strategic planning and sensorimotor-cognitive and coordinating abilities."
With the games running the gamut from easy to extremely tough, Bar-Lev claims they are suitable for any age from toddlers to grown-ups and any IQ level.
"Our products are more than just simple games as they also help users to think laterally in a process that can be applied to real-life problems," says Bar-Lev, adding that he believes his company offers the largest variety of such brainteasers in the world.
Products from Dilemma Games fall into two categories: the educational range and the entertainment range. "For our educational games, we have developed a specific curriculum syllabus and allied teacher training material," explains Bar-Lev. "The syllabus contains more than 100 different lessons and a teacher's manual on how to use the games as tools to develop intellectual and social skills."
In one of the firm's markets - Korea - many schools have dedicated an hour a week to a period called Dilemma Games, and Bar-Lev notes: "One of our aims is to build such 'thinking centres' in schools worldwide and to provide the puzzles, games and educational material for teachers to support this concept."
It is largely to achieve this goal that Dilemma Games prefers to appoint one distributor per country. "This way, we can train the distributor, who can pass that training on to interested educational facilities," Bar-Lev explains. "Currently, our products are sold in 48 countries worldwide and in about 20 of those we have appointed exclusive agents."
While Bar-Lev describes most of the company's games as educational, he stresses that they are also fun and "capable of captivating the mind for hours".
The company started in 1996, with just 30 items, and has added about five new items every three months. "During the couple of months between this year's Nuremburg Toy Fair and the Hong Kong Gifts & Premium Fair, for example, we added 10 new items," says Bar-Lev.
Dilemma Games' wooden games and puzzles are made from the monkey pod tree from northern Thailand at the company's 70-worker factory in Chiang Mai. The factory produces some 50,000 units per month and prices average around US$1.50 per game FOB Bangkok for a minimum order value of US$5,000-worth of assorted items.
"Currently, our most popular item is Escape, which is a topological game of moving parts suitable for all ages," says Bar-Lev. "Escape provides 21 different games based on moving 10 flat pieces."
Another puzzle is the Snake Cube, which comprises 27 cubes connected by rope and which challenges the player to bring the stretched snake back into a 3D cube.
The Kalaha set, based on an ancient African game, is a strategic game for two players who have to move marbles into the cashier slot. Pento, a game of five black and five white squares on an 8x8 square board, is also popular. "There are 15-20 lessons in our educational syllabus based on this game," Bar-Lev says.
"The Sudoku craze has created strong demand for our Sudoku board featuring 9x9 red-and-white squares, and our 16x16 Killer Sudoku board," he adds. "We also have a simpler 4x4 Sudoku Kid and Sudoku Colours, which uses nine colours instead of numbers."
Dilemma Games' latest item is Wood's Dilemma, which requires the player to remove a golf ball seemingly firmly enclosed in a square wooden frame. "There are four wooden nails holding the frame in place and the solution is based on centrifugal force," Bar-Lev explains.
With topological games appealing to the gifts and premiums market for men, Bar-Lev says that adults have two approaches to brainteasers. "One is a continual process of trial and error, and another is to step back and examine conceptually how best to approach the puzzle."
Dilemma Games' products are highly popular in western and northern Europe. "This is our biggest market and accounts for 65%-70% of our sales. The US and Asia, particularly Thailand and Korea, are also major markets," says Bar-Lev.
The company also plans to exhibit at the New York Toy Fair, and is eyeing Eastern Europe. "We are also interested in the Singapore market, where parents are keen to maximise educational opportunities for their children," he adds.
It also hopes to expand its current small range of metal puzzles into a much larger business. "In 2006, we formed a joint-venture partnership with a Chinese mainland company that manufactures all of our metal puzzles," reveals Bar-Lev.
The mainland company provides the manufacturing expertise and facilities, while Dilemma Games will provide more than 100 puzzle designs. "We are the sole distributor of these metal puzzles and we have a huge customer base," he adds.
Ultimately, says Bar-Lev, the company's long-term goal is simple: "We plan to remain in wooden games and puzzles, expand into metal games and appoint sole distributors in all our markets."
When it comes to expanding business, Dilemma Games appears to have come up with its own winning solution.
TEXT BY SANDRA JENNER
Dilemma Games Ltd