Accentuate is the creation of siblings Fiona and Graeme Fraser-Bell and is a really cool game where players start by splitting onto two teams. Each team then takes turns rotating through it’s members that will try and say something in an accent different to their own, while the people on their team guess where its from. The accents are taken from places all over the world, from London’s own cockney accent to the Cypriot accent from Cyprus. It’s a fun, fast-paced game that some people will be fantastic at and others might struggle but still have a laugh. In short, it’s one of my favourite games to play, especially when I’m on my sister’s team so she can carry us through.
Hi Graeme! How did you come up with the idea for Accentuate?
I was born in Wirral, Cheshire but studied all over the UK and lived in S.Africa and the USA. As VP of Global sales & marketing for a US based industrial materials company I travelled all over the World and was exposed to many different languages, dialects and accents and became a bit of a mimic. At a dinner party for family and friends at my house in 2011, I asked my guests to recite a quotation in a given accent, the resultant embarrassing hilarity was the epiphany for the game concept.
You know when you have hit something, its that tingle you get in your gut and the most powerful computer known to man is the gut
I knew there was something there but had no idea how to encapsulate it into a game, all I knew was that it seemed like the verbal equivalent of the highly successful ‘Pictionary’ and was predicated on the basis that most of us are awful at accents with hilarious results. I retired from my corporate position in 2012 and dedicated myself to developing the game from then on.
Is this the first game you have ever created?
Yes, this is the first game I have created, but in the same way that the artist and Barista Robert Angel created Pictionary and the former Microsoft engineers created Cranium. Non of us had created games before but had an insight into our creations that was probably nurturing for many years unbeknown to ourselves.
When working on a project like this, how do you manage your time?
It was part-time with some initial prototypes for 2 years, then at Christmas 2012 I gave my sister Fiona a Christmas present of a % ownership in Accentuate Games Ltd and told her it would either be the most expensive or cheapest Christmas present I had ever given her. In October 2013, we formed the company together with my Wife, Daphne, and went commercial in July 2014. From a low-key low-intensity effort in 2012, we set our strategic and business objectives and worked intensively on game-play, product design, branding, web-site design as well as comprehensive IP protection in the EU28, USA & Canada.
When you convert your own idea into a business you don’t manage your time, it overtakes you, if it doesn’t then you probably don’t have the passion to make it a success.
What’s your favourite accent?
I love doing the Dutch accent as it drives my Wife nuts! But my favourite is the Irish accent, such a warm, friendly, expressive and melodic accent.
What accent do people slip up on most?
The two most challenging accents in the game are Israeli and Egyptian which both carry the Max score of 5 points. They are truly challenging , but its not about being good at accents, its about hamming it up so that what you hear couldn’t be anything other than that accent, no matter how bad it may sound to a national of the country or resident of the region.
What’s in the new expansion pack?
The expansion pack contains another 90 accents which bolts-on perfectly to the main game. There are 30 accents and 90 film quotes so that’s 2,700 permutations of how any film quote could sound ! but also there is a point for guessing the film and the year of the film which is incredibly difficult and rarely achieved.
Why did you decide to go to the Dragon’s Den for financial backing?
I had been self-financing the game since 2013 and couldn’t continue to meet the cash demands for successful launch, we also believed that a seasoned Dragon could jump-start our positioning with the High St retailers as well as approximately 3million people watching and becoming aware of the game couldn’t be such a bad thing, or could it? That’s the risk you take.
What was your experience on Dragon’s Den like?
In my professional career I had made many presentations to Board rooms, Directors, Bankers, Investors, Customers etc as had my sister Fiona who appeared with me, but nothing prepares you for intensity of the Den and the fact that a humiliating performance would be seen by millions. We prepared like Degree Finals. We watched virtually every previous episode of Dragons Den, we prepared a comprehensive list of 126 likely questions and populated them with detailed answers. We knew what our limits were and we knew who we wanted to come on-board.
We were there for 14hrs and actually in the Den for 1h3 45min, the public saw us for 13minutes in the broadcast. Our agreed approach was to be open, honest, non-defensive and if we didn’t know the answer not to fudge or waffle. Initially, Peter Jones ripped me apart and one side of my brain was asking why we were there, this is disastrous for the business and me personally, whilst the other side of my brain was trying to respond in a calm, controlled manner, avoiding a defensive response. Eventually we managed to get the 5 Dragons to play Accentuate in varying degrees of embarrassment, hilarity and pure talent such as Nick Jenkins now famous Russian with a Yorkshire accent.
As daunting, stressful and exhausting as it was we walked away with the targeted £45,000, with our preferred Dragon; Peter Jones and with 3.2m people having watched the show and seen the game.
What advice would you offer people who have their own ideas for boardgames?
Find someone who created their own games company or created a game and use them as a sounding board and mentor. Games creators do not see others as competitors and in reality are so focused on their own projects and business’s that they have no interest in stealing any of your precious ideas. Invest in IP protection as comprehensively as possible such as geographically and product as Copyright, design and trademark. Its this investment that creates the equity in the business and is most important for future investors. Invest in the design and branding as this is ultimately what is going to drive recognition.
Decide early on if you are going to do a self-financed, Kickstarter-type deal where your game is only available on-line or you intend to license the rights to the game or seek a distributor. Don’t present your game concept like a ‘Blue-Peter’ fairy liquid bottle project. You get one chance and a very brief chance at that with any prospective customers, licensees or distributors, YOU MUST make it count, therefore the prototype must be professionally crafted using commercial grade components.
If you leave it to the imagination of your prospective targets on how the game will ultimately look, feel and play they will pass, make it as easy, short and convincing as possible when you pitch