Launched in 2015, Exploding Kittens claims to have sold over 18 million tabletop games in over 50 countries. Its flagship game of the same name is a Russian roulette-style competition, in which players try to avoid drawing “Exploding Kitten” cards that eliminate them. Players can “defuse” cats with cards depicting laser pointers and catnip sandwiches, as described in the game.
Netflix paid Exploding Kittens to secure the intellectual property rights to the card game, representatives from both companies told dot.LA. Neither company disclosed financial terms.
“The co-development of a game and an anime series opens up new possibilities for Netflix,” Mike Moon, head of adult animation at Netflix, said in a statement. “We couldn’t think of a better game to build a universe than ‘Exploding Kittens’, one of the most inventive, iconic and original games of this century.”
Matthew Inman, co-creator and creative director of Exploding Kittens.Courtesy of Explosive Kittens
The show “Exploding Kittens” will see the eternal conflict between Heaven and Hell manifest on Earth when God and the Devil are incarnated in the form of big domestic cats, according to Netflix. With Tom Ellis (“Rush”, “Lucifer”), Lucy Liu (“Shazam”, “Elementary”) and Mark Proksch (“What We Do In The Shadows”, “Better Call Saul”), he is currently in development with showrunners Shane Kosakowski and Matthew Inman, the latter being the co-creator and chief creative officer of Exploding Kittens, Inc.
Inman, the designer behind The webcomic Oatmeal, created the card game alongside Exploding Kittens CEO Elan Lee, former design director of Xbox Entertainment Studios. Lee previously developed a card game called “Bomb Squad” that eliminated players who drew bomb cards, he told dot.LA. Inman, who met Lee through a mutual friend, thought the game was great but needed a new name, feeling the explosive ordnance seemed too much on the nose. Instead, players should be scared of something cute, fluffy and adorable like an exploding kitten, he suggested.
“At that point, we formed a partnership and decided to start working together and we’ve been doing that ever since,” Lee said.
They ended up raised over $8.7 million for the original Exploding Kittens game in What’s Left the most supported Kickstarter campaign by number of donors ever. Since then, the company has over 80 full-time employees who have helped create 15 games as well as 14 puzzles and expansion packs. The company will release the seventh iteration of Exploding Kittens, “Zombie Kittens,” next month.
Exploding Kittens’ jump to Netflix can be attributed to a $30 million investment in 2019 from TCG Capital, the Los Angeles-based investment firm headed by the former News Corp executive. Peter Cherin. Chernin convinced the game’s creators to expand their IP and think about shows, movies, and other ways to let people “live in those worlds instead of just playing the games,” Lee said. The company started buying its IP a little over a year ago before striking a deal with Netflix, according to Inman.
“We were like, ‘What do we do next?’ We were all over Target, Walgreens, Walmart. We wanted to do something different,” Inman said. “I’m a cartoonist, a writer, I’ve worked in animation and boards. which I think is good.
Elan Lee, co-creator and CEO of Exploding Kittens.Courtesy of Explosive Kittens
Netflix has decided to expand beyond movies and shows as it faces more competition and slower subscriber growth. The company has bought three game studios since September, including Night School in Glendale, and now has 17 mobile titles available to subscribers. The streaming service has also rolled out interactive programming — starting with the 2018 movie “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” and most recently with the cartoon “Cat Burglar” — that blurs the lines between TV and gaming. This comes as data indicates that younger consumers increasingly prefer games to more passive forms of media.
Netflix’s “Exploding Kittens – The Game” will retain gameplay from the tabletop version and will be available free to subscribers. The Netflix version adds exclusive cards that help players find explosive kittens or reverse the order of cards in the game. Future cards and game mechanics will be tied to the anime series.
Over the years, the founders said they debated how best to measure their success, from the Uber driver who knew “Exploding Kittens” to the late Alex Trebek asking a question about the card game during an episode of “Jeopardy! ”
“We’re debating this topic because it’s fun and interesting, and there’s no right answer,” Lee said. “Until a Netflix show comes along. That’s definitely a good answer.
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