Company cranks out ‘5th Grader’ game

Melissa Westphal

When Wal-Mart speaks, retail suppliers listen.

That includes Patch Products, the Beloit-based toy and game manufacturer, which recently acquired the rights to produce the newest version of the “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” board game.

The company spent just six weeks — from signing the licensing agreement to final assembly this week — to get the games, from the TV show of the same name, ready to ship to Wal-Mart, which wanted the newest version on its shelves before Christmas.

December is typically a busy time for toymakers — 80 percent of games are sold during the fourth quarter, most of those in the last three weeks of December.

But even so, “this is definitely one of the fastest games we’ve put together,” said Lisa Wuennemann, director of marketing. New games usually go through at least a nine-month production schedule.

Hasbro had been producing the game but was looking to give the licensing rights back to Mark Burnett Productions, producers of the TV game show. When Patch Products heard the rights were available, it jumped at the chance, paying an upfront fee and a percentage of games sold. The game retails for $24.99.

Patch Products changed some of the game play in this version based in response from game testers. Players familiar with the original game will notice this version allows for faster game play because multiple players can participate at the same time. The 600 questions included with the game are also new.

“This is a multigenerational game where kids in school can compete with adults,” said Patch’s Jessica Wineke.

The past few years have been busy for the Beloit company, which recently acquired Smethport Specialty Co., manufacturer of Lauri and Smethport toys and games. The purchase tripled the company’s product line, Wuennemann said.

The company also is creating an iPhone application for its Farkle dice game and recently became the exclusive U.S. distributor of Überstix, a line of interactive construction toys. It will release its 2010 fall toy line at the national toy fair in New York in February.

And Patch officials have high hopes for their newest game.

Board games are enjoying a resurgence in popularity because of the recession, Wuennemann said.

“Board games retail around $20, some $10, so it’s affordable and you can play with multiple people,” she said. “And you can play that same game over and over again.”

Melissa Westphal can be reached at (815) 987-1341

Sample questions

Q: What ocean borders New York City?

A: Atlantic Ocean

Q: True or false? All birds migrate.

A: False

Q: What word is the verb in the question, “Are you smarter than a fifth-grader?”

A: Are

Q: Active volcano Mount St. Helens is in what U.S. state?

A: Washington

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A: 3 pounds

Q: Silkworms primarily feed on the leaves on what species of tree? A) mulberry B) eucalyptus C) maple

A: Mulberry

Q: What day of the week is named after the Norse god of thunder?

A: Thursday

Q: Copenhagen is the capital of what European country?

A: Denmark

Q: What type of electrical charge does an electron carry?

A: Negative

Q: The _____ system is a way of counting using just the numerals 0 and 1.

A: Binary

Q: What is the lightest noble gas?

A: Helium