The New Head Gamemaker

84379164 Ravensburger Felix Kästle dpa
Ready to play. Source: DPA

The new head of Ravensburger is demonstrating how the toymaker’s latest showpiece, the GraviTrax, works. A little marble follows the track that includes ladders, slides and even a Gauss cannon, named after the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, that can boost the ball on its track. The set allows people to build a miniature Rube Goldberg machine, and Clemens Maier is using it to lay out his plans for the company founded by his great-grandfather.

The marketing for the GraviTrax will go beyond the German-speaking market. With it, Mr. Maier hopes to break into international markets dominated by Hasbro and Lego. Customers can buy a starter kit for a little less than €50 – or build a digital marble run on the app and watch it play out there. “We have to simultaneously be in the haptic and digital world,” Mr. Maier said at his first press conference as chief executive.

According to Mr. Maier’s research, 70 percent of two to 12-year-olds are immersed in digital play for at least 30 minutes a day. “Ravensburger has to be present there, too,” he said. “Our responsibility is to promote development in a playful manner, regardless if it’s in the digital or physical world.” To learn through play is the German way, with GraviTrax, it’s all about gravitation. “Perhaps the children could even learn who Gauss was,” said Mr. Maier, letting his dry sense of humor, adopted after many years in London, come out to play.

To turn his vision for the family business a reality, Mr. Maier has brought in new managers from the outside and brought in a generation change. For the last 15 years, outsider Karsten Schmidt has headed the firm, until Mr. Maier came in in April.

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