The puzzling case of a man whose business has not made him any money in 20 years

    David Ward

    Not every business is founded solely with the motivation to make profit, with some people establishing their companies more out of a love for what they do than as a way to get rich.

    David Ward is one such person. For the past 20 years he has invested his time and money in creating a range of traditional games tailored to educate as much as entertain.

    Mr Ward’s passion has seen him develop at least 60 different games over this period, but he is aware that enthusiasm on its own does not make every business lucrative.

    “I haven’t made much money at all. Perhaps even a small loss, but I just enjoy doing it,” he said.

    His games, many of which have never been marketed, are simple yet elegant pieces of craftsmanship that are made almost entirely out of wood.

    Reflecting the simple concept are the equally self-descriptive names of his games, such as the ‘Columns’.

    This game, which proved very popular in the United States, sees two opponents place different shaped tiles on a row of columns with the objective of being the first to reach the top, while also being able to block off the other player.

    They are initially designed in his garden workshop, before those deemed to have a marketing potential are mass produced in Asia and shipped off to toyshops and gaming stores across the world.

    To date, the 74-year-old former motor engineer has sold around 50,000 units, a figure which may seem large, but which Mr Ward claims is actually very modest.

    “It sounds like a lot but it really isn’t,” he says, “and it is not enough to make serious money as the royalties are so low and I have to pay for the materials.”

    David Ward 2

    Perhaps surprisingly, his main market at the moment is Europe, particularly Finland and Germany, with none his games retailing in the UK for a number of years.

    However, Mr Ward believes this reflects both the inertia of his domestic market and the willingness of those in Europe, especially Germany, to try new things.

    “The Germans love games and have a market four times that in Britain, which is hard to crack.

    “The problem with the UK is they do not like anything that new and outside of the traditional formula as it is seen to be too risky.

    “Unless they can brand it with something like Thomas the Tank Engine, for example, which guarantees it will sell no matter how poor the game actually is, then they do not believe it is worth investing in.

    “It is almost a problem with the country’s approach to things as a whole and I believe in a wider sense we have lost a lot of good engineering ideas because of it.”

    He likes his games to have an element of education to them and believes they are an important method of facilitating social interaction, which he believes is threatened by a ‘worrying’ rise in computer game addiction.

    “Educational games combine the best of both worlds but I also make them simple. There is of course some demand for highly complex games but it is very small.”

    Mr Ward took early retirement to embark on his chosen career in making games as he had little time to pursue his passion whilst running the former Birchwood Garage in Southborough with his brother-in-law.

    And while it has not generated riches, he is perfectly content to carry on and share his new inventions with his grandchildren. “Not making much money does not bother me too much, but it would be nice none the less.”

    LIST OF BESTSELLING GAMES IN THE UK

    1: Monopoly
    2: Scrabble
    3: Connect Four
    4: Risk
    5: Battleships
    6: Trivial Pursuit
    7: Cluedo
    8: Snakes and Ladders
    9: Jenga
    10: Twister