Meet the Seller: Red Herring Games

11 August 2016

Jo Smedley and Emma Fairhill are the team behind Red Herring Games, the Grimsby-based company that creates, sells and hosts thrilling murder mystery games and events. We had a chat with Managing Director Jo to see how their Murder Mystery games go from concept to a worldwide hit.

How did Red Herring Games begin?
It started in around 2003, but it was 2007 when we officially launched. At the time, I wanted to try and open a coffee shop, but I would have needed some funding for it, so friends of ours said “Why don't you start selling your murder mystery games?”.

I had already started writing games for the church youth group, so we tried it with the parents first and they loved it, and they asked me to write another load of games. At first I sold them on another platform but I didn't like their customer service, so friends who were in business and ran website companies said we should try and set up Red Herring Games, so we launched in 2007. Our first big order was a wedding planners association in America before we'd even launched, we did a big murder mystery for them and then it's juts grown from there. Now we supply all over the world, and we do Murder Mystery events all over the world. I've been to Hawaii this year, and we've done one in Barcelona in the past, so it's all go.

Tell me a little bit about the Murder Mysteries you write.
We have over 70 titles for small groups and dinner parties, which go from six players through to 20 players, or some of them just go from six to 12. With those packs, we can also make a DIY events for people to play when they have large numbers, such as a fundraising group, things like that. We also have more titles for large groups but we ask people to come and speak to us about those as they can become quite complicated.

The dinner party games are available for people to buy so they can play them at home, and then you get the CDs with them to play along, you don't know who has done it either so it is quite good. And we will print on demand, so say somebody rings up and says they need one for nine people, we'll customise it.

Where does the inspiration for your stories come from?
It depends. Some of them are custom writes, and then from those we can have another title. We did one for Disney Stores Ltd which has now become 'A Corporate Murder' and 'Mayday Mayday Murder' was originally written for the Scouts, so there is quite a lot that's just come up like that. Then other times, I'll write something that I think will sell really well because it will tie in with TV and movie releases, like a James Bond themed one, we have a Game of Thrones themed one, we have Dishonour on the RMS Gigantic, which is a Titanic themed game that tied in with some recent celebrations.

What is your most popular Murder Mystery?
The best seller is 'Murder at Merkister Hall' which goes out every week! It's a 1920s, Agatha Christie-type setting in a manor, the Butler is dead but who's done it? You have the people who live there, the Vicar, a racing car driver, an artist, all of the classic characters and plot, so that one's really popular.

What is a typical day like for you?
It varies because it's very seasonal. We've just done a big custom order for a client, so I have been working on that, inventing props and writing paper articles. On an average day we come in, print off the orders, deal with those and then we sit down with the customer service emails, phone calls and ticket sales, spending time answering customer queries. Come September, October, November, December, we are flat out. We are just running continuously, trying to keep up. In the next few months we've got to re-stock Amazon in the US, and I've got to work out what we sold last year and try and get the same stuff over there ready for Christmas sales this year.

And can people stop by your shop in Wellowgate?
We want people to come in and have a chat with us. A lot of people don't know what they're doing first time round, so they can just walk in and have a conversation with us, and we can source things to go with the murder mystery for them too.

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