It only took one scene from a movie to inspire what has become the No.1 best-selling game on Amazon.
With thousands of games sold worldwide, Watch Ya Mouth has earned its spot as the best-selling game on Amazon in three categories — Toys and Games, Launchpad and Card Games.
The creators Peter and Alison Denbigh, both JMU alumni, were watching “The Boss” when a scene showing the lead character, Michelle, came on. Sitting in Michelle’s office, Claire, played by Kristen Bell, tried to whiten Michelle’s teeth using a whitening pen. Michelle wore a cheek retractor in her mouth to help keep it open while Claire tried to work.
“She kept trying to talk,” Peter said. “It was really funny.”
It was after this scene that the Denbighs started their journey out of their Staunton home.
“Peter ordered cheek retractors to test out,” Alison said. “When they arrived, we started playing with them and the game started to take form,” Alison said.
Supporting up to 10 players, the goal is to try and understand what people are saying with dental cheek retractors in their mouths. One player is the reader and one the interpreter. Readers place mouth openers in their mouth and read the word or phrase on the card.
Players have 60 seconds to go through as many cards as they can. The cards range between one and two points. One point is awarded for each correct interpretation, and bonus cards are worth two points. The team with the most points after four rounds wins.
The Family Edition and Family Expansion Packs are meant for ages eight and up. However, there are also Not Safe For Work Editions intended for ages 18 and over.
Alison said the phrases “are hilarious” and “make for a great evening.”
Jasmine Matos, a sophomore at JMU, said that Watch Ya Mouth has been one of the funniest games she’s played, and she has recommended it to her friends and family.
“I played a lot of rounds and we couldn’t stop laughing,” Matos said.
While Matos recommends the game to anyone looking for a good laugh, some say that Watch Ya Mouth wouldn’t be their first pick.
Rachel Petty, a senior at JMU, says the game is “silly and entertaining” but that she prefers strategical games.
“If you’re into more serious, strategical games, I’d steer clear,” Petty said.
Although Watch Ya Mouth has become a global success, getting there was not easy. The Denbighs had difficulties getting funding early on.
In order to make enough money for their first production they had to start a Kickstarter campaign. Six hundred and seventy backers donated $27,586 to help bring Watch Ya Mouth to life.
“Traditional banks would not fund us because we had not been in business over a year and had no capital or assets,” Alison said. “We borrowed money from some friends and family, but still needed more to get us through the holidays.”
They resorted to invoice factoring financing, which has a higher interest rate. Invoice factoring financing allows a business to sell its invoices to a third party at a discount in exchange for cash without selling equity or taking on debt.
“We went as long as we could without it, but timed it where it was only needed for about 40 days, then were able to pay if off quickly,” Alison said.
For a couple of months, the Denbighs were fulfilling website orders out of their basement. It became so demanding that they switched to Vector Industries out of Waynesboro to help fulfill their orders.
“Our families would come down during the weekends and some evenings to help make boxes,” Alison said.
The Denbighs did everything from inserting the product pieces, placing shipping labels and dropping the packages off at the post office.
“Our dining room turned into the temporary headquarters in the evenings and night, and then my office was HQ during the day,” Peter said.
For Peter and Alison, the definition of strange has changed since the start of this game. It was fulfilling for them to place their hand on the product and physically ship it out, but even more rewarding when customers would place videos and comments on social media.
“Kids laugh until they cry, grandparents losing their dentures, adults peeing their pants, marriage proposal, the list goes on,” Alison said. “It is the highlight of our day to watch these videos at the end of a hard working day.”
The game pieces were originally only made in China due to time constraints, but are now produced overseas and domestically.
“We have a couple great partners that produce high-quality product and passed all safety checks,” Alison said. “We have moved some domestically to avoid air shipping during the holidays, the logistical ease and to support our country.”
The game is part of the Amazon Launchpad program, which helps startups tell their story, get discovered, build their brand and earn global customer trust.
“They hold our hand through the onboarding process, purchase order/shipping process, marketing, portals and all the many items a vendor must master with Amazon to be successful,” Alison said.
Watch Ya Mouth also has expansion packs and a phone app.
The app has free in-app purchases, automatic scorekeeping and two to four teams with unlimited players available for both iPhone and Android phones. It contains all of the expansion packs along with some free seasonal expansion packs.
The game, a top seller for Target and Toys R Us, is also selling in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.
“Overall, we’re extremely grateful for this opportunity — to do something that we enjoy, make countless people laugh and to ride the crazy startup rollercoaster of ups and downs,” Peter said.