Product developer finds passion for creating games

REED CITY — Unique types of shovels, rakes and wax paper are products David DeWinter has developed and licensed throughout his life, but his latest venture into the world of games has really ignited his creative spark.

DeWinter, who lives near Luther and works in Reed City, has developed a tile matching game, HexLinx, which involves making rings out of the six different colored tiles using strategy and logic.

During the spring and summer, DeWinter stays busy trimming trees and shrubs for his business, Reed City Tree Service. When the cold weather blankets everything with snow, DeWinter works on developing products and coming up with new ideas.

About 15 years ago, DeWinter invented a self-cleaning rake. He developed it, got it patented and licensed it to a large tool company. After that, he developed several other tools, such as snow shovels and hammers.

“I’m a very creative person,” DeWinter said. “So, that’s how I’ve spent my winters for the last 15 years, developing all these different products.”

Although he made quality products that offered something new, DeWinter quickly learned about the politics of the industry. For instance, he discovered how stores could not sell his products because of contracts with makers of similar products who did not want to compete.

The idea for a game was born two years ago while DeWinter was watching a television special on a family who developed the game Bananagrams, which successfully made millions of dollars by selling six million games to date.

“I said to myself, ‘I’ve never thought of a game,’” DeWinter said. “I design tools. A lot of people will see a snow shovel and they aren’t interested because they want to avoid work whenever possible, or a retailer can’t sell it because of a competing product, but a game is different. They’re small, sold all over the place and they’re very popular.”

Today, there are thousands of different types of games, from computer games to board games to cellphone games, but there are very few tile games, DeWinter explained. There are even fewer games that don’t require a board.

DeWinter began researching the process of producing a game, what was on the market and other necessary factors.

His first prototype for HexLinx involved foam board for the hexagon pieces, but those were too light. Next, he attached washers to the board, but they were too heavy. Finally, he found a company in Texas that made smooth, symmetrical hexagon bathroom tiles in multiple different colors.

By Christmas 2012, DeWinter had made 50 of the prototype games using the bathroom tiles, and showed the game to family, friends and retailers, including Barnes and Noble and Meijer.

The stores liked the game and told DeWinter to contact them when a shelf-ready version of the game is produced, he said. That finalized shelf-ready game will be ready in a few weeks.

DeWinter plans to sell the game on his website, hexlinxgames.com, as well as on Amazon and eBay. He also wants to sell the game at local and national retailers. Chris’s Country Dollar in Reed City has already agreed to sell HexLinx. In Big Rapids, the game will be exclusively sold at the Old Pioneer Store and Emporium.

Unlike the other products he developed, DeWinter is not licensing the game. Instead, he is doing everything on his own.

“I’ve always wanted to, instead of licensing to another company, develop the product, market it and go through the whole process of commercializing the product and getting it into distribution myself,” he said.

Although he’s found there’s a lot more work involved doing everything on his own, he’s enjoyed the process and even started his own company, GeoLinx Games.

Plans to expand on HexLinx include offering printable sheets on his website for a Soduku-type version of the game where players have to figure out the missing tiles. Next year, he also wants to create a mobile app for the game.

There’s not a shortage of new game ideas for DeWinter, who already has plans for at least a dozen more games.

“I think I’ve found my niche,” DeWinter said. “I love toys and games and I’ve got good people to help me once I get the ball rolling.”

For more information on HexLinx or to place an order, visit hexlinxgames.com.