By LIZ HARDAWAY

Staff Writer

PUNTA GORDA — One Punta Gorda startup is gaining international attention for a new, innovative way to play hide and seek. And their idea came from a child.

Introducing Countdown, a futuristic hemisphere that adds timers, puzzles and bright flashing lights to a classic outdoor game. The developer of the toy, Pressure Games, was founded in October 2018 to create toys that combine classic playground games with technology.

“The end-result is toys that deliver new challenges and excitement to encourage healthy social and developmental skills for children,” the company states on its website.

The idea came from 7-year-old Sebastian Andreae, the son of the company’s CEO, Alex Andreae.

He loved hide-and-seek, and would hide a beeping drone controller from his father and family to find. The family would only have so much time to find the controller, adding excitement to the classic hide-and-seek game.

The hi-tech game of hide and seek won the award for best outdoor sports toy at the 2019 Outdoor Toy Awards, an international competition held in London.

Over 50 children, aged 5 to 14, judge the toys and determine the winners of 10 different categories.

“We couldn’t be more proud about this award,” said Pressure Games CEO Alex Andreae. “It affirms all the work that our small team has put into our first toy over the last six months and generated a real excitement for our launch later this year.”

The toy has 10 levels of difficulty, ranging from just simple hide-and-seek to games and reading, and is ideal for kids ages 3 to 10 years old. The game can be played indoors or outdoors with two or more players.

The players agree on a difficulty level and a time to find Countdown and solve the puzzles.

One player, the “hider,” sets the timer and hides the toy and then returns to the other players.

Some might wonder why a timeless game like hide-and-seek needs an upgrade.

“Countdown is an aide to play by using a little technology to structure games, add some goals and excitement,” the company states on their crowdfunding website. “Then,(it) steps out of the way so kids can have fun, together.”

However, the game isn’t finished, with final development ongoing of the toy.

The team, which is comprised of Andreae, Nilesh Kulkarni, the company’s firmware lead, and Liz Hughes, the company’s creative lead, started developing the toy by ordering parts and assembling them. Now the team can redesign the product and print it through a 3D Printer in Andreae’s garage overnight.

There have been around 40 different revisions of the toy, according Kulkarni.

Now Sebastian and his sister, Alexis, provide “the most critical feedback,” according to Andreae, of developing models. Family friends sometimes even protect the toy during test runs with Nerf guns, adding an extra level of pressure to find the toy.

Pressure Games is launching a crowdfunding campaign later this year to raise further funding to start their first full production run. The crowdfunding campaign will be for pre-sales of units at a discount to the listed price upon release at around $20, according to Andreae.

The company plans to sell the toy for $30 to $35 for their first full production run, which will probably happen by February, Andreae said.

To learn more about the toy, visit www.pressuregames.com.

Email: Liz.Hardaway@yoursun.com

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