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2012 40 Under 40 Honoree: Richard Woods

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In the fast-paced world of video games, Richard Woods’ nimble mind is keeping up with gamers’ nimble fingers. Woods is the brains behind Black Lantern Studios, a developer of 72 commercial releases, including “Dora the Explorer: Dora’s Cooking Club” and “Moshi Monsters: Moshling Zoo” for Nintendo DS.

He founded the Springfield-based company in 2004, and the video game developer now employs 50 across offices in Austin, Texas, and St. Louis. Black Lantern Studios has sold 1.5 million units through retailers worldwide, and its “Zhu Zhu Pets” title became the seventh-highest selling Nintendo DS game in the U.S. in 2010, according to NPD Group market research.

Gamers and publishers weren’t always so accepting of Black Lantern’s efforts. But during some difficult early days, Woods and company weren’t willing to say, “Game over.”

“When starting Black Lantern Studios, none of us had industry experience, nor was there a well developed professional community. We forged business relationships, recruited local talent, honed and developed personal skills and abilities, and refused to surrender even when things looked bleakest,” Woods says.

Key relationships include contacts at 2K Games, Activision, Nickelodeon, Warner Bros. and Sesame Workshops. Woods and team have developed a niche in family-friendly gaming, and Woods is a three-time winner of the Excellence in Children’s Technology Award from Children’s Technology Review magazine.

Woods says Black Lantern has released entertainment, marketing and business applications, and games for Apple, Android, Blackberry, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii and DS platforms, and the company’s products have generated an estimated $150 million in combined retail sales.

Since creating parent company Black Lantern Holdings Inc. in 2008, Woods has worked as CEO to turn around the studio’s operating margin from a double-digit negative percentage to 17.7 percent last year.

Woods built his software acumen during two years at Bolivar-based Duck Creek Technologies Inc., a software developer for the insurance and financial services industries.

He volunteers as a mentor and webmaster for Springfield’s Score chapter, which provides counseling and resources for small businesses.

Click here for full coverage of the 2012 40 Under 40.

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