Richard Tait, co-inventor of the board game Cranium, dies at the age of 58

Mr. Tait studied undergraduate computer science at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh before moving to the United States where he earned a master’s degree from the Tuck School of Business in Dartmouth. Upon completing his MBA, he took a job at Microsoft in suburban Seattle just as that software maker was growing into one of the most powerful companies in the world. Not long after, he hired one of the company’s most notable employees: future chief executive and chairman Satya Nadella.

In the 1990’s, during the heyday of multimedia CD-ROMs, Mr. Tait oversaw Microsoft’s catalog of reference titles, including the Encarta Encyclopedia and Bookshelf, a omnibus collection, Roget’s Thesaurus, The American Heritage Dictionary, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, and The Chicago Manual of covered style. He eventually became something of an entrepreneur-in-residence at the company, launching five new Internet companies within Microsoft within four years, including Carpoint, a car buying service, and Sidewalk, an online city guide.

He left the company in 1997 hoping to become a radio disc jockey due to his Scottish accent. But after a failed audition, he decided to develop Cranium and start a new company, Cranium Inc., with Mr. Alexander, a former Microsoft colleague.

By the time they finished developing the game in late 1998, game stores and other traditional retailers had already stocked their shelves for the holiday season. But one afternoon, as they met for coffee at a Seattle Starbucks, Tait-san had another thought: What if they sold the game through the coffee shop chain?

“His idea was not to sell the game where games are sold, but where our customers are,” said Mr. Alexander. “Most of the people we targeted would never set foot in a game store.”

Through an acquaintance, Mr. Tait arranged a meeting with Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO, and soon Starbucks was selling Cranium in stores across the country. Later, Mr. Tait and Mr. Alexander arranged similar deals with Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, both of which were known at the time for mostly selling books and not games.

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