Cranium, coined the Ben & Jerry's of the game world, may find cause soon to expand its flavors. The Seattle-based independent board-game...

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Cranium, coined the Ben & Jerry’s of the game world, may find cause soon to expand its flavors.


The Seattle-based independent board-game maker raised $15 million in second-round funding, led by Seattle-based Maveron and TPG Ventures of Menlo Park, Calif.


TPG Ventures and Maveron, founded by Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz and Dan Levitan, also led the game maker’s first $21 million investment round in April 2003.


Cranium Grand Poo-Bah Richard Tait — that’s his official title — said the company received a “checkered flag” from its investors to introduce new games, enter the publishing market and accelerate its international expansion plans.


The company introduced the board game Whoonu inside Starbucks cafes in April and plans to release two other games — Cranium Family Fun and Bumparena — this fall. It expects to expand from 22 to 50 international markets by year’s end.


Meanwhile, in the company’s first venture beyond the games market, Cranium joined with Time Warner’s Little, Brown Books for Young Readers to introduce “The Cranium Big Book of Outrageous Fun” in September.


It will introduce eight additional titles by the end of 2006.


The company, founded in 1998 by former Microsoft executives Tait and Whit Alexander, tested the traditional distribution channel for board games by introducing its flagship product, Cranium, in Starbucks, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.


The game sold its first 1 million through word of mouth.


The company quickly gained notice in the industry. Cranium became the first to win the Toy Industry Association’s prestigious “Game of the Year” award three years in a row.


Cranium reported a 70 percent rise in U.S. retail sales last year and a 73 percent increase in the first five months of this year. Tait said the company has since seen the rise of the “branded household,” with families carrying multiple Cranium games.


Tait said the company has received an “overwhelming response” based on its “promise to give every player a chance to shine.”


“It’s in our DNA. It’s the corporate mission.”


Monica Soto Ouchi: 206-515-5632 or msoto@seattletimes.com