Ultra Pro's Nick Fiorillo: Don’t be Afraid to Take the Next Step

by Ultra Pro Entertainment | 18 Feb 2023

Biographies and Interviews


What are your roles and responsibilities in our industry?
- I am the Senior Product Line Manager for Ultra PRO Entertainment. I handle all of the production for our game division. In the role I’m responsible for the finding of potential new products, and then taking those products from prototype all the way through to market.



What has been your biggest achievement?
Getting the Ascension Tactics kickstarter across the finish line has certainly been my biggest achievement as a Product Manager. That product was a beast, it had two versions of the game plus a few other items that were addons from the campaign. But at the end of it we were all very proud of the final product.


Do you have a mantra that you live by?
- Don’t be afraid to take the next step. I find that sometimes people can get paralyzed by how much they have to do but if you just focus on the next thing and then the next thing you’ll often find that it's not as bad as you think.


Why and how did you get into the Toy and Game industry?
- My brother and I grew up playing Magic the Gathering and we were lucky enough to play on the Pro Tour and Grand Prix circuit for a bit. Through that experience we were able to meet a lot of people and make a lot of great friends. My brother and one of those friends started Stoneblade Entertainment and created the very popular game Ascension. Once they were up and running and looking to add to their team I came onboard and the rest is history. I worked there for about 4 years and then when the publishing deal with Ultra PRO was made, I came to Ultra PRO to help grow the games business.


What are you working on now?
- We have three new products coming out later this year that we are all very excited about. We will be making announcements on those games soon. Stay tuned! I’m also already in the process of trying to identify our potential 2024 releases.


What has kept you motivated to stay in the toy industry?
- The first time someone came up to our booth at a trade show and told us how much fun they and their family have had with one of our products I was hooked. Games are a thing that brings people together and I love being a part of it.


If you look back at yourself 10 years ago, is this where you thought you’d be? 
- 10 years ago I was just making my decision to move from NYC to San Diego to work at my brother’s exciting startup board game company. Would I say it all went according to plan? No, definitely not but it’s been a very interesting ride that I’ve truly enjoyed, even through all the tricky bits. I’m not one to really think too far ahead though. I like to just take things as they come.



What was your favorite project to date?
- Easily the game You Gotta Be Kitten Me!. It was back when I worked at Stoneblade and we were just a small startup which is always exciting. We had so much fun working on that game both playtesting and also coming up with the graphic design direction. It’s still one of my favorite games to play with my friends to this day.


What trends do you see in toys or games that excite or worry you?
- I love when I come across a new game mechanic I’ve not seen before. I think Quacks of Quedlinburg is a good example of that. I had not played a “bag builder” before and I just thought it was very interesting. I don’t really have anything that worries me.


What advice can you give to inventors who are presenting new toy or game ideas to you?
- I would just say to relax and take your time.


What advice do you have for people starting in the industry?
- Try and learn as much as you can about the whole process of taking a product from concept to release. Even if your current position is only responsible for certain things along the way, knowing the full process will definitely help out in the long run.


What is the most rewarding part of your job?
- Seeing people enjoying the products we make.


What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what did you learn from it?
- Burger King when I was a teenager. I definitely learned patience.


What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
- I’m always trying to find ways to increase my bandwidth. Never seems to be enough time in the day.


What and/or who inspires you?
- I find people that have built their own companies from the ground up to be very impressive. That seems like an insane amount of work.


What excites you?
- I always get excited when we have a new game about to hit the market. There’s a lot of anticipation there to see how people react to it.


How do you define creativity?
- Being able to create something that wasn’t already there. I think I’m a good tinkerer but I need something to be there already. People who truly create things from scratch are very impressive to me.


How do you define innovation?
- Taking something that already exists and adding to it or changing in a way that makes it unique.


Where do you come up with your best ideas?
- Through collaboration. I’m a big fan of talking things through. Sometimes I’ll hear something explained in a new way that triggers something in my mind.


How do you recharge or take a break?
- Taking a walk always helps clear my head or just chatting with a coworker about some non-work things will help me recharge and refocus.


What words describe how you think or how your brain works?
- Calculated, Decisive, Patient



What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
- I remember when The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was released like it was yesterday. I was 12 years old and I was just completely blown away by that game. I’ve played it through probably close to 100 times and still probably play it about once a year.


Where were you born?
- Brooklyn, New York


What was your life like growing up?
- Pretty normal I think, moved around a bit due to my parents work. We just bounced around between Brooklyn and Staten Island, so it wasn’t like we were moving around the country or anything. I have two older brothers so I learned to have pretty thick skin from an early age.


Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
- I grew up in New York City and I think it helps me be efficient in my actions. That whole city is run at such an efficient pace that you kind of just learn to be that way. When everything is operating properly, that city is really impressive with regards to the raw amount of things that are going on at any given time.


Who are role models for the work you do?
- A recent supervisor of mine, Chris Schroek, turned into a bit of a role model for me. I learned a lot from him in the few years I worked with him. I’m still learning from him as we’ve stayed in contact since he’s left Ultra PRO to pursue other opportunities.


How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled?
- I often will try and chat about the thing I’m trying to do. I feel like just bouncing things off another person is very helpful. I find creative tasks to be easier with collaboration.


What are your favorite childhood memories?
- Most of my good memories from my childhood revolve around games of some sort. Either playing board/card games or playing sports with my family/friends.


Are you named after anyone?
- Santa Claus, not kidding. My birthday is so close to Christmas that my Mother named me Nicholas for Good Ol St. Nick.


Do you have a nickname?
- Nope, I just go by Nick.


Do you have any kiddos?
- Nope, no kids for my wife and I. We’re childish enough as it is.



Do you have any guilty pleasures?
- MTV’s The Challenge. My wife and I have been watching that show for years. Can’t get enough of it for whatever reason. I will admit it’s not the pinnacle of television by any means, but we love it.


What is your favorite way to waste time on your phone?
- Reddit mostly. I feel like it keeps me up to date on the things I’m interested in.


Who are your favorite musicians, singers or musical groups?
- I’m a fan of a lot of different types of music, but my favorite would be dance music and my favorite of that is a group called Above and Beyond.


What’s your favorite cereal?
- Frosted Flakes, can’t go wrong with a classic. Except for all the sugar of course.


What’s the first thing you usually notice about people?
- Sincerity I would say. I have a good eye for people putting on an act. Usually comes before they try to sell you something you don’t need.


What is the last time you did something for the first time?
- Last July I rented an RV with some friends and we camped out at a music festival for the first time ever. It was at the Gorge Amphitheater in Washington and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and I’ll be back for sure.


What are your favorite websites?
- Reddit, YouTube, Twitch all the normal ones really.


Do you prefer scary movies or happy endings?
- I prefer lighthearted movies for the most part.


What are your favorite TV or streaming shows and what is on your list to watch?
- As mentioned earlier I have a strange addiction to MTV’s The Challenge for some reason.
- Stranger Things
- Seinfeld
- The Office
- Breaking Bad

Nothing particularly out of the norm I’d say.


Who are your favorite (answer one or all):

  • Actors - Varies from time to time but at the moment I’d say Pedro Pascal and Anya Taylor Joy are my favorites right now.
  • Performers - Above and Beyond for sure. I’ve seen them perform probably over 100 times at this point.
  • Artists - Jordan Peele probably. All the things he puts out are really good.
  • Chefs - I enjoy Gordan Ramsey’s content a decent amount.
  • Athletes - As a Yankee fan I’m a big Aaron Judge fan of course.
  • Designers - Richard Garfield of course and I would also say I really like Vlaada Chvátil’s work as well (Codename and Galaxy Trucker)


What are your favorite sports and sports teams?
- I’m a big sports fan. I follow Baseball, Football and Hockey very heavily and my teams are the Yankees, Giants, and Rangers respectively. I also really enjoy watching Soccer, Tennis, and Golf as well as some Esports but I don’t have particular athletes or teams I root for in those.


What is your favorite night out?
- These days I would say dinner with some friends and maybe a few drinks afterward but 10 years ago my answer would have been different probably.


Favorite movie of all time?
- Goodfellas, this may sound weird but it just reminds me of home when I was a kid.


What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
- Either Germany or Hawaii I’m not sure which one was further from my home at the time. I went to Hawaii for a Magic Pro Tour and Germany for Speil Essen a few times.


What’s your beverage of choice?
- Flavored seltzer water.


Tell us about your hobbies?
- I still do a decent amount of gaming although most of it is online. I would say League of Legends and World of Warcraft are the two most consistent games I play these days. I also play golf from time to time.


Summer or Winter?
- Winter but to be fair winters in southern California are barely winters.


Hugs or Kisses?
- Hugs


What is your eye color?
- Brown


Everything would have been different if…
- It was different. If things were different, they’d be different.


The toy and game industry clearly has….
- A great and welcoming community.


I’m lucky that….
- I get to make games for a living.


What do you want to be when you grow up?
- Retired at some point I hope.


What’s next?
- I’m really looking forward to this new area of products we’re moving into. I think it will bring along a lot of new and exciting challenges for me and also us as a company.

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