When I think about board games “corporate” is not the first thing that comes to mind. But increasingly, the board game is becoming a corporate entity.
I had never really thought about this till just the other evening. My husband and I, via Game Paradise, are the custodians of approximately 1100 different board games these days. Back when we started this I created a tracking system to help keep them all organized. You have to when you have that many games! We keep information on the games such as: How many parts are in it? How many players does it support? Is it an “adult” game, or is it kid friendly? Who publishes it? It was this last question that led to a rousing debate and my ponderings on the corporate nature of games.
You see, we have a new business partner that wanted to help catalog a new batch of games that had just came in. Some were old, some were new. She had cataloged a couple of games with me by her side, but this day, she was flying solo. She ran across a game by “Parker Brothers”, and found that the company wasn’t in our system. Being the smart cookie that she is, this seemed completely outside of the realm of possibility because Parker Brothers is a huge game manufacturer. She sat the game aside and we discussed it later.
It turned out that my husband had put all of the Parker Brothers games in the system under “Hasbro”, a parent company who bought up Parker Brothers years ago. There was a lively debate about whether or not we should do that, and ultimately it was decided that all Hasbro games needed to be divided into more appropriate categories. Why? Â Because Hasbro owns a little bit of everything and is continuing to gobble up game companies. If we put all of Hasbro’s children under the Hasbro company name, half our library would be Hasbro. For instance, TSR (the company that created Dungeons and Dragons) was bought some time ago by Wizards of the Coast. Wizards of the Coast was bought by Hasbro.
After realizing just how much could be swallowed up under a single parent company, I began thinking about what that really means for gamers. I don’t know about you, but when was the last time you saw an “Original” game created by Hasbro? Sure, you might see new titles out, but they are usually rehashes of the same old tired things. Why is that? Because product development is expensive and doesn’t always pay off. How many hundreds of games are created before a company manages to create the next “Settlers of Catan”? Thus innovation is solely in the realm of the smaller companies.
Secondly, Hasbro kills small games stores. Do you like your local game shop? If you do, heed my warning. Hasbro is a multi-billion dollar corporation that does business with big box chains, like Wal-mart. The prices that us smaller retailers get the game for is actually a buck or two more then I can buy it off the shelf for at Wal-mart. That means that no one is going to come to my little store to buy a copy of Monopoly for twice the price they can get it else where, and that means my little shop can’t afford to carry it and be competitive. This means poorer selection, and the slow painful death of game shops. (On that note, I am much chagrin to say that my other half saw “Settlers of Catan” on the shelf at Wal-mart for the first time a couple of days ago. **Grumbles**)
I know why small companies sell out to people like Hasbro. The money is good, but having the “Microsoft” of board games is not good for gamers. It means less innovation, the death of the local game shop, and unfortunantly the death of gaming as a major pass time in our society. The next time you go to buy a game, I implore you to keep this in mind.
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