Last weekend I was perusing the aisles of Toys R Us, looking to see if there were any good clearance deals left– all color-coded tags had dropped to 95% off. Needless to say, anything of value had been picked clean and all that remained were piles of Monster High iPhone 4 cases.
I’d noticed that the store had been carrying more indie and small-label board games recently and I figured I’d take a look there before I left. I saw the more popular titles, like Catan and Ticket To Ride, but not much else. (Although that’s a good start, Toys R Us.) But one thing I saw drove me to such rage I almost blacked out. What I saw before me summed up everything wrong with board games. No, scratch that. Everything wrong with Hasbro board games– SCRABBLE BOGGLE.
This is a bit confusing to both Boggle players and Scrabble players. Is this some sort of new Boggle? What happened to regular Boggle? Has the scoring changed from regular Boggle? Can I only play words as listed in the Official Scrabble Dictionary?
In some market-researched, focus-grouped, analyst-predicted stroke of genius, the company that houses the great labels of Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley had decided a while back to make the same ten games over and over again. Not content to constantly rehash existing games with electronic banking and metal cats, they’d gone and taken other good games (their “B-listers”) and renamed them, putting them all under the same game “brand” name.
Let me illustrate this logic with some product photography:
Let me put it another way. Imagine if Disney decided to do the same thing and released similarly-themed movies underneath the property with the biggest “brand equity”. See the example below? I mean, they both have space and aliens, right? It makes perfect sense to give it the name of the more well-known space and aliens brand!
To a board game aficionado, all those Scrabbleses are clearly different games. But to the average parent, who already has their mind filled with important things like raising children, they’ll see this red and black mass on the shelf and think to themselves, “I don’t need to buy Scrabble. I already have a 15 year-old set at home in perfectly good shape. Why would I ever need another Scrabble?”
And it’s not just Scrabble:
All of these other Monopoly games could be a blast to play, but I’d never know because I can’t stand the lopsided endgame in Monopoly and I’m assuming the other titles are just the same. And when it comes to the original titles, the dumbest part of making the same games over and over again is this: People already own these games. They practically last forever. How many consumers buy a whole new Monopoly for a tin cat when they already have a perfectly good box of Monopoly sitting in the hall closet?
What the fine people at Hasbro don’t seem to understand is that the brand equity these games used to have were in the Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley labels. They’re sitting on an incredible vault of game titles, like Pathfinder, Square Off, Stop Thief, and Dark Tower…but they choose to ignore them because they’re not called Monopoly, Clue, Scrabble, Life, Sorry, Yahtzee or Connect Four. It genuinely makes me sad.
Case in point: A year ago, I bought an old Milton Bradley word game called 4 Cyte in an antique store. Two players try to make words in a 6×6 grid, letter by letter. The trick is that the opponents take turns choosing which letter is added to the grid next. I’d never played anything like it. Even Karin, who absolutely hates playing Scrabble, loved it. Hasbro will most likely never, ever rerelease this title.
And if they did, they’d probably call it SCRABBLE4 Cyte.