Hasbro is an American toy manufacturer with headquarters in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. One of the two largest toy companies in the world (only toy giant Mattel is larger), Hasbro is a Fortune 500 company with name recognition worldwide.
In the early 1920s, a textile company was founded by two brothers who named their company after themselves -- Hassenfeld Brothers. Over the course of twenty years, Hassenfeld Brothers began manufacturing small school supply items, such as pencil boxes and simple maps. This concentration on items for children proved popular during the so called Baby Boom, and convinced the brothers to produce even more toy items -- specifically, doctor and nurse kits which children used to (I hate to say it) "play Doctor".
In 1952, the company had its first big break. Inventor George Lerner was looking for major distribution for his toy he called Mr. Potato Head. The two brothers saw potential in this strange toy, and purchased the rights for nationwide distribution. The rest, as they say, is history.
Following the success of Mr. Potato Head, the company produced other big hit toys, like the G.I. Joe "action figure" in 1964. It's interesting to note that the company, still known as Hassenfeld Brothers, figured that G.I. Joe would fill a nitch in toys for boys -- "dolls" could be easily marketed to girls, but boys would scoff at playing with such girly toys. In a sense, G.I. Joes are nothing but dolls for boys.
In 1968, the company officially changed their name to Hasbro, following their string of successes. Other major toys introduced by Hasbro include My Little Pony, the original Transformers, Cabbage Patch Kids, and the Easy-Bake Oven.
Hasbro, like any good large American company, has made a point of acquiring smaller companies and producing these companies successful toys as their own. Smaller companies now owned by Hasbro include giant game maker Milton Bradley (acquired in the mid 80s), Parker Brothers, Playskool, Caleco, Wizards of the Coast, and Tiger Electronics.
By purchasing these companies, and producing their toys as its own, Hasbro has increased its share of the toy market considerably. Their most recent major acquisition, game maker Cranium, was a major coup for Hasbro, as Cranium has sold over 20 million games worldwide. Another huge subsidiary of Hasbro is the Kenner toy company, best known for Play-doh, Star Wars toys, Care Bears, and other great toys from my own childhood. By swallowing up smaller competition they not only increase their own product line, but ensure their place in the American toy empire.
Hasbro and Parker Brothers
In the world of board games, there is no name larger than Hasbro. When Hasbro acquired Parker Brothers, they got the rights to the most popular and best selling board game in the world (Monopoly) as well as an impressive list of other titles, such as Battleship, Candy Land, the Game of Life, Risk, and Ouija.
The complete saga of the Parker Brothers acquisition is a little more complex than it may seem. After George Parker, the founder of Parker Brothers, died in 1952, his family fought to keep the company in the family. In the early 60s, however, Parker Brothers was acquired by General Mills, who quickly merged the company with their other popular toy manufacturer Kenner.
This merged company, known as Kenner Parker Toys, was itself purchased by Tonka in the late 80s, and the entire operation (Tonka-Parker-Kenner) was finally bought out by Hasbro in 1991. A typically American business story which has led to the creation of the second largest toy company in the world.
Hasbro & Monopoly
As the best selling board game in the world, Monopoly is a huge piece of the Hasbro board game empire. While Hasbro has owned the rights to Monopoly there have been lots of landmark events in Monopoly history. In 1993, the board game celebrated its 60th anniversary. Last year, the game turned 75, making the real estate and development game older than most of its fans.
In 1995, Hasbro "officially apologized" to the residents of Atlantic City's "Marven Gardens" neighborhood for the misspelling of its name on the board as "Marvin Gardens", and event covered in major news outlets worldwide. In 1998 and 1999 two game piece related events occurred -- the first being a fan vote for "favorite game piece of all time" (the racecar, of course) and a new game piece was introduced, as voted on by fans -- a large sack overflowing with cash known as the Sack of Money. Typical for greedy Monopoly players.
At least three major editions of the game have been introduced since the year 2000 -- the Millennium edition (in a collectible tin), the America edition ("celebrating life, liberty, and the pursuit of properties!") and the most recent "Monopoly: Here and Now" edition, also based on fan votes. Fans were asked what Monopoly would look like if it were invented "now" -- the result is a "global" edition of the game, featuring worldwide properties, renewable energy utilities, and multicultural houses and hotels.
Around 2002, rumors began circulating on the web that Hasbro was going to discontinue using the Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley labels, and perhaps even discontinuing the production of Monopoly to focus on electronic and internet based gaming. Thankfully, these ridiculous rumors have been put to rest by the company's executives, one of whom was quoted as saying: "It is with great pride that we use the names Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley on our games and puzzles".
I, for one, never believed these rumors, as these company's names and Monopoly in specific are simply too popular to discontinue -- it wouldn't have made business sense.
As of November 2008, film director Ridley Scott verified that he is directing a movie based on Monopoly (believe it or not), has received permission from Hasbro, and even named his screenwriter -- Pamela Pettler, known for films like Corpse Bride and Monster House.
While it may be difficult to imagine this popular board game as a movie, Scott has been quoted as describing it as having "a futuristic sheen a long the lines of . . . .Blade Runner." This quote raises more questions than answers, but fans of the game should be interested in the fact that a script is being written and a crew assembled for filming over the next year or two.
By acquiring the parent company of the most famous and popular board game in the world, Hasbro made a shrewd and profitable business move. Judging by the seemingly monthly appearance of new Monopoly versions, the filming of a Monopoly movie, and the wide fan base, Hasbro will continue to profit from this game for years to come.