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Kingdomino Wins 2017 Spiel des Jahres; EXIT: The Game Escapes With Kennerspiel

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Nearly two months after announcing its nominees, the jury for the Spiel des Jahres — Germany's annual game of the year award, which is the game industry's largest prize as it typically leads to additional sales of hundreds of thousands of copies — has proclaimed Kingdomino from Bruno Cathala this year's winner, beating out Magic Maze and Wettlauf nach El Dorado. Kingdomino is published by Blue Orange Games, with Pegasus Spiele being the German licensee.




Minutes before announcing the Spiel des Jahres winner, the jury gave the 2017 Kennerspiel des Jahres — an award aimed at enthusiasts who already have some familiarity with modern games — to EXIT: The Game, specifically the first three titles in this series: The Abandoned Cabin, The Pharaoh's Tomb, and The Secret Lab. These titles were all designed by Inka and Markus Brand and published by KOSMOS, and three more titles in the EXIT series have already been released in Germany, with even more on the way. The other two nominees for KedJ were Raiders of the North Sea and Terraforming Mars.




The Kinderspiel des Jahres —the children's game of the year in Germany — had been awarded on June 19, with Brian Gomez' penguin-flicking game Ice Cool, published by Brain Games, taking home the prize over Captain Silver and The Mysterious Forest.


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Mon Jul 17, 2017 10:26 am
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Plan B Games Purchases Eggertspiele; Licensing Situation Currently Unclear

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In February 2017, while previewing upcoming games at Spielwarenmesse in Nürnberg, Germany, I played a sample game of Century: Spice Road with Plan B Games owner Sophie Gravel. Gravel used to own F2Z Entertainment, which consisted of the publishing brands Z-Man Games, Filosofia, Plaid Hat Games, and Pretzel Games along with various distribution contracts, but in the second half of 2016 she sold F2Z to Asmodee, keeping only Pretzel Games and one title then under contract with Z-Man Games — the aforementioned Century: Spice Road, with which she launched Plan B Games at the Origins Game Fair in June 2017.

Aside from demoing the game, I talked with Gravel about her general plans for Plan B Games, and she mentioned that it was a relief to start over and be in charge of a small company once again. Thus, it was something of a surprise to hear (via Spielbox) that Plan B Games has acquired German publisher eggertspiele. I asked Gravel about the change of course for Plan B, and she said, "When an opportunity appears, it is almost impossible for me not to grab it."

To be precise, Plan B Games Europe GmbH has been founded in Germany, and this is what acquired eggertspiele. Spielbox notes that "Eggertspiele founder Peter Eggert intends to actively contribute to the development and distribution of new games for three more years", and Gravel confirms this. "The whole eggertspiele team is staying on board. We need them to continue developing great games!" The next releases from eggertspiele, which are scheduled to debut at SPIEL 2017 in October, are Heaven & Ale from Michael Kiesling and Andreas Schmidt and Reworld from Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling. Gravel notes that the design and development of these titles was completed by the eggertspiele team, but now "sales and marketing of these two titles will be entirely assumed by the Plan B team".

What does this new arrangement mean for eggertspiele's current licensing partners: Stronghold Games, which releases English-only titles in the U.S. and elsewhere; Gigamic, which releases eggertspiele titles in French; and Pegasus Spiele, which has served as a co-publisher and distribution partner to eggertspiele for many years? After all, Plan B Games is a Canadian company that serves the English and French markets. Regarding the first two publishers, Gravel says, "At this point, I am not entitled to answer these questions as these issues concern eggertspiele and must be dealt with by them." Mathilde Spriet, who heads the communication and editorial departments for Gigamic told me, "Discussion with eggertspiele, Plan B and Gigamic are happening right now, thus I do not have any official answer to give you. I hope we we will know more in the next days." (I've received no responses so far to questions sent to eggertspiele. Stephen Buonocore at Stronghold Games has declined to answer questions for now.)

As for sales in Germany, Gravel says, "Eggertspiele is looking into a few options for the German language market. A decision should be made shortly." Historically eggertspiele and Pegasus have released games with rules in both German and English, but it's unclear whether this practice will continue in the future. "As for the English version, Esdevium has chosen to pass on this opportunity, so they [i.e. eggertspiele] are evaluating other options for a localized European EN version," says Gravel.

Circling back to Century: Spice Road, that title is licensed to ABACUSSPIELE in Germany, and Gravel says there are no plans to change that arrangement at the moment.

Update, July 7, 2017: Mathilde Spriet from Gigamic has sent me this update on the situation: "We should keep our current eggertspiele titles in our catalog, and for the future titles it will be discussed game by game." (And I believe "we should" is a Frenchism for "we will". I know that I always blew modal verbs when I was studying French because it's tough to know exactly what to use when.)
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Thu Jul 6, 2017 4:20 pm
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Gen Con 2017 Preview Now Live

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The 2017 Origins Game Fair is over, so it's time to look ahead to Gen Con 2017, which takes place August 17-20 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

I'd say more about one or both of these shows, or the rate at which titles will be added to the Gen Con 2017 Preview over the next two months (which starts at 146 titles while the previous two years had about 550 on them), but I got sick at the end of Origins — bad sandwich, I think — and can barely think straight, so just have at it!
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Mon Jun 19, 2017 6:54 pm
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Links: Diana Jones Award Announces Nominees, Go Machine Goes, and HABA Asks for Submissions

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• The nominees for the 2017 Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming have been announced, and as usual they cover an interesting cross-segment of the gaming community. The nominees are:

Gloomhaven, with which users of this site are probably familiar
Terraforming Mars, ditto
Gen Con, the largest game convention in the U.S., which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary in 2017
End of the Line, a LARP by Bjarke Pedersen, Juhana Pettersson and Martin Elricsson that DJA describes as "the most interesting thing to happen in Vampire for a long while [combining] two decades long traditions of LARP, American Masquerade and Nordic style LARPing."
The Romance Trilogy, a set of role-playing games from Emily Care Boss and Black and Green Games
The Beast, a card game from Aleksandra Sontowska and Kamil Węgrzynowicz published by Naked Female Giant (and available at DriveThruCards); here's a description of this creation from DJA, which falls far outside BGG's definition of a game, but which sounds enticing all the same:

Quote:
The Beast is an unsettling, erotic journaling game for one player. Each day for twenty-one days you turn up a card with a prompt on it and write a response in your journal. The game takes you deep into imagining a disturbing, secret sexual relationship you have with a beast. If there's one thing you don't see much of in hobby games, it's meaningful interior narratives, but The Beast's weird, unique brew of dark transgressions, playing as a fictional version of yourself and journaling the results, somehow surfaces real untold truths in us about how the world works, and how relationships work, and what's important in life. The Beast is memorable, transgressive, and procedurally and thematically unlike anything else you may have played.

• AlphaGo, an AI developed by DeepMind (a company purchased by Google in 2014), defeated the world's top-ranked Go player, Ke Jie, in a series of matches in China in late May 2017, and now having bested the best the program will play Go no more. In a blog following the 3-0 victory by AlphaGo, DeepMind CEO and co-founder Demis Hassabis wrote:

Quote:
The research team behind AlphaGo will now throw their energy into the next set of grand challenges, developing advanced general algorithms that could one day help scientists as they tackle some of our most complex problems, such as finding new cures for diseases, dramatically reducing energy consumption, or inventing revolutionary new materials. If AI systems prove they are able to unearth significant new knowledge and strategies in these domains too, the breakthroughs could be truly remarkable. We can’t wait to see what comes next.

As a parting gift for Go players, DeepMind offered the following:

Quote:
Since our match with Lee Sedol, [a world champion that AlphaGo defeated 4-1 in 2016], AlphaGo has become its own teacher, playing millions of high level training games against itself to continually improve. We're now publishing a special set of 50 AlphaGo vs AlphaGo games, played at full length time controls, which we believe contain many new and interesting ideas and strategies.

We took the opportunity at the Summit to show some of these games to a handful of top professionals. Shi Yue, 9 Dan Professional and World Champion said the games were "Like nothing I've ever seen before — they're how I imagine games from far in the future." Gu Li, 9 Dan Professional and World Champion, said that "AlphaGo's self play games are incredible — we can learn many things from them." We hope that all Go players will now enjoy trying out some of the moves in the set.

Those quotes will resonate with anyone familiar with Hikaru no Go and the main character's quest for the "divine move"...

• The U.S. division of HABA is running a game design contest that's open until July 31, 2017. To participate, you need to purchase a $3 design kit from HABA that includes random bits from various HABA titles, then create something for 2-5 players that plays in 15-45 minutes using at least three of the elements in the kit. If HABA doesn't sell its two hundred design kits prior to mid-June, it will bring copies of the kit to the 2017 Origins Game Fair. Sounds like a late-night challenge for fairgoers!

• The city of Nürnberg, Germany contains seven municipal museums as well as various historic sights and collections, including the German Games Archive, which contains more than 30,000 parlor games. How did I not know about this before?! Apparently I need to stay in Nürnberg a day or two after Spielwarenmesse ends in 2018 so that I can check this out.

Aside from that archive, games show up in other places as well, with Ken Fisher's card game Wizard being featured as the "showpiece of the month" for June 2017. BGG admin Emile de Maat was visiting the city in late May 2017, and at the Stadtmuseum im Fembo-Haus he ran across a "games with antiquity" exhibit (depicted below) that features modern games about olden times. On June 13, 2017, the Stadtmuseum im Fembo-Haus will feature a presentation by Reiner Knizia titled "The World of Games". Lots to check out in that city!

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Wed Jun 7, 2017 6:07 pm
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Asmodee North America to Go Exclusive with Alliance Game Distributors

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In December 2015, Asmodee North America announced a plan to reduce the number of distributors that it deals with for the hobby game market to five: ACD Distribution, Alliance Game Distributors, GTS Distribution, PHD Games, and Southern Hobby Supply. As of August 1, 2017, that number will be reduced to one, with Alliance Game Distributors signing a multi-year agreement with ANA that's "aimed at broadly increasing support for U.S. hobby games retailers", to quote from the press release. Here's the rest of it:

Quote:
This includes the creation of a large, dedicated Asmodee Specialist Team at Alliance, significant updates to Asmodee's sales policies, and a number of upcoming retailer initiatives designed to support and grow the market.

More information on updated Asmodee sales policies and details about upcoming retailer initiatives will be made available in late June.

"This is an amazing and transformational deal," said Christian T. Petersen, CEO of Asmodee North America. "We at Asmodee have long enjoyed a terrific and productive relationship with the great people at Alliance. This deal joins the combined experience of both organizations to craft a communications and distribution infrastructure that we believe will positively affect both retailers and consumers in the hobby games market."

"We are truly honored to be part of this historic agreement," said Daniel Hirsch, president of Alliance Game Distributors. "Alliance has enjoyed a very close relationship with the companies that make up Asmodee North America for over 20 years. We are both proud and grateful that Asmodee has placed its trust in us for the stewardship of its brands."

Asmodee has declined to participate in interviews about this deal until late June 2017 when it announces the new sales policies. It has noted that new releases and restocks will be available from the five currently authorized distributors until August 1, 2017, after which Alliance will be the only source for such items in the hobby game market.

In some ways this is a return to old habits for parts of ANA as design studio Days of Wonder was exclusive with Alliance for many years and remained exclusive for a period after being purchased by Asmodee in mid-2014. Z-Man Games was exclusive with Alliance until January 2016 when it opened distribution to four other companies, namely the four non-Alliance companies listed above. (Asmodee subsequently announced negotiations to purchase Z-Man owner F2Z Entertainment in July 2016, completing the deal in October 2016.)

So what now? The four non-Alliance distributors will lose some percentage of their business, and whether they survive or not will depend on what that percentage is and what they do in response to this loss of revenue. Hobby retailers who previously dealt with a non-Alliance distributor for titles that originate or are distributed by Asmodee North America must now deal with Alliance — unless they purchase directly from ANA, of course, which might be where this path leads to in the end. After all, ANA has gone from a dozen distributors to five to one in a couple of years. Why stop there?

At the same time as the December 2015 announcement about its distribution, ANA made changes to how it interacted with online retailers, both prohibiting general retailers from selling ANA titles online and lowering the discount at which online retailers could purchase games, thereby effectively raising prices of games sold through those outlets. This change to a single distributor will give ANA still tighter control over its inventory, better allowing them to know who sells what and for what price.

As for what happens with other publishers in response to this, specifically CMON Limited, which is positioning itself as the Avis of the hobby game industry, we'll have to wait and see...
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Thu Jun 1, 2017 6:00 pm
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IELLO Adopts Minimum Advertised Pricing Policy, While CMON Limited Updates Theirs

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On Wednesday, May 24, 2017, CMON Limited announced a new unilateral Minimum Advertised Pricing Policy (MAPP), and here's the announcement in full:

Quote:
Today, May 24, CMON, Inc. announced it has adopted a unilateral Minimum Advertised Pricing Policy (MAPP) that will go into effect on June 1, 2017. Along with the new policy, CMON has restructured its existing hobby distribution network in the U.S. effective immediately. By unilaterally imposing restrictions on minimum prices advertised by CMON's new distribution network and retail partners, CMON products' perceived value in the customers' eyes will be enhanced, which is in the best interest of consumers and CMON's partners.

With the adoption of the unilateral MAPP, CMON has restructured their U.S. hobby distribution network to ensure efficient and effective distribution of their products to consumers in accordance with the new policy. As of May 24, 2017, the current hobby distributors CMON is working with include Alliance Game Distributors, ACD Distribution, and Peachstate Hobby Distribution (PHD).

The CMON MAPP will only apply to CMON branded products within the U.S., and products with a Minimum Advertised Price will appear on the current MAPP price list hosted on CMON.com. Adherence to the MAPP is non-negotiable for CMON product resellers, and will be strictly enforced by CMON to ensure the CMON brand maintains a high value in the consumer mindshare.

A copy of the CMON MAPP will be available at CMON.com/mapp and the CMON MAPP price list will be available at CMON.com/mapp-prices.

Those latter two URLs don't lead anywhere at this time.

Note that this isn't the first MAPP from CMON, which in mid-2014 introduced an agreement that retailers had to sign in which they agreed that their minimum advertised price "for all CMON Box Games shall be no less than 80% of the MSRP provided by CMON", with that policy applying to "all CMON Box Games released during the preceding 12 months", which at that time included Zombicide: Prison Outbreak, Zombicide: Toxic City Mall, Rivet Wars, Kaosball, Dogs of War, Xenoshyft and Arcadia Quest.





IELLO — or at least the U.S. branch of IELLO — introduced its own MAPP in May 2017, with that policy going into effect on May 15, 2017. An excerpt from that policy:

Quote:
IELLO acknowledges and understands that its current and continued success is directly related to the success of its network of authorized dealers (including without limitation all IELLO distributor, wholesale, and retail customers that resell IELLO products to consumers, known herein as "Vendors"). IELLO also recognizes and understands that its Vendors take great pains to deliver a first class experience to their customers, and IELLO desires to support its Vendors in furtherance of achieving their goals by protecting its image and reputation, promoting its brand and providing excellent resources that are key to maintaining the hobby culture for game enthusiasts. Therefore, it is in the interest of both IELLO and its Vendors to protect the Vendors’ ability to continue to provide an outstanding experience and exemplary service to their customers. In furtherance of the aforementioned dual interest, IELLO believes that it is also in the best interest of both IELLO and its Vendors to discourage advertising practices that would be detrimental to the service and support efforts of our Vendors. As a result, IELLO has developed and put into force this Minimum Advertised Price Policy ("MAPP") on a UNILATERAL BASIS. This MAPP shall in no way be considered or construed to be an agreement (or to create any contract) with or between any Vendor or other person or entity, and shall only apply to advertised pricing. It is in no way meant to regulate actual sales prices whatsoever.

Both IELLO and CMON Limited adopted "unilateral" policies, which means that the companies introduced their policies without prior and explicit agreement with those who retail their products, and while retailers are free to ignore these policies, they do so at the risk of not being able to carry these titles in their retail outlets in the future. From the IELLO policy:

Quote:
The decision to comply with this MAPP is left up to each individual Vendor, and if they choose to comply, all such Vendors are solely responsible for maintaining compliance with IELLO's MAPP. IELLO reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to suspend or discontinue selling Products (and otherwise discontinue doing business with) any Vendor that: (i) advertises any Products covered by this MAPP at a price in contravention of this MAPP; or (ii) takes any other action whatsoever in contravention of this MAPP.

The MAP for IELLO titles, by the way, is 80% of the title's MSRP, which matches CMON's earlier stated MAP and which is the same as Mayfair Games' MAP when it was introduced in 2007. (That MAP was later changed to 90% of a game's MSRP. I've written a lot about MAPs, both in 2007 when the policy was introduced and in 2016 when Asmodee changed its distribution structure to charge higher prices to online retailers.)
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Fri May 26, 2017 4:17 pm
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Kingdomino, Magic Maze, and Wettlauf nach El Dorado Nominated for the 2017 Spiel des Jahres

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The nominees for the 2017 Spiel des Jahres — Germany's "game of the year" award, which typically boosts sales of the winner by several hundred thousand copies — have been announced, and they are:

Kingdomino, by Bruno Cathala and Pegasus Spiele, with Blue Orange Games being the publisher of origin
Magic Maze, by Kasper Lapp and Pegasus Spiele (originally Sit Down!)
Wettlauf nach El Dorado, by Reiner Knizia and Ravensburger




Seven additional titles were recommended by the jury of journalists and game reviewers that oversees the Spiel des Jahres, an annual award meant to honor a game that would be a great choice for play by German families (and by extension families everywhere). These titles are DEJA-VU, Dodelino, Fabled Fruit, KLASK, Shiftago, Tempel des Schreckens, and Word Slam.

The jury announced nominees for two additional awards as well. Titles up for the Kinderspiel des Jahres, Germany's game of the year for children, are:

Captain Silver, by Wolfgang Dirscherl, Manfred Reindl, and Queen Games
Ice Cool, by Brian Gomez and AMIGO Spiele (originally Brain Games)
Der Mysteriöse Wald (a.k.a. The Mysterious Forest), by Carlo A. Rossi and IELLO




The games nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres — an award aimed at enthusiasts who already have some familiarity with modern games — are:

EXIT: Das Spiel, a series of three escape room games from Inka Brand, Markus Brand, and KOSMOS
Räuber der Nordsee (a.k.a. Raiders of the North Sea), by Shem Phillips and Schwerkraft-Verlag (originally Phillips' own Garphill Games)
Terraforming Mars, by Jacob Fryxelius and Schwerkraft-Verlag (originally from FryxGames and Stronghold Games)




Four additional Kennerspiel-level titles were recommended by the jury: The Big Book of Madness, Captain Sonar, Great Western Trail, and The Grizzled.

The winner of the 2017 Kinderspiel des Jahres will be announced Monday, June 19 in Hamburg, while the 2017 Spiel and Kennerspiel des Jahres winners will be revealed on Monday, July 17 in Berlin.

Congratulations to all the nominees!
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Mon May 22, 2017 10:00 am
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Links: Mensa Winners, Co-op Games for Newbies, and Black-and-White Squares Forever

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It's been a while since my previous link round-up, so some of these links might be less timely than is ideal. Still, onward!

• Voting for the Deutscher Spielepreis 2017 is underway, with gamers being asked to vote for their five favorite games from the second half of 2016 and the first half-ish of 2017. Votes can be placed through July 31, 2017, and the winners will be revealed at SPIEL 2017 in October.

• Speaking of awards, American Mensa announced the latest winners of their annual Mind Games competition in late April 2017:


That's a handful of traditional Eurogames right there, with Renegade Game Studios picking up its three straight win for Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure, following Lanterns: The Harvest Festival in 2015 and World's Fair 1893 in 2016. (Gravwell: Escape from the 9th Dimension won a Mensa Select award in 2014 when it was published by Cryptozoic Entertainment, with Renegade taking over as that game's publisher in late 2014.)

Around the World in 80 Days is a new version of Hare & Tortoise (the first Spiel des Jahres winner), while Amalgam is a U.S. version of Glastonbury, which is itself a new version of Kupferkessel Co. (which was a Spiel des Jahres-recommended title in 2002). Imagine and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle rounded out the Mensa Select awards for 2017.

• Before I started writing about games full-time, I was a freelance magazine writer, following in my wife's footsteps. She's still carrying on in this career, with 2017 marking the end of her second decade in this field, and she recently wrote about "7 board games for kids who hate to lose", with this essentially being an introduction to co-op games for Canadian publication Today's Parent.

• I posted a Hasbro-centric links round-up in late April 2017, noting the company's 41% net earnings increase in Q1 2017 compared to Q1 2016. What I didn't note is that this quarter marks the first time in seventeen years that Hasbro has beaten Mattel in revenue, a detail highlighted in an Associated Press article that credits Toilet Trouble for this wondrous event. From the article:

Quote:
"I never thought I would actually get to talk about this on an earnings call but, you know, Toilet Trouble is off to a very good start," CEO Brian Goldner told analysts Monday after putting up very strong first-quarter numbers.

Now Hasbro is flush with cash!

Popular Mechanics is a relic of the past, at least in my mind, because I associate it with my father, who had huge stacks of both that magazine and Popular Science in his basement workshop. I loved reading "Wordless Workshop" even though most of the ideas seemed gimmicky and impractical, on par with solutions to all the Encyclopedia Brown stories I read in my youth. I'm not even sure what Popular Mechanics now covers or how it still exists, but I do know that it recently featured "The 50 Best New Board Games", a pictorially jam-packed, Amazon-affiliate-laden overview of fifty new board games that you may or may not agree are "best". 'Twas ever thus...

• This video in PBS' "Infinite Series" explores concepts related to infinite chess — that is, chess played on an infinitely large chessboard — including how many moves it might take to determine when a game might end.

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Thu May 18, 2017 2:37 pm
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Hasbro Links Round-up: Q1 Revenue, Quarterly Gaming Crate, and Corporate Citizen Status

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Hasbro has issued a revenue report for Q1 2017, noting that revenues are up 2% — $849.7 million vs. $831.2 million — compared to Q1 2016. Net earnings compared to Q1 2016 are up 41%: $68.6 million vs. $48.8 million. These increases follow Hasbro's record-setting 2016, the first year that it topped $5 billion in net revenues. From the press release:

Quote:
"Our first quarter results are in line with our previously communicated expectations and we are well positioned to execute against 2017's rich content slate and diverse new initiatives," said Brian Goldner, Hasbro's chairman and chief executive officer. "Revenue grew in the quarter and we drove strong consumer takeaway at retail, both compared to a robust first quarter last year and with a shift of Easter into this year's second quarter. Over the coming quarters, we are supporting significant new initiatives including major theatrical films for both Franchise and Partner Brands."

Quote:
Hasbro Gaming posted 43% revenue growth to $142.9 million driven by Hasbro's diverse gaming portfolio. The strong revenue increase was led by several new games, including SPEAK OUT, TOILET TROUBLE and FANTASTIC GYMNASTICS, digital gaming, and several other gaming brands, including DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, BOP-IT and PIE-FACE. Hasbro's total gaming category grew 10% to $253.3 million.

Hasbro divides its products into four brands — Franchise Brands, Partner Brands, Hasbro Gaming, and Emerging Brands — and some of its game sales hide in the Franchise Brands category, as noted elsewhere in the press release: "Hasbro's total gaming category, including all gaming revenue, most notably MAGIC: THE GATHERING and MONOPOLY, which are included in Franchise Brands in the table above, totaled $253.3 million for the first quarter 2017, up 10%, versus $231.1 million in the first quarter 2016. Hasbro believes its gaming portfolio is a competitive differentiator and views it in its entirety."

• To take advantage of its "competitive differentiator", in mid-2017 Hasbro will debut the Hasbro Gaming Crate. Four times a year, Hasbro will ship subscribers who pay the $50 fee either a party or family-themed game crate that contains three games. An excerpt from a Fortune article:

Quote:
"We've seen the subscription trend and how strong it has become outside of our industry and we thought 'Gamers are into their games and they want to try new games all the time,' said Jonathan Berkowitz, senior vice president of marketing for Hasbro Gaming, in an interview with Fortune. "It is a perfect marriage for the gaming category." ...

Berkowitz explained that the party themed boxes will incorporate more "edgy" games that are ideal for adults, while the family crate is for all different ages and more inclusive. Hasbro built a new separate team within the broader Hasbro Gaming segment that will focus exclusively on the Hasbro Gaming Crate service. The idea is that all the games that will be shipped will be new — so consumers that order the crate won't be getting boxes of Candy Land and Jenga shipped to their homes.

The service is also a way for Hasbro to innovate at a faster pace than is typical for the industry.

In an interview with CNBC's Jim Cramer, Hasbro Chairman and CEO Brian Goldner referred to the Hasbro Gaming Crate as "profitable experimentation" since those who buy the Crates are encouraged to give feedback on the titles, which might then make it into general distribution depending on the results.

What might you find in these new games? Nothing has been announced, but the Fortune article includes this paragraph about how Hasbro turned around its games division after initially trying — and failing — to incorporate "tablet functionality" into its existing game brands:

Quote:
One critical source of inspiration has been viral videos. Hasbro saw the web-driven buzz around the Pie Face game and bought the rights to manufacture and distribute the game after it became a viral hit. Other games that have been inspired by viral videos have included Egged On (based on a gag utilized by late-night host Jimmy Fallon), Flip Challenge (inspired by the bottle flipping trend on YouTube), and Speak Out (also inspired by viral web videos).

CR Magazine has ranked Hasbro first in its annual list of the "100 Best Corporate Citizens", with the companies being ranked in these seven categories: environment, climate change, employee relations, human rights, corporate governance, financial performance, and philanthropy and community support. The "CR" in the magazine's title stands for "corporate responsibility". (ranking PDF)

• By chance, I recently ran across a 2016 article in The Times, a UK-based newspaper, that detailed how "women housed by the Good Shepherd Sisters in Waterford packaged board games for the global toy franchise Hasbro in return for 'pocket money' as recently as 2012". Excerpts from the article:

Quote:
"In the 1980s, Hasbro entered into an agreement with the Good Shepherd Sisters in Waterford to provide materials for packaging by our residents," said the Good Shepherd Sisters in a statement. "The residents who participated in this activity were regularly given what was then known as their 'Hasbro money envelope'."

The Good Shepherd Sisters said that the order "in no way profited from this commercial relationship with Hasbro, which ended in 2012".

A former factory employee from Hasbro Ireland said her mother had been housed by the Good Shepherd Sisters and had also packaged Hasbro toys, but for "pocket money rather than wages".

The former employee, who asked not to be named, also claimed that the women who worked on the site of the Good Shepherd convent in Waterford worked longer hours than employees in Hasbro’s Waterford factory

Quote:
When asked about its business relationship over three decades with the Good Shepherd Sisters in Waterford, [Hasbro] said that it had no direct commercial involvement with the order. Instead, the company said, it had a business relationship with Rehab, a charity that aims to help those with a disability in the workforce.

Julie Duffy, a spokeswoman for Hasbro Inc, said: "Rehab in Waterford, many years ago, approached Hasbro to provide small work tasks for the clients they serve. Hasbro viewed this as a community service."

Duffy said that, between 1999 and 2008, Hasbro paid Rehab approximately €25,000 a year.
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Links: Sales Figures from Asmodee and Steve Jackson Games, and an Unrivaled Opportunity to Play to Win

W. Eric Martin
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• In mid-March 2017, French investment company Eurazeo posted a report (PDF) of its 2016 fiscal year, and that's of interest to gamers given that Eurazeo owns game publisher Asmodee, which itself consists of Fantasy Flight Games, Days of Wonder, Z-Man Games, and several other publishing brands. Here's the Asmodee section of its report:

Quote:
ASMODEE (fully consolidated)

Continued robust organic growth and an ongoing international acquisitions policy

In 2016, Asmodee posted revenue of €377.2 million, up +39.5% on a reported basis compared to the previous year, and solid organic growth of +18.5% at constant scope and exchange rates.

This growth was spurred by all product lines and regions: international activities now represent 75% of Group revenue, particularly in the US and the UK. The year was marked by a particularly robust performance in the cards segment, driven by Pokémon which benefited from favorable trends in all the Group’s European countries.

The Group's EBITDA totaled €65.2 million, resulting in a 17.3% margin. EBITDA increased by +57.5% on a reported basis and +23.7% at constant scope and exchange rates.

Asmodee is also pursuing its strategic initiatives: enhancement of its editorial contents in all regions and on all media, ramp-up in new regions, primarily the US, and creation of its digital platform offering.

Pro forma of the external growth transactions carried out at the end of 2016 (F2Z, Heidelberger, Millenium and Edge), revenue in 2016 totaled €402 million and EBITDA amounted to €78.1 million, i.e. a +19.4% margin.

Net financial debt totaled €223.6 million following the June 2016 refinancing and the acquisitions at the end of 2016, i.e. a leverage now lower than 3.0x EBITDA.

Eurazeo is a shareholder in 34 companies. (HT: Sebastian Wenzel)

• To follow up on this April 2017 post about Catan Days 2017, Asmodee North America has announced that "due to an unforeseen circumstance" Catan Days has been postponed, with a new date still to be announced at a later date.

• Phil Reed has posted Steve Jackson Games' annual stakeholder report for 2016, which always provides fascinating insight into one of the longest-lived U.S. game publishers still active on today's market. An excerpt:

Quote:
2016 was a challenging time for many of us in the office. It was our second year in decline, with gross income just over $6 million. Additionally, this was the first year in over a decade that we showed a loss. Our insistence on perfection resulted in our two biggest planned releases — the Munchkin Collectible Card Game and Car Wars Sixth Edition — being pushed back (keep reading for more information on both of these games). That meant our time invested in both games did not benefit the bottom line in 2016, and that led to lower than expected revenue. Fortunately, our management team saw early enough in the year that these games would miss 2016 that we kept our cash flow stable and avoided potential cash crunches. Our cash flow report — first mentioned by Steve in the 2010 report — continues to protect us from unexpected harm.

• On March 31, 2017, Identity Games managing director Erik Spindler transferred his shares of the company to new owners. To quote from the press release: "With a number of global titles like Escape Room: The Game, Poopyhead and the original Mouthguard Challenge, this is a good time for Spindler to take on a new challenge. Founder and managing partner Albert Meuter and managing director USA Emile Kalis, as well the new shareholders" — Jeroen Nugteren (General Manager International) and Jan-Maurits Duparc (Chief Creation) — "are now the new management. Jelle Marcus is the new manager for tailor made games."

• Want to watch players compete in tabletop games for money? Oomba hopes so, Oomba being "a specialized social media company that is creating an interactive social network for tournaments, leagues and teams".

The specific event that Oomba has created is the Unrivaled Tournament Series, which features six games — Munchkin, Ascension, King of Tokyo, Nevermore, Villagers & Villains, and Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Rumble at Castle Tentakill — for which 284 retail stores will hold satellite tournaments through June 2017, ahead of regional tournaments from July through September and the finals in October 2017 in Las Vegas. Oomba promises $250,000 in cash and prizes for those who make the grand final, with sanctioned satellite venues receiving payouts matching those of their players, thereby giving them an incentive to host in the first place (beyond, of course, simply encouraging people to come to their store).

An excerpt from a Forbes article about Oomba and the Unrivaled tournament series:

Quote:
"Unrivaled is a celebration of social aspects of tabletop gaming," says [Oomba CEO Michael] Williams. The company and its partners are betting that the excitement generated by the tournament gets more people into the world of tabletop games, and generates greater outside attention to the marketing, sponsorship and engagement opportunities for organized play. If their strategy pays off, it may open a whole new field of play for the esports model and a new point of engagement for the fan economy that has taken over popular culture.

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Mon Apr 17, 2017 3:13 pm
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