Last week, I briefly mentioned the change coming to the Avalon Hill game line brand, as direct control over it moves from WotC to Hasbro (see "Rolling For Initiative -- The Week At Wizards That Was"). Under Wizards of the Coast, the Avalon Hill product line was pretty much restricted to Betrayal at House on the Hill, Axis and Allies, and assorted expansions and variants for the two, while games derived from the Dungeons & Dragons brand had been licensed out to WizKids and Gale Force Nine. WotC did release several games under the Avalon Hill brand several years ago, Pirates and Plunder and Rocketville spring to mind, but they did not sell well and were eventually cleared out at prices well below MSRP. Here is one reason why I think Hasbro made the switch now and two possible outcomes:
- More focus (The Reason). As a comparatively small component of Hasbro, WotC for the past two decades has focused on D&D and Magic: The Gathering. Board game launches under the Avalon Hill brand have never gotten the attention that those two properties have. Hasbro does make board games in addition to their extensive toy lines, although primarily kids and family games, so moving the Avalon Hill property to Hasbro, which already has extensive channels of distribution into the mass market. Adding the Avalon Hill line to the existing board game portfolio gives the company a ready-made line of adult oriented games to promote at a time when the board game market is still expanding.
- HeroQuest (Possible Outcome #1). Hasbro/Avalon Hill currently has a timer on their web site running counting down the seconds until a major announcement regarding HeroQuest is made on Sept 22. I would assume that it would be a relaunch of a new edition of the game, given the success updated versions of such games as Fireball Island and Dark Tower have seen lately. I'd imagine Hasbro expects to capitalize on the nostalgia that HeroQuest brings to the table as the original players of the game become middle-aged. Doing so under the Avalon Hill brand, rather than Parker Brothers or Milton Bradley (which was a co-publisher of the original game), makes sense and switching Avalon Hill directly to the Hasbro portfolio also makes sense, although I don't think a HeroQuest relaunch will generate as much money for Hasbro as some other social media commenters do.
- Discount and distribution (Possible Outcome #2). This is where I foresee problems, at least from the vantage point of a local game store. Save for those products under the WotC brand, Hasbro products have typically been offered from Hasbro through distribution at a 25-33% discount. This is perfectly fine for chain stores, which also often negotiate a returnability clause into the purchase contract If we see that level of discount offered through hobby distribution, I expect we will see a lot fewer stores carrying the Avalon Hill Line and a greater shift towards mass market, which is how Hasbro has its distribution channels designed.
I really hope I am wrong on Possible Outcome #3 but, given Hasbro’s track record in the industry in the past, I would not bet against it. Email me your thoughts at email@example.com.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.