EA, Hasbro Dust Off Classic Board Games

The casual gaming industry appears to be passing “Go” and preparing to collect its figurative US$200 with a new partnership announced Friday by Electronic Arts (EA) and Hasbro to create digital versions of many of the classic board games generations have grown up on.

The agreement grants EA the exclusive worldwide rights to create digital games based upon a vast assortment of Hasbro’s intellectual properties, including Monopoly, Scrabble, Yahtzee, Nerf, Tonka and Littlest Pet Shop. EA will then develop “interactive experiences for a mass audience to play across key platforms including mobile, online, handheld, PC and consoles,” the companies said.

The first games are scheduled to launch in 2008. The initial term of the strategic relationship runs through Dec. 31, 2013, and may be extended. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Defining Fun

“The gaming market has never been more primed for a revolution in how families enjoy games,” said Kathy Vrabeck, president of the EA Casual Entertainment Label. “Hasbro is the ideal partner to help propel this change. Their games define fun. These are games that we all love and remember from our childhoods.

“The combination of EA’s market leadership in the interactive space and Hasbro’s timeless franchises is a perfect partnership for today’s market,” she added. “Together, EA and Hasbro can create the next generation of fun for a new wave of kids and families.”

EA veteran Chip Lange will lead the overall Hasbro business initiative as vice president and general manager. Hasbro Senior Vice President Mark Blecher will head up Hasbro’s digital gaming initiatives.

‘Reimagining’ Icons

“Our toy and game brands have been family favorites for decades, and aligning ourselves with EA will result in broadening the reach of our brands through the ‘reimagining’ of these beloved entertainment icons in all key digital categories,” said Brian Goldner, Hasbro’s chief operating officer.

“Through the years, EA has proven themselves time and again as an incredibly creative company that delivers amazing content across multiple brands,” Goldner added. “We are thrilled to work with EA in bringing our brands to the next level in the digital world.”

In a market that often seems to be dominated by highly sophisticated graphics, fast-paced action and sometimes gruesome violence, the casual games segment is quietly staking its claim with a broader segment of users. Casual games from EA, for example, include such titles as “Boogie” for the Wii, “Tetris” for mobile phones and the online gaming destination

A Growing Market

Designed with simple rules and targeted at a mass audience, these games are expected to continue expanding their reach.

“I think if you look at the entire industry from all angles, you’ll see that these casual games have always been there,” Ted Pollak, senior analyst for the gaming industry with Jon Peddie Research, told TechNewsWorld. “There’s a core group of gamers who enjoy the war games, and those tend to get a lot of the press, but there’s a huge market for nonviolent games, and there always has been.”

While many nonviolent games “have been presented in a fragmented way, sometimes from lesser-known brands,” Pollak noted, that will change with the EA-Hasbro partnership, he said.

There’s no question the market is there, he added.

“These are games almost anyone could enjoy playing,” Pollak said. “They are what I call evergreen franchises — they’re such great concepts with such broad appeal that they just don’t get old.”

A ‘Friendlier’ Platform

The mobile platform, in particular, tends to be “friendlier and more casual” than other game platforms, Michael Cai, director of broadband and gaming for Parks Associates, told TechNewsWorld. Games already out there on the mobile platform include some with “Snoopy” and “The Simpsons” brands, he noted.

Ultimately, the partnership between Hasbro and EA — “a giant in casual, leisure gaming intellectual property and the 800-pound gorilla in the mobile gaming space” — could spark a land grab among other game publishers seeking brands that could be leveraged for mobile gaming, Cai said.

“There’s no doubt that EA understands the power of brand,” he said.

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