Hasbro Interactive is leading the way among game marketers converting hit board games to interactive editions with its recent successful introduction of the Monopoly CD-ROM and a companion Web site (http://www.monopoly.com).
Next month, several other Hasbro board games debut on CD-ROM, including Battleship, Clue, Risk and Scrabble. Each is playable on the Internet and will eventually have its own Web site.
AFFORDABLE GAME PLAY
The initial response to the $40 Monopoly CD-ROM has been so strong-more than 100,000 copies have been sold-that Hasbro is even considering starting a proprietary online gaming service. The network would make game play more affordable for users who now go through computer online services to access the Monopoly Web site.
"We're looking at ways of making online gaming a positive experience, and we'd like to find a way around forcing people to use expensive computer online ser-vices to access Web sites for game-playing," said Tom Dusenberry, general manager of Hasbro Interactive, Cambridge, Mass., a division of Pawtucket, R.I.-based Hasbro International.
Those plans are still in the "exploration" stage, but Hasbro, the No. 1 game marketer with an estimated 94% share of the $4 billion board game market, is committed to the idea interactive and online gaming will be the biggest revenue growth area for games.
Later this year Hasbro will release several non-Internet creative play and educational CD-ROM titles based on classic Hasbro brands Mr. Potato Head, Play-Doh and Tonka. The "Mr. Potato Head Saves Veggie Valley" CD-ROM shipped to stores this month.
BARBIE ON CD-ROM
Meanwhile, rival Mattel recently formed the Mattel Media division to create CD-ROM products for kids based on its classic toy brands such as Barbie, Hot Wheels and Cabbage Patch, with products due out this summer. Mattel's Fisher-Price subsidiary this month also unveiled Wonder Tools, CD-ROM products for kids developed in a joint venture with Compaq Computer Corp.
"After some false starts, the toy makers have figured out there's huge opportunity in turning existing brands into new media, and they're going after it aggressively," said Gary Jacobson, a toy analyst with BT Securities, New York.
EASE OF USE
Key to success, he said, will be ease of use, especially for kids and parents who aren't already technologically savvy.
Even Hasbro acknowledges its future success may ride on its ability to turn yesterday's hit board games into tomorrow's cyberspace challenges.
"Current adults will always enjoy board games, but the next generation growing up with computers may never know what board games are," Mr. Dusenberry said.
Playing Monopoly on CD-ROM isn't as easy as putting bread in a toaster yet. A 20-page booklet accompanies the disc and includes dense technical information that would daunt many computer novices.
Grey Interactive, New York, designed the Web site and developer Westwood Studios, Las Vegas, supports it with links to America Online, CompuServe, Prodigy and GEnie. An access number to Westwood Studios' online bulletin board is provided for help 24 hours a day.
WORKING OUT THE KINKS
Although Hasbro won't say how many players have used the Monopoly Web site for gaming, Mr. Dusenberry said Hasbro is committed to working out kinks.
"We have a lot of catching up to do and a lot to learn," he said.
Hasbro Interactive's new products will roll out throughout the year, with ads beginning in the fourth quarter. Grey Advertising and Griffin Bacal, both New York, share advertising duties.
No marketing details have yet been revealed for the Mattel or Fisher-Price products.