Every holiday season at some point I end up raiding the game shelves at my father’s house looking for something to play. I’ll admit that over the years, I’ve “liberated” many of my favorites and they now reside in one of my game cabinets, but there are some that I’ve left for sentimental reasons (and there are others that haven’t made the cross-town journey simply because I’m afraid of the wrath if he noticed they were gone). The games at my father’s house are classics from my childhood and earlier. If something happened to them, some may be impossible to replace but others you can still find on store shelves, because good games are like that, they don’t die – they get reincarnated.
Most of the time games are resurrected using the same name to give consumers that warm-fuzzy nostalgia feeling; great examples out now are Bed Bugs, Hedbanz, Shark Attack, Mall Madness and Rock’Em Sock‘Em Robots. All except Rock’Em Sock’Em (it’s a bit before my time) were out when I was a kid, disappeared for a while and came back. Bed Bugs even reused the artwork from the 1985 box when Patch Products rereleased it this year, so it looks just like it did when I was putting it on my wish list for Santa. On the other hand, Spin Master had some really dated box art for Hedbanz and opted to give the game a facelift, which resulted in a far more appealing package. But either way if the reincarnated game was notable enough, the product should evoke memories of playing with friends, wishing for it to appear under the Christmas tree or even fuzzy recollections of the game’s commercial.
This “reincarnation” phenomenon isn’t exclusive to the game industry. Toy brands, shoe brands, car brands, beverage brands, video game brands all go through cycles like this too, but what makes it interesting in the board game arena is that products don’t always stay with their initial manufacturer. In fact, neither Hedbanz nor Bed Bugs is with the company that originally released it. Hedbanz has been published here in the US by IRWIN Games, Pressman Toy, Western Publishing and Endless Games not to mention numerous international publishers. Bed Bugs doesn’t have quite as lengthy of a history, having only been published by Milton Bradley before being picked up by Patch Products. So why all the jumping around? Sometimes this is due to a “trickledown” effect. Hasbro now owns Milton Bradley and they may not have thought that Bed Bugs could sell the volume of games needed for them to spend money to promote the product or maybe they’re focused on building their core brands and didn’t have room for it, either way it ends up with a smaller company who has the time to nurture and rebuild the brand. Other times it’s in the hands of the inventor to find their game a new manufacturer “home.” Regardless, it’s obvious that well-loved games have multiple lives and don’t disappear forever – which is good, because there are a couple I’m hoping to see again!