Iconic Classic Board Game Created in Montreal

·3 min read

Trivial Pursuit is a classic board game from the early 1980s that has undoubtedly stood the test of time, becoming the eighth top-selling board game in the world. Time magazine once called it “The biggest phenomenon in game history.” Since being released in 1981, it has sold over 100 million copies in 26 countries and 17 different languages. Currently, there are over 50 special editions of this ubiquitous trivia game with themes that range from Disney to The Beatles and even up to the World of Warcraft video game. Numerous Trivial Pursuit computer games have been released over the decades. Even now, Trivial Pursuit Live is available on all of the latest video game console systems.

This landmark board game’s history begins in Montreal on December 15, 1979. There are two different accounts of how Trivial Pursuit was conceived, but they share one thing in common, two friends sitting down to play a game of Scrabble. The friends in question were Scott Abbott, a sports journalist for the Canadian Press, and Chris Haney, a photo editor at the Montreal Gazette. One story of how they came up with their immensely popular board game is that while trying to play Scrabble, they found that some of the pieces were missing and decided to create their own game. The other version involves them getting into a conversation about how much money they thought that Scrabble might have made over the years, which led to a discussion about the necessary requirements for a successful board game... and the rest, as they say, is history.

Once the game had been invented, they still had to produce and sell it. After taking stock of their personal resources, Scott Abbott and Chris Haney recruited Haney’s brother, John Haney, and a lawyer by the name of Ed Werner to form Horn Abbot Ltd. Still needing more capital, they eventually enlisted 32 investors to raise $40,000, which was enough to be able to place an order for 1000 copies of their game. After registering the trademark, Trivial Pursuit was released in 1981 and initially sold all 1,000 copies in Canada at a substantial loss. While the game cost $75 to make, retailers would only pay $15 for it... but it did sell out, and the retailers started reordering. The founders of Horn Abbot Ltd. took a massive risk by securing a loan of $75,000, which they used to put in an order for 20,000 more games. The rights to the game were licensed to Selchow and Righter in 1983. By the end of 1984, the total gross sales of Trivial Pursuit had reached well over a half-billion dollars, with 20 million copies being sold in just that year alone. By 1986 it was estimated that one out of every four homes in NorthAmerica owned a copy of the game.

The licensing rights to Trivial Pursuit changed hands numerous times over the years, from Selchow and Righter to Coleco to Parker Brothers and finally to Hasbro. In 2008 Hasbro bought all of the intellectual rights to Trivial Pursuit from Horn Abbot Ltd for $80 million.

Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette