The twin acquisition announcements of Avalon Hill and MicroProse by Hasbro sent shock waves throughout the computer and board game community. Speculation ran rampant. What would happen to the companies? The fact that the entire design staff at Avalon Hill was laid off fed more fuel to the fire.
GameSpot News spoke on Monday with Tom Dusenberry, CEO of Hasbro Interactive, and learned some interesting things.
Hasbro's acquisition of Avalon Hill mainly involved trademarks, current and previous designs, and other tangible assets. In that sense, since Monarch Avalon (the parent company of Avalon Hill) was still responsible for the AH employees and not Hasbro, the design staff was laid off completely. While Hasbro had no immediate plans to rehire any of the AH design staff, if opportunities should arise down the road they would consider doing so. However, Dusenberry did say that Hasbro had many "strategy-minded" designers that were apparently well acquainted with AH titles, so development would continue along those avenues.
Dusenberry indicated that as Hasbro has the facilities to do so, Hasbro would continue to publish Avalon Hill games. Unfortunately Hasbro will not reprint the entire lineup of AH titles, but only the top 15 or 20. This means that Diplomacy, Advanced Squad Leader, and even Civilization among others would still survive. Dusenberry indicated that 275 titles, some still unpublished, were involved in the acquisition.
During the interview, Dusenberry never really made a distinction between the more traditional strategy-oriented games like Civilization and the more adult-oriented wargames such as Advanced Squad Leader. He had a tendency to lump them all together. However, Dusenberry did acknowledge the fact that Hasbro would continue to develop the wargame style of titles and that Hasbro was very much aware of "recognizing the core audience" of Avalon Hill.
In other Avalon Hill matters, he said Hasbro would be more than happy to help run the AvalonCon convention held each year to continue support of AH products. However, concerning AH's magazine publication The General, Hasbro would like to see it continue, but it is unfortunately out of the company's hands - it was not a part of the acquisition, and the future of The General lies in the hands of the Dott family, which owns 42 percent of Avalon Hill.
Hasbro's main focus will be on Hasbro Interactive and publishing computer games, perhaps the most central reason behind the two acquisitions. According to Dusenberry, at the end of 1997 Hasbro saw the need to expand into the strategy and action fields. Avalon Hill and MicroProse both help satisfy that need.
Hasbro Interactive fully intends on publishing everything currently in development at MicroProse and will retain MP's full research and development staff, although consolidation will occur in the marketing, management, and media departments. Hasbro Interactive also fully intends on producing computer versions of Avalon Hill board games, most notably Diplomacy.
Since the acquisitions will probably not be approved until late September or October, many questions remain unanswered. Exactly what Hasbro intends to publish of Avalon Hill's backlist is still unknown, and the fate of the various third-party contracts concerning Advanced Squad Leader is up in the air as well (though Dusenberry did admit that specific questions about AH titles on the board game side of things wasn't really his area - he is the CEO of the computer products division).
When more becomes available, GameSpot News will be sure to let you know. For now, Hasbro intends to take a deep breath and see just what it's acquired. According to Tom Dusenberry, at least, this is definitely not the end; it's only just the beginning.