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Can Hasbro Be the Netflix of Games?

By Danny Vena - Updated Jun 22, 2017 at 5:18PM

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Hasbro is taking a page from Netflix's very successful playbook as it creates a subscription service of games. How will that play out?

There's no denying the success Netflix, Inc. (NFLX 1.90%) has enjoyed with its subscription model -- so much so that it has spawned a number of subscription services that liken themselves to Netflix. A quick internet search of "Netflix-like subscription service" turns up comparisons within a variety of areas, including video games, digital children's books, cars, virtual reality, and of course, other steaming services, all positioned as being "Netflix-like."

It shouldn't be too surprising, then, that toymaker Hasbro, Inc. (HAS 2.90%) wants in on the game. In a recent announcement, the company revealed its new subscription service that would send a curated set of games to consumers every three months, delivered right to their door. 

The company will initially provide two options: the Family Crate, which is family friendly and appropriate for all age groups, and the Party Crate, which is geared specifically toward adult audiences. Each crate will run subscribers $49.99 per crate plus shipping for a three-month period. The first crates are scheduled to ship in early fall. In another page taken from the Netflix playbook, Hasbro will allow subscribers to temporarily suspend their subscription or just skip a month. 

A Hasbro Game Crate on a front doorstep.

Hasbro delivers family game night to your door. Image source: Hasbro.

Fun for kids of all ages

The first family-friendly crate will feature Mask of the Pharaoh, a virtual-reality (VR) board game, which will include the VR headset and require downloading of a smartphone app. One player wearing the VR mask will describe to other players the area of the pyramid they see in an effort to advance along the board game. Tapping into the hot trend of VR is a smart move.

The adult-oriented crate will include the Speak Out: Joe Santagato game, inspired by the internet entertainer of the same name and based on his hit challenge video Watch Ya' Mouth. Players attempt to say phrases while wearing a mouthpiece, though the content is not suitable for younger players.  

"Delivered right to subscribers' doorsteps, the Hasbro Gaming Crate subscription service makes it easy and convenient for families and fans to try new games," said Jonathan Berkowitz, senior vice president of marketing for Hasbro Gaming. "Whether you're planning a game night at home with your kids or out with a group of friends, we're confident the games our experts have selected for each crate will provide plenty of fun, laughter, and friendly competition." 

Getting on board

Board games have been enjoying a resurgence, with sales up 28% in the U.S. over the past year, according to NPD Group. "More people are binge-watching and cooking at home, and they're also playing board games at home, rather than going for an expensive night out," says Juli Lennett, a toy-industry analyst with the group.  

Adult-oriented games have also seen a surge in popularity, with sales up 183% over the past year. Hasbro has cashed in on that trend by adding to its lineup, with Trivial Pursuit X and Taboo Midnight both targeted toward the adult-only crowd. 

This move into subscription services provides an additional benefit, as Hasbro will have the opportunity to test out new game concepts with subscribers before making a new game available for sale, giving it early insight into popularity or potential changes to the rules or format.

A blue box labeled Hasbro Gaming Crate -- Game Night delivered."

Hasbro offers subscriptions to board games. Image source: Hasbro.

All the right moves

Hasbro seems to have mastered the rediscovery of board games in the era of social media. The company has used social networks to increase interest in its legacy games with contests and interactive events. It has also continuously updated games by linking limited-edition games to nostalgia or pop culture and engaging fans on social media. The latest limited-edition Monopoly game features the rock band Queen. 

The company's strategy of renewing iconic brands, its omni-channel retail approach, and its move to connect toys with television and movie properties has flourished. In 2016, Hasbro reported its first-ever $5 billion revenue year, a 13% increase over the prior year, and earnings that increased 28% year over year. With this type of performance, the company will be hard to beat. 

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