The Future of Trivial Pursuit

What will the Trivial Pursuit game of the future look like?

The Future of Trivial Pursuit

There hasn't been a new Genus edition of Trivial Pursuit for seven or eight years. It's been a while since Trivial Pursuit went that long without a new Genus edition, though the recent addition of titles like Bet You Know It and Steal indicate that Hasbro is trying to change the game rather than continue with the old pattern of releasing new editions every few years. Part of the backlash could be because of the negative response from fans after the Genus III and Genus IV fiascoes.

Board games aren't what they were in 1981, when Trivial Pursuit first appeared. Big sellers in the board game industry are more boisterous games, usually called party games. Trivial Pursuit, with its turn-taking, boring old wheel game board, and stuffy trivia question and answer interface, isn't what board game fanatics are looking for anymore--or so the thinking goes.

So what does the future hold for Trivial Pursuit? Here are three possible scenarios.

The Good

First, a happy scenario. Let's imagine world where Hasbro bites its thumb at the board gaming world, sticks to its guns, releases Genus VII and begins to re-release new copies of vintage editions.

Why It Might Work: Trivial Pursuit is built on trivia, which is itself a nostalgic act. By learning trivia, be it 60s pop music facts or 19th century baseball statistics, people get to live in a "better world," a time when things were simpler, and all that jazz. Your average Trivial Pursuit fan is not looking for a party game. We turn Trivial Pursuit into a party game by playing loud music, drinking the occasional adult beverage, and snickering at our opponent's inability to answer the simplest of trivia questions. What Trivial Pursuit fans want is an awesome new edition--Genus VII--to return the board game series to its former glory.

Imagine a Trivial Pursuit edition labeled Genus VII that comes in the original blue box, calligraphy script and all, but contains 6,000 brand-new or mostly brand-new questions. An edition that goes back to the original six categories and colors, with retro graphics and better materials. Hasbro could release Trivial Pursuit as a European-style board game, with a cut board instead of creases, and nicer tokens and playing pieces formed from solid materials. I can even imagine a Genus VII edition in the style of luxury versions of Monopoly, with game pieces cast from metals and fancier inscriptions and other giveaways.

Another route Hasbro could take is to reissue classic editions of Trivial Pursuit. Imagine a lineup of Genus I, Genus II, the Baby Boomer's edition, and the first few editions of Younger Player's Trivial Pursuit. It wouldn't give Hasbro the huge influx of cash they apparently want (based on all the new gimmicky Trivial Pursuit editions released in the last few years) but it could revive interest in what was once called the most successful board game franchise in history.

The Bad

And then there's the dystopian view. If Hasbro continues to water down the franchise, Trivial Pursuit could become like arcade games from the 1980s, owned by a select few and available to a tiny portion of the population. Imagine having to hunt down classic Trivial Pursuit copies because the new versions of the game resemble the original franchise in name only.

Picture walking into the toy store and seeing Bezzerwizzer: The Trivial Pursuit Edition or Trivial Pursuit-opoly. Hasbro may abandon the Trivial Pursuit game series entirely, preferring to combine the game and its licenses with other, more popular game titles. Or Trivial Pursuit could turn electronic only, with paper copies of the board game flying off the shelves altogether in favor of more apps and video game editions.

The Ugly

The worst thing that could happen is that Hasbro sells off the Trivial Pursuit license to another company or abandons making the game at all. I'd prefer to see more and more gimmick editions or have to buy electronic games or iPhone apps rather than lose Trivial Pursuit forever.

The danger in licensing the game to another company is that they'll continue to turn it into a novelty act. The Trivial Pursuit Steal card game was like a slap in the face to those of us used to hardcore trivia gaming. It seems more and more like Hasbro wants to make Trivial Pursuit a distraction for kids or a gimmick, and less like the major piece of board gaming art it once was.

The value of Trivial Pursuit is two-fold. First of all, it is an important piece of gaming history. Games that are pushing Trivial Pursuit into obscurity (name your own party game--Cranium, etc.) wouldn't be here at all without the little Canadian trivia game that could. It may sound silly to argue that a game should continue to exist simply because it is historical, but getting rid of Trivial Pursuit to focus on more profitable games would be like ditching the Alamo in favor of an Alamo car rental franchise.

Another thing--these popular party games spend a few months on bestseller lists and then fade into obscurity. How many of you have purchased Apples to Apples in the past six months? I doubt very many. You buy the new games once, play them a few times, and stack them up in your games closet. But if Trivial Pursuit did release a fancy new version, you'd be likely to buy it, right?

If Hasbro continues to release weak editions of the game or (God forbid) stops printing the game altogether, we'll lose a vital piece of American history. I would argue that Trivial Pursuit is to the 80s what Clintongate is to the 90s or climate change is to the 2000s--a sign of the times, a mirror we can look into and remember our very selves. Sound too heavy-handed? Forgive me. I'm just an old Trivial Pursuit junkie, afraid he won't be able to share his favorite game with his grandkids.