Spielwarenmesse: Will Hasbro’s Monopoly soon come from the 3D printer?

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Movers & shakers

Will Hasbro’s Monopoly soon come from the 3D printer?

from Ulrich Texter

3D printers changing the face of many sectors of the economy – that’s what is being prophesied by experts who see additive manufacturing as the next industrial revolution coming down the line. From jewellery and food to hip prostheses or whole houses, as in Amsterdam – with the new micro-factories everything seems to be possible. Will it also change the toy industry? We spoke to toy expert Roger Balser, the General Manager of Hasbro, a company that recently ventured into the world of 3D printers.

Spielwarenmesse®: Mr Balser, with My Monopoly at Spielwarenmesse 2014 you introduced the first Monopoly that you can individualize yourself. Please reveal to us how many board game fans are rushing to their computers to configure and print out a personal version.

Roger Balser: Since we introduced My Monopoly at Spielwarenmesse at the beginning of the year, both media and customer interest have been huge. Many board game players have grown up with Monopoly and are thrilled with being able to design very simply a completely personal edition for the very first time. Whether as a family edition with photos of all family members and the most recent holiday destinations or as a gift for football fans with photos of the players in their favourite club round the corner – with Monopoly everything’s possible now.

And where do you find the strongest expression of this liking for individualism? In England and Italy, we’ve discovered people are continuing to prefer the standard version!

R.B.: The standard version is still in demand in Germany too, and it’s our best-selling Monopoly edition. Comparing Germany with other countries, we see that it’s traditionally one of the major Monopoly countries. Consequently, we’re expecting My Monopoly to be a great success.

If we look at the German market, what’s the sales ratio between the standard version and My Monopoly?

R.B.: I can’t put a precise figure on it at the moment, because games sold in the Christmas period make up a large proportion of the total turnover of games, and this business is starting later year on year. With the different editions we’re managing to appeal to new target groups for Monopoly and to guarantee double-digit brand article growth every year. This means that, in the German-speaking countries, a total of about 800,000 Monopoly games are sold in all the editions.

At Spielwarenmesse we said as a joke that Hasbro would soon be offering the game in a 3D printer version. That’s where we are now. You can get the first 3D figures of "My little Pony" from the printer. Aren’t you sawing off the branch you’re sitting on?

R.B.: No, quite the contrary. We see the increasing spread of 3D printers as an opportunity. It enables us to expand our product range and to develop tailor-made offers for new target groups. Products will finally be getting their chance because, at the moment, it’s not profitable to put them on the market for reasons of production volumes. It creates huge potential for us as a brand manufacturer with a big fan community.

You work with Shapeways, a service offering 3D printing. Does that mean you’re starting to move into other brands?

R.B.: Yes, working together with Shapeways we plan to offer figures in other Hasbro brands in the coming months. At the moment, it’s interesting for us in the brands that are popular not just with children but also with adults.

We gathered from the American press release that you’re turning your fans into product developers at the same time. They can now submit their own ‘designs’. Is Hasbro running out of creative ideas, or what’s behind all that? An intelligent form of shareconomy?

R.B.: Hasbro has always included consumers in its product development in the past. We’re delighted if this dialogue is now intensified in the forums of the 3D developer community. As 3D printing spreads, we’ll identify trends much sooner so that we can also react to them when we’re putting together our traditional games range.

You’re still cooperating with Shapeways, but is it likely that Hasbro will soon be offering software – the actual key – for 3D printer toys? You can now buy a printer for less than 700 euros.

R.B.: You’ll understand that I can neither confirm nor deny that. Hasbro, as an entertainment or ‘branded play’ firm, as we say, wants to offer its customers brand experiences at all times and via as many channels as possible. The development of individual 3D designs on the basis of our brands creates another kind of access and a new world of experience alongside our games and toys, TV series, films, video games and very varied merchandising offer.

Some people are predicting that 3D printers will in future be on sale in every DIY store. Is the industry facing hard times when everyone can print "My personal toy"?

R.B.: No – we’re facing exciting times, because we can see here more opportunities than risks. The need many people feel to be able to design something very personal is a widespread trend in society. But the original will always remain relevant alongside the personalized variant. So the offer made by different trainer manufacturers to design your own trainers has not led to the disappearance of normal brand trainers.

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