Sad news — one of the two inventors of Trivial Pursuit — Chris Haney, has died. For those who’ve never played the game, the image is of the pieces used to play it, and each color represents a category of question. A quiz show geek, I found the game fun.
And I loved that two Canadian journalists co-created it.
Haney died, reports The Globe and Mail, after “a long illness”, the polite locution for cancer:
Chris Haney, the onetime Montreal Gazette photo editor who parlayed an idea sketched out on barroom napkins into one of the most successful board games in history – Trivial Pursuit — has died in Toronto at the age of 59 after a long illness.
In Dec., 1979, Christopher Haney, a Welland, Ont. native, and his Canadian Press colleague, sportswriter Scott Abbott, drafted the rough concept of a trivia-based board game over beer, during a lunch-hour game of Scrabble. They later rounded up some 32 small investors, who paid as little as $1,000, and used the proceeds to create a test-market version of the game. All of those early investors subsequently grew rich on the annual royalties.
The first 1,100 copies of Trivial Pursuit were released commercially in November, 1981, at $15 each. Initially, it was a money-losing proposition for investors, since the cost of manufacturing was $75 apiece.
It wasn’t until 1983, when Mr. Haney and Mr. Abbott licensed the product to U.S.-based Selchow and Righter, that the game began to take off, abetted by greater economies of scale and a massive marketing campaign. In fact, sales soared. The following year, some 20 million copies were sold. Time magazine called it the “the biggest phenomenon in game history.”
I worked at the Montreal Gazette a few years later and rumor had it that several of my colleagues really didn’t need their paychecks anymore as they had been original investors. Sweet!