Faraz Fadaian Fadaian itibaren Kampung Perak, Central Pariaman, Pariaman City, West Sumatra, Endonezya
Mr. Miller started out with a simple objective, write a book about the creation of G.I. Joe. Hasbro was obviously flattered, and they gave Mr. Miller nearly unfettered access to the inner workings of their corporation. Of course, as always seems to happen with these kinds of endeavors, while Miller was there, a "toy war" broke out, and the future of the largest toy company in the world hung by a thread. I took a lot away from this book. While ostensibly the book covers both Hasbro and Mattel, Mattel did not cooperate with the effort. So, while I learned something about the toy giant in California, the book did not provide half-as-much insight into Mattel's workings as Hasbro's. Most of us who follow gaming look to Hasbro as the monolith of gaming, and so it is. They acquired both Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers, and for most of the 90's, board games served as a cash cow for Hasbro's bottom line. In fact, one of the driving themes of this book is the tit-for-tat between these two companies. Mattel has Barbie, Hasbro has always wanted one. Hasbro is the king of the action figure, Mattel has always wanted to crack in. Similarly, Mattel itself made a play for Milton Bradley, and was seething when Hasbro snatched it up from under them. This rivalry has very contemporary echoes. You'll note that Hasbro has not rested on its gaming laurels. They have acquired every important name in hobby gaming as well -- Avalon Hill, TSR and Wizards of the Coast. Note that the hunt goes on for Mattel. Anybody taken a close look at Out of the Box's titles lately -- Apples to Apples, Snorta, etc? They all have a nice big Mattel label on them. The central question that the book addresses is how did this sleepy little maker of Mr. Potato Head in Rhode Island become multinational company with billions of dollars in revenue? Like Parker Brothers before (see earlier review of the Gamer Makers), Hasbro was a family affair. The Hassenfeld Brothers (HAS-BRO) started out making pencil boxes. Those boxes evolved into playstets -- Doctor and Nurse sets -- in pencil boxes. Ultimately, Merril Hassenfeld happened upon Mr. Potato Head as something else that could be put in those boxes. From there, they were off to the races. G.I. Joe obviously made the company. For a Gen X'er like me, having grown up straddling both versions of Joe, getting insight on G.I. Joe's various iterations was a pleasant stroll down memory lane. But G.I. Joe alone could not have made Hasbro a world beater. For that, we need to look back to an historical event that played prominently in the Parker Brother's history as well. During the 80's, while the rest of the toy biz (including Mattel) were going ape over the video game, Hasbro stuck to plastic. Compounding this success was Stephen Hassenfeld. He was the 3rd generation of family leadership for the company, and had a passion for the bottom line. Suddenly Hasbro was awash in cash. So, when toy company after toy company fell into trouble, there was Hasbro with a pile of money to buy them at bargain prices: Kenner, Parker Brothers, Tonka, Playskool, Galoob, Coleco, Milton Bradley -- virtually the entire game shelf at Walmart is part of the Hasbro line. And all of that is the result of a kind of perverse economic Darwinism. Since Hasbro did not have the capability to enter the video game race, they also were not destroyed by it. A second theme in the book, concerns Stephen Hassenfeld and his kid brother Allen. Stephen was a Wall Street wonderkind; he took Hasbro from a respected toy maker into a Fortune five hundred company. But he also had a secret, he was dying of AIDS. So, a large element of the narrative is how Allen Hassenfeld takes over the company and steps out of his brother's very large shadow. The story culminates with an unsuccessful take over attempt of Hasbro by Mattel. Its an engaging ride that goes into the complexities of corporate structures -- perhaps a little too much. It is, for certain, ephemeral detail, but it does give you some sense of the impact of business trends on a toy company like Hasbro. I've decided I like business histories, and I like this one. Its got a very human story underlying corporate wrangling and drama. The products are familiar and beloved, and that certainly helps. But if you have any interest in how Hasbro became Hasborg, this is the book to turn to.