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It was the board game Time Magazine called the "the biggest phenomenon in game history." Trivial Pursuit was first conceived of on December 15, 1979, by Chris Haney and Scott Abbott. At the time, Haney worked as a photo editor at the Montreal Gazette and Abbott was a sports journalist for The Canadian Press. Haney was also a high school dropout who later joked that he only regretted not dropping out earlier.
Scrabble Was the Inspiration
The pair were playing a game of Scrabble when they decided to invent their own game. The two friends came up with the basic concept of Trivial Pursuit within a few short hours. However, it was not until 1981 that the board game was commercially released.
Haney and Abbott had taken on two more business partners (corporate lawyer Ed Werner and Chris's brother John Haney) starting in 1979 and formed the Horn Abbot company. They raised their initial funding by selling five shares in the company for as little as $1,000. An 18-year-old artist named Michael Wurstlin agreed to create the final artwork for Trivial Pursuit in exchange for his five shares.
Launching the Game
On November 10, 1981, "Trivial Pursuit" was trademark registered. That same month, 1,100 copies of Trivial Pursuit were first distributed in Canada.
The first copies of Trivial Pursuit were sold at a loss as the manufacturing costs for the first copies came to 75 dollars per game and the game was sold to retailers for 15 dollars. Trivial Pursuit was licensed to Selchow and Righter, a major U.S. game manufacturer and distributor in 1983.
The manufacturers financed what would be a successful public relations effort, and Trivial Pursuit became a household name. In 1984, they sold a record 20 million games in the United States, and retail sales reached nearly 800 million dollars.
The rights to the game were licensed to Parker Brothers in 1988 before Hasbro bought the rights in 2008. Reportedly, the first 32 investors were able to live comfortably on the annual royalties for life. However, Haney died at age 59 in 2010 after a long illness. Abbott went on to own a hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League and was inducted into the Brampton Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. He also owns a horse racing stable.
The game survived at least two lawsuits. One lawsuit was from a trivia book author whose charged violation of copyright. However, the court ruled that facts are not protected by copyright. Another suit was brought by a man who alleged that he gave the idea to Haney when the inventor picked him up while he was hitchhiking.
In December 1993, Trivial Pursuit was named to the "Games Hall of Fame" by Games Magazine. By 2014, more than 50 special editions of Trivial Pursuit had been released. Players can test their knowledge on everything from Lord of the Rings to Country Music.
Trivial Pursuit is sold in at least 26 countries and 17 languages. It has been produced in home video game editions, an arcade game, an online version and launched as a television game show in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Spain.