This excellent article by Mary Couzin first ran n 2010. If you read it the first time enjoy it again. If not, you are in for a treat.
Two years ago at our Toy and Game Inventor/Industry Conference, Mike Hirtle, Head of Global Acquisition and Inventor Relations at Hasbro opened the Conference with an outstanding presentation. Although I consider myself knowledgeable, even passionate, about our inventing community, I didn’t know that almost every major toy and game hit was invented by an outside inventor.
I asked Mike to reprise here what he said that day.
“In order to select the outside concepts that make it to the store shelves, Hasbro considers over 3000 submissions a year from the professional inventor community.
As far as I know, the toy and game business is the only one that is supported by such a network of inventors who make their living by creating the playthings of the future. My guess is there are between 400 and 500 designers around the world who make up this group. Over the past fifty years, a very large share of the product innovation in toys and games has been produced outside of the companies that brought it to market.
It all started in the late forties. While there had been numerous isolated licensing deals before that, there had never been any attempt to produce concepts continuously on a large scale and to subsist on the subsequent royalties. Two clever young men in Chicago, Marvin Glass and Eddy Goldfarb took note of some interesting dynamics that were changing our industry in post-war America.
Low cost injection molded plastics were becoming available, and Asian sources of manufacturing, starting with Japan, were making toys a lot more affordable. At the same time, nationwide marketing of products was beginning to flourish and when television advertising grew, the whole business took off.
Glass and Goldfarb recognized that there would be a great thirst for new toys and games and they invented the invention business. The Marvin Glass and Associates studio created hundreds of products, many of which are still on the market: Simon, Operation, Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots, Lite Brite, Toss Across and Inch Worm to name just a few.