The Washington Street Journal:

What game has the highest per-capita sales in Iceland? Which one has had its questions printed on Pringles chips? And what game was, at first, titled “Trivia Pursuit,” until its inventor’s wife suggested the name as a sly joke?

Chris Haney, who died Monday at age 59 after a long illness, came up with the game one evening in 1979 while sharing a few beers with a friend and fellow Canadian journalist, Scott Abbott, and discussing what a great business Scrabble must be.

“We had spent a lot of time sitting in taverns ruminating about weird facts,” Mr. Abbott told Britain’s Express newspaper in 2004.

After producing a rudimentary Parcheesi-like board design and scraping together investment funds from friends and family, the two set about producing 6,000 trivia questions that would be the heart of Trivial Pursuit. Initial categories included geography, entertainment, history, art & literature, science & nature, sports & leisure.

After a slow start, Trivial Pursuit took off as had no game in recent years–Monopoly was introduced in 1930 and Scrabble in 1952 (each game had predecessors).

In a guerilla marketing coup, the game was mailed gratis to celebrities who appeared as answers to Trivial Pursuit questions. This helped spark a trivia craze, and in 1984, Trivial Pursuit sold 20 million copies in North America. Total sales are over 100 million around the world, said Hasbro, which bought the brand from its inventors in 2008 for $80 million. The game has been translated into dozens of languages, a process that involves coming up with entirely new lists of questions to suit local knowledge.

Photo by jon_a_ross

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