Giochi dell'Oca e di percorso
(by Luigi Ciompi & Adrian Seville)
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|Nome autore:||Otto Maier Ravensburg|
History of Ravensburger
How it all began
When the Ravensburger bookseller Otto Maier signed his first publishing contract in 1883, he laid the foundations for the now internationally renowned brand that is Ravensburger. His first publications included guides and instruction manuals for the building and craft trades. In 1884, the first game appeared with the title “Voyage round the World“ – carefully handcrafted, beautifully finished and modelled on Jules Verne’s bestseller ”Around the World in 80 Days“. This was quickly followed by learning and children’s games, card games, strategy games, books and children’s art and craft kits. Behind all the published products lay the guiding principle of learning through doing.
Trade and evolution
Otto Maier’s target audience were families everywhere, who valued high-quality products. The early success of his strategy of delivering “only the best“ is clear from the company’s trajectory, with the number of employees rising from 8 to 10 between 1906 and 1914, and sales for 1914 reaching 250 000 gold marks. In terms of supra-regional sales, however, the town of Ravensburg offered less than ideal conditions, being situated far from Germany’s cultural and economic centres. Consequently, Otto Maier concentrated on effective marketing and clever advertising. As early as 1900, he obtained protection for the trademark ”Ravensburger Spiele“ from the German Imperial Patent Office, and after 1902 he became one of the first publishers in Germany to send a travelling salesman throughout Germany, Western Europe, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Baltic states.
Between the wars
Initially, none of the company’s production was done in-house: all components were sourced from external suppliers and assembled in Ravensburg. In 1923, Otto Maier and his three sons Otto, Karl and Eugen finally set up their own box production and bookbinding facilities in Ravensburg, where an annual 25 million games and puzzles now roll off the production line. Otto Maier died in 1925 aged 73. Thereafter, his sons Otto, Karl and Eugen Maier shared the organisational and editorial management of the company. In keeping with the trend of the time – the “Neue Sachlichkeit“ or “New Objectivity“ – they introduced a new product style with clear, plain designs, which exists to this day in the classic game ”Fang den Hut®” (“Catch the Hat”) of 1927. In 1939, with a staff of 65, the Otto Maier publishing house achieved a turnover of 600,000 reichsmarks, mostly through book sales.
The reconstruction years
After the Second World War, games sales became increasingly popular. With the board game memory® (1959) and the family classic Malefiz® (1960), the company launched two of its most successful products. After the death of Otto Maier’s sons, the founder’s grandchildren Otto Julius Maier and later his cousin Dorothee Hess-Maier followed in their fathers’ footsteps. With the Ravensburger hobby kits (1960) and interlocking puzzles for children and adults (1964), they sought to emulate American product ideas which were entirely unknown in Germany at the time. Also new were the Ravensburger paperbacks (1963) for children and adolescents.
Expansion into Europe
In the early 1960s, rising product sales called for a reorganisation of production methods. From 1962 onwards, production sites were constructed in several phases in Ravensburg’s industrial district. Here, an area of 40,000 m2 is now occupied by printing, puzzle production, high-bay warehousing and delivery facilities. The expansion of production brought with it a corresponding expansion in marketing, and the first Ravensburger subsidiary was founded in the Netherlands in 1964. Since 1970, marketing subsidiaries have been established in nearly all Western European countries, and Ravensburger products are now exported to more than 90 countries around the world.
By 1979, the company’s turnover had grown to 100 million marks, and the number of employees to 800. In 1977, the company was split into the Games and Books divisions, these being more easily manageable units. The increasingly wide range of products and their international distribution made it necessary to create a standard trademark for all Ravensburger products. In 1974, the Ravensburger brand was thus given its familiar blue triangle logo, which is still in use today. In the same year, a set of company principles were formulated and product guidelines defined for staff reference. This made Ravensburger one of the first companies in Germany to give itself a “constitution“. In terms of the product mix, new impulses came from American pre-school educational theory, giving rise, among other things, to learning resources for promoting social and emotional capacities. Also new was the increasing popularity of adult games, as reflected in the critics award “Game of the Year“– first won by the Ravensburger product “Hase und Igel” (Rabbit and Hedgehog). Since 1979, six Ravensburger games have won this coveted disinction.
Children’s and youth books also came increasingly to the fore in the decades following the war, including a youth literature series (1973).
Innovation and tradition
In the early 1980s, paper and cardboard products were faced with competition from electronic video games. The company responded with a dual strategy: as well as refining and improving its traditional range, it also became strongly involved in the electronic and TV sector, founding a TV subsidiary in 1983 to produce children’s and family programmes. First attempts were launched with video cassettes on the topic of learning and play. In the 1990s, the company also developed a CD-ROM program with entertaining and educational themes.
After the disappearance of the Iron Curtain, new sales opportunities opened up for the company in Eastern Europe and East Germany, where a comprehensive trade network quickly developed.
New business areas were also developed in the service sector. The company began to make its games know-how available to other firms, and founded the subsidiary Ravensburger Freizeit-und Promotion-Service GmbH in 1993 for this specific purpose. In 1998, the leisure park Ravensburger Spieleland was opened near Lake Constance, with an innovative concept of interactive and creative play ideas aimed principally at families with children aged two to 12.
The family firm Ravensburger changed its legal status from a partnership to a corporation at the end of the 1980s.
In 1993, the individual Divisions were established as subsidiaries under the umbrella of the Ravensburger AG holding company. The trademark name Ravensburger was promoted to the company name. All shares of the company remain in the ownership of the founder family Maier. The founder’s grandson Otto Julius Maier, who had run the company for over 40 years, took over the chairmanship of the Supervisory Board between 1995 and 2005. His cousin Dorothee Hess-Maier, a member of the management team between 1978 and 2001, has occupied the position of Vice Chairman of the Supervisory Board since 2005. Both family members have contributed substantially to the company’s expansion over the last 50 years. Since the early 1950s, the number of employees has risen from 90 to 1400, while turnover has risen from approx. 1 million to approx. 280 million euros. Ravensburger Games is the number-one company in Europe for puzzles and handicraft products and the German market leader for games. Ravensburger Books is currently one of the leading publishing companies in the German children’s and youth book market. Ravensburger achieves over half of its sales abroad. It is one of the few companies in the sector with its own production facilities in Europe. 85 % of all Ravensburger products are now made at the two production sites in Ravensburg and Poliçka (Czech Republic).
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