Alga was established in 1917 by Pressbyrån AB, a company that sold newspapers, magazines and stationary as well as other things in kiosks, very often situated on railway stations and the like. In the beginning Alga was not a games company but rather the printing arm of Pressbyrån AB, being responsible for the aforementioned stationary items.
The name Alga is derived from the names of the wifes of the two Pressbyrån directors that founded Alga: one wife was called Anna Lundqvist (A L) and the other one Anna Gadh (G A), hence ALGA. It is still possible to find Alga stationary like post cards, collector's book marks and other stationaries at internet auctions etc.
By 1930 both Pressbyrån (incl. Alga) and Åhlén & Åkerlund
(Åetå) had become companies in the group of Bonniers
. Games came into Alga in 1938 when Bonniers transferred the Monopoly
game license from Åhlén & Åkerlund to Alga. The license also applied to Finland and Norway. (The Bonnier connection also meant that Alga published childrens books and comic magazines during the 1940's!)
The growth in the field of games was however rather slow, after about 15 years Alga had released approx. 25 games. But as Swedes, and not only the children but adults too, really got the game playing going, more releases were made. In 1963 - the year when the famous slogan "Alla spelar Alga" ("Everybody Plays Alga") was coined - Alga had a record number of games in their catalogue: 35.
In 1966-67 Alga, under new CEO Per Zachrisson, decided to re-launch itself. Part of this plan included relocation and in a move similar to competitor Lemeco
, Alga moved out of crowded Stockholm and ended up in the little town of Vittsjö, (nowadays part of Hässleholm municipality) in the northern part of the South-Swedish province of Scania. Besides the directors and a few higher employees none of the staff followed, and many new colleagues were recruited locally.
In the neighbouring town of Osby, another big Swedish toy and game manufacturer - Brio AB - had their offices and works. A coincidence that perhaps would have its consequences later on! Also in the late 1960's the games boxes' appearances had been somewhat standardised, today we call it Grey stripe editions (on the left hand side).
So when in the early 1970's the stripes turned light blue (the so-called Blue stripe editions) and Alga had consolidated itself in Vittsjö, moving early 1973 into a new purpose built factory at Spelvägen 1 (No 1 Game Road!), the company entered into a Golden Era!
This also coincided with the bankruptcy (1972) of Aristospel, which gave Alga a few additional games to produce; the Bondespelet being perhaps the most famous. Additionaly, the games of Alga won the 1971 Toy of the Year Award from The Toy Mongers Association. In 1973 Alga had about 55 games in the catalogue - a record number!
During these years Alga also became an importer of other toys (than games) and founded subsidiary companies (such as Oy Fenno-Alga Ab
) in the other Nordic countries, to act as representatives of Alga in Sweden. In approx. 1978 however, Alga experienced a major set-back when Parker Brothers
decided to lift Alga's licensing rights for Monopoly.
Alga had however very good relations with Waddingtons in the UK and published several Waddington games up to Waddingtons disappearance in the early 1990's, which approximately coincided with the end of Alga's Golden Era.
In 1980 Alga had employed Dan Glimne as a “playing Games Manager” of Alga. (He stayed until 1989, when he left to open up his own games business, G&RRR.)
In 1983, Alga – by now a famous brand for games in the Nordic countries - was purchased by their neighbour Brio in Osby. Brio had their own games publishing arm called Joker, who was responsible for Scrabble (called Alfapet in Sweden) to mention their perhaps most important game. Brio obviously saw great synergy effects with both Joker and Alga in their service.
So when Brio lost the license of Scrabble (while retaining the ownership of the name Alfapet) they gave Alga (not Joker – that brand would eventually be phased out) the order to publish a new Alfapet, slightly different from the Scrabbles-Alfapet. While Brio changed a lot of things within Alga they seems to have kept the product development section protected for quite a while.
In 2006 under new owners Proventus, Brio (including Alga) left Vittsjö and Osby for a new head office in Malmö. Production of componments for their games – for many years provided by Billingsfors and later Offason
- and toys had already been transfered to low cost markets in South East Asia.
Although Alga still exists as a registered limited company, it is for all practical purposes just a trademark name of Brio AB, however being The Classic Swedish Games Company in the eyes of many a Swede, having recently reintroduced the light blue stripe on the boxes. (This time however, on the right hand side of the lid.)
In 2015 BRIO (incl. Alga) was purchased by German toy and games giant Ravensburger Spieleverlag GmbH. While still headquartered in Malmö, it is still to be seen what this will mean to Alga and Brio.
NOTE: Several games from Alga has been sold in other countries, like Denmark and Poland, under the BRIO label.
- Alga has been a subsidiary of Brio AB since 1983.