I’m not sure how widely this article was published outside of the DC crowd, but on December 24, 2022 The
Democracy Dies in Darkness Washington Post published an article on board games. “We’re in a golden age of board games, it might be here to stay” was written by Jaclyn Peiser and appeared in the Business section. Aside from the fact they used the two-word version (I prefer ‘boardgames’ like I prefer my ‘wargames’) the article is a pretty positive view of the boardgame hobby. While I am generally happy to see our hobby getting good press, there were some passages of the article that made me cringe.
First, some of the good. As befits an article in the business section, there was the obligatory market numbers and OH WOW!
“The global board game market has an estimated value between $11billion and $13.4 billion and is projected to grow by about 7 to 11 percent within the next 5 years, according to market research companies Technavio and Imarc. Year-to-date board game sales last month compared to the same period in 2019 increased 28 percent, according to market research company NPD Group. Card games are up 29 percent and strategic card games — such as Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering — are up 208 percent.”
Thats. Some. Big. Numbers. But is it really? Looking at that $13.4 billion report, what companies did they analyze?
Companies Covered: Buffalo Games, Cartamundi Asia Pacific, Clementoni Spa, CMON Limited, Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-GmbH and Co. KG, Fremont Die Consumer Products Inc., Gibsons Games Ltd., Goliath Games, Hasbro Inc., Mattel Inc., Mindware Inc., PD Verlag GmbH and Co. KG and The Walt Disney Co.
Many of those companies are the big dawgs of the game and toy industry. Those are NOT the hobby boardgame publishers. We all know the hobby boardgame (and to a lesser extent the wargame publishers) are getting a share of those billions, but I venture to guess that if one had a very frank discussion with Gene Billingsley at GMT Games the numbers would not be quite as big.
Another part of that outlook report had me chuckle; their definition of a board game. “A board game is played with counters or pieces by adding to, subtracting from, or moving across a board. It comprises chess, weiqi, xiangqi, shogi, oware, scrabble, trivial pursuit, settlers of Catan, clue, ticket to ride, and uno. It offers markings and designated spaces with tokens, dice, stones, cards, or other pieces that are used in specific ways throughout the game. It helps children count spaces, identify colors, and enhance hand-eye coordination and dexterity in moving cards and pieces around the board. It assists in sharpening the focus of individuals while promoting structured opportunities for interaction and entertainment.” (capitalization as in the original)
And I thought wargamers had problems with definitions!
Oh yeah, I also am sure that every wargame publisher will like this line about the board game market: “…coupled with the rising adoption of strategy and war-based games by teenagers and adults, is offering lucrative growth opportunities to industry investors.” Investing in WARgames…sounds like that Rady School of Management omnigamer Harold Buchanan may have a calling!
Back to the Post article. Following those rosy numbers is a discussion of Kickstarter and YouTube influencers. There is the obligatory callout to Monopoly and Candyland and a long discussion of Wingspan (not surprising given the designer is local to the DC area). It was nice to see “classics” like Ticket to Ride and Pandemic get a shout out.
Where my cringe really started was in the discussion of “A nimble and accessible industry.” The reporter interviewed the designers of Exploding Kittens who talks about producing games.
“Lee and other industry experts point out that card and tabletop games are relatively inexpensive to produce — “just ink on cardboard,” he said — so there is also minimal barrier to entry.”
Uh, really? What would GMT Games or Amabel Holland or Bayonet Brant say? But wait, IT GETS BETTER!
The company SolidRoots talked about designing their first (only?) game that was a huge success.
“It’s been a really surreal experience,” Armstrong said. “I was a home-school mom with two ‘tweenagers’ and we made a game that worked. So, you know, anyone can do this.”
Anyone can do this…
I didn’t know…
Feature image courtesy Pexels