Tag Archives: board games business

Understanding The Longevity Of The Board Games Business

Understanding The Longevity Of The Board Games Business

Technology was supposed to kill the board games business! The video games business came out of the periphery of the toy industry originally, and toy and game companies like Hasbro & Mattel made very committed (& costly) forays into this space looking back in time. The video game business is now worth many $billions in its own right. But video games did not kill off board games.

Then came smart phones and tablets which were supposed to kill off all home based non-digital leisure pursuits, and yet again the board game business continued far less spectacularly in the background.

For those of us who have been around a while in the board games industry there are two often heard comments from people not in the business:

  1. Is anyone still buying or playing board games today with all this technology, video on demand and digital gaming? Answer = a thoroughly emphatic yes!
  2. I read that board games are making a comeback this year, is that true? Answer = they never went away!

These two comments are nearly as recurring as Christmas time itself!

The more important question for those of us in the business is why is it that the board games business has not just survived but has thrived as technological revolutions abound? There are several strong factors driving and ensuring the longevity of the board games industry:

  1. Technology has enabled more effective marketing – the classic big company way to launch board games was with shipments to all retailers across the trade and with heavy marketing investment via TV advertising primarily. This launch model has been especially prevalent among toy companies who also sold board games, because that is the toy marketing business model. The most effective marketing tool over time to launch board games which last in the market though, especially for games with compelling gameplay, is to get people playing the game and recommending the game to friends and family. Technology, especially social media has been a huge positive driver for the board games business because this facilitates word of mouth, which has always been one of the top drivers of board games purchases.

 

  1. Human beings are social to their core, and there is no better social facilitator than a compelling board game – if anyone was in any doubt about the need for human beings to connect socially in a face to face, non-digital way, then the strong impact of covid-19 induced lockdowns around the world on mental health and happiness should be clear evidence that humans need to hang out with other humans! Sometimes though, even when we are with our nearest and dearest family and friends conversation can be a bit stilted or perhaps the ice just needs to be melted sometimes when drawing different people together! Aside perhaps from alcohol, there is no better way to bring down social inhibition and get people enjoying each other’s company than playing a good board game. So far, despite all the massive technological advancements, some illustrated cardboard and a few other physical components thrown together in a box have still not been bettered by technology. In time, technology may enhance the experience, but we have seen many attempts to utilise technology to enhance board game experiences and not many have stuck. So often companies chase whizzy technology over just delivering a compelling fun experience!

 

 

  1. Human beings need an antidote to technology addiction – aside from the need for social interaction, humankind is increasingly aware of screen time and tech addiction that is more impulsive and harder to resist than some narcotics! Therefore, one of the key modern drivers of board games purchases and board games playing is backlash to too much screen time.

In conclusion, this is an exciting time in the development of humankind. Technological advancements are accelerating, and in the not too distant future technology will deliver impact on our lives that most adults could not have imagined would occur during their lifetimes. And yet the humble board game continues to represent a growing global market with a richness and diversity of content offerings that is way beyond that of even a decade ago.

So, our prediction is twofold: a) Massive ongoing technological revolution and b) Continuing growth and health for the board games category.

 

We run a Consultancy business helping board games companies to grow. We have experience of most major board games markets around the world and our team has developed more than 200 board games including versions of classic games like Monopoly, Clue/do, Risk, Game of Life etc. For more information on our services (including our Export sales Consultancy) please just click here: https://www.boardgamebiz.com/index.php/board-game-business-consultancy-services/

Sign up now for our free BoardGameBiz newsletter offering insights, news and analysis of the business of Board Games. We’ll also send you a free copy of our book ’55 Features of Best Selling Board Games’ – just click here to sign up.

 

 

Why The Outlook For The Board Games Business Looks Great!

Why The Outlook For The Board Games Business Looks Great!

The consumer and trade media tend to report on the board games business with a short-term outlook i.e. what is happening this Christmas, what is happening with retail this year or reporting on quarterly results from the major stock market listed companies who have board games in their portfolios.

But bearing in mind that most games companies are not reporting sales on a quarterly basis and are typically owner managed or owned by investment companies who typically have a 2-5 year timeframe of reference, this short termism can sometimes allow us to lose sight of the woods for the trees.

The reality at the time of writing this article is that by most measures the board games business has never been in a better position. Here are several factors to justify this bold statement:

  1. Market size (as per reported public domain data) suggests the market is up and has been nearly continuously up for a decade or more. This is not true for every product category.

 

  1. Breadth of product has never been greater – going back about 10 or 15 years the board games category was a bit staid with many different versions of more or less the same thing in the market. The issue was that there weren’t as many places to sell games as now, and there wasn’t as much strength and critical mass behind online retail. But today, retailers like Amazon can support a massively broader range vs years gone by when we would be trying to shoehorn an extra game or two onto an already packed planogam in physical retail.

 

  1. Routes to market have become far broader and easier to access and barriers to entry have come down – crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter allow nearly anyone with good ideas and execution to bring a product to market. Importantly this is direct to consumer selling, so instead of gatekeepers like publishers and retailers whittling out anything creative, new or ‘out there’ now anything goes…if you can persuade a couple of hundred other people to buy. Plus, manufacturing is easier than ever with more choices and options to manufacture in smaller quantities.

 

  1. People are playing games – it’s weird that this is only point 4, but in the end board games offer a social connectivity play experience. As humankind become more and more addicted to tech devices and screens, board games can offer the antidote to this and allow people to enjoy each other’s company face to face. At the time of writing, the coronavirus pandemic is still rocking the world, and making face to gameplay less do-able in some countries, but families are definitely playing more, which bodes well for the future, as game playing is a habit which once picked up can be harder to quit than narcotics!
  1. Sustainability – much of the toy business faces a major risk right now from consumer plastic rejection. The board games market does not need to see this as a threat. Whilst there are some kids games which are all plastic (i.e. Connect 4), the majority of games can be primarily and mostly manufactured from sustainable and recyclable materials. Some companies are going to need to raise their game in terms of FSC certification and other environmental considerations, but the board games factory is well set to deal with a new business and consumer perspective on sustainability.

The future then for the board games business looks good, even if there are some major short-term disruptive factors in play.

 

We run a Consultancy business helping board games companies to grow. We have experience of most major board games markets around the world and our team has developed more than 200 board games including versions of classic games like Monopoly, Clue/do, Risk, Game of Life etc. For more information on our services (including our Export sales Consultancy) please just click here: https://www.boardgamebiz.com/index.php/board-game-business-consultancy-services/

Sign up now for our free BoardGameBiz newsletter offering insights, news and analysis of the business of Board Games. We’ll also send you a free copy of our book ’55 Features of Best Selling Board Games’ – just click here to sign up

 

The No. 1 Marketing Factor In Selling More Board Games

The Number One Marketing Factor In Selling More Board Games

There are plenty of complicated marketing plans out there for you to try to persuade people to buy your games. There are certainly plenty of companies willing to take your money for advertising across many media.

There is however one fundamental marketing activity which nearly always works for games which are compelling to play. That primary activity is getting people to play your games! This won’t work of course if your product is all glitz and promise but lacking in compelling gameplay – you need to have a good game for this to work.

The reason why more board game companies don’t spend as much time, energy and money as they should do in getting people playing their games is because it takes a lot of hard grind and a willingness to think laterally and not just to follow the crowd. Parts of the board games business are driven by massive toy companies who have the typical model of launching by selling as many boxes into retail as they possibly can and then spending 15-20% of their forecast revenue on mass market media campaigns.

Hasbro as the long time biggest board games company in the world tends to follow this classic toy business approach, but then they have some massive advantages that you won’t have – they have so many of the all time classic games brands that tend to sell themselves and keep performing year after year.

Hasbro’s Wizards of The Coast (WOTC) business is a better model on how a games specialist business should run marketing though. Massively under rated and under reported, WOTC was bought by Hasbro primarily for Pokemon trading cards back in the day, but came with the unexpected long term hit trading card game franchise Magic: The Gathering. There is no doubt that Magic is a great game, but when that underlying awesome gameplay is combined with structured grass roots marketing (which is all about getting people playing the game and looking to buy more cards to upgrade their deck) you get a powerful formula as follows: great gameplay x game play stimulation x building a fan community.

One of the reasons why Asmodee has built such a brilliant business over the last decade or so, when they moved from being primarily a distributor with some own brands/products in the French market and a few other toeholds around Europe to being the biggest games company which isn’t also a toy company! One of the fundamental drivers of Asmodee’s success has been the practise of gameplay demonstrations – at festivals, in stores and in other locations. We attended an outdoor music festival in the north of the UK last year, and needless to say Asmodee had a tent there getting people playing games. When Asmodee brought Dobble over from France (where it had become a top selling game), there were some who laughed at the idea that such a quirky unusual looking and unusually named game could establish a presence in the cynical, label/license and mass retail driven UK market. A few years later and Dobble is a MASSIVE success in the UK board games market. The path from start to success was not driven by media spend, online metrics or any of those other factors – although they may have played a part – the success was driven by getting people playing a game which is simple enough that nearly anyone can play, but so compelling that nearly everyone becomes heavily immersed in the game.

That is the type of game which people will go out and encourage their friends to buy and play, and this is exactly the formula for organic growth in the board games business.

The challenge is that it takes time and effort to find ways to get people actually playing games instead of just buying them and leaving them in the shrink-wrap in a cupboard. But for long term success, building brands and organically growing games with great gameplay away from the pressure of needing instant HIT level sales via mass market retailers becomes the only logical step.

How many games has your company launched with the strategy of nurturing and taking years to grow sales based on the most fundamental factor of letting great gameplay speak for itself?

 

We run a Consultancy business helping board games companies to grow. We have experience of most major board games markets around the world and our team has developed more than 200 board games including versions of classic games like Monopoly, Clue/do, Risk, Game of Life etc. For more information on our services (including our Export sales Consultancy) please just click here: https://www.boardgamebiz.com/index.php/board-game-business-consultancy-services/

Sign up now for our free BoardGameBiz newsletter offering insights, news and analysis of the business of Board Games. We’ll also send you a free copy of our book ’55 Features of Best Selling Board Games’ – just click here to sign up

 

 

Why Playtesting Games Is So Important To Their Long Term Prospects

WHY PLAYTESTING GAMES IS SO IMPORTANT TO THEIR LONG-TERM PROSPECTS

Games with good concepts and good marketing can sell well for the first selling year, but they tend to fade away if the gameplay is flawed. The reason for this is that sales of board games are reliant on word of mouth, whether that’s spoken face to face or passed on in some online way. And people don’t tend to recommend games which aren’t fn or which have some kind of gameplay flaw which stops them being compelling.

From a business perspective, it is easy to take the view that most new board game launches don’t stick in the market, therefore why pay too much attention to them when we will have to develop new games again for next year anyway. The point though is that there is nothing more profitable normally than a game which sells year after year without additional development or marketing investment.
The way that you make games compelling to play is by taking time to test and tweak the gameplay in depth beyond just a quick playtest. How much longevity and repeat play value is there in the gameplay mechanism? How likely are people to have such a good time that they choose to recommend to friends, and above all can they get into playing the game quickly and easily?

These questions can all be resolved via repeated playtesting ad nauseum. In the same way as an author is often truly sick of a book by the time they have finished writing and tweaking it, that’s how it should feel to finally send off a game to manufacturing.

Playtesting shouldn’t only occur among your highly board games literate colleagues though, you should seek to play the game with as many different people as you can to enable you to deliver a game which appeals to the broadest possible audience – that’s how you maximise sales over the long term.

We offer a range of Board Games business Consultancy services, including professional research playtesting. We have playtested many iconic games for board games companies, including Monopoly, Cluedo, Risk, Trivial Pursuit and more. If you are struggling to get ahead in the board game biz, maybe one of our services can help you. For more information, please click here: https://www.boardgamebiz.com/index.php/board-game-business-consultancy-services/

 

Sign up now for our free BoardGameBiz newsletter offering insights, news and analysis of the business of Board Games. We’ll also send you a free copy of our book ’55 Features of Best Selling Board Games’just click here to sign up