Board Games Trends – Finding Your Path Through the Growing Industry

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If you are old enough to remember board games from twenty or even thirty years back, you probably don’t remember a lot of them. At least that is the case for me. There was Monopoly and some simple games like pachisi or checkers. And chess, of course. That’s pretty much where it ends for me. I have heard there were others, but for our socialist reality, that was more like a distant dream.

In the capitalist world (especially America), there were more board games available, but that was all just a drop in the ocean compared to what the market offers today. Today’s board games trends show a strong growth in published board games per year.

Every year, more and more board games are backed on Kickstarter or published and choice is huge. That can be both good and bad for the costumer. We’re going to look at some statistics, some goods, some bads and why there are sites like victoryconditions.com here to help you.

Let’s begin with some raw numbers

Looking for information about board games published per year, the first problem I ran into was, what is actually considered a board game, and when it’s considered published.

Board game can be a very broad term. Together with war games, role-playing games, eurogames, thematic games and classic games, there is chess, simple games for kids, card games and thousands of versions of Monopoly. And don’t forget expansions and reprints. Where do you count them into?

So, finding a credible solid piece of information proved difficult and I had to resort to mere approximations. This is a graph that I found on Wikimedia Commons and the one I think it best describes the state of board game industry. Its source is a thread on BoardGameGeek forums, where people have asked themselves such questions previously.Graph shows exponential growth of board games published per year

The graph shows board games and expansions, that are listed on BoardGameGeek published per year. The BoardGameGeek database is probably the most complete in the world and if the board game is not listed there, it’s probably not worth knowing about. Still, take the numbers with a pinch of salt and let’s focus more on the general trend.

I’ll start on the left side, in the first half of the 20th century. Although the technology was there (it’s mostly paper after all), it wasn’t until before second world war, that we see first spikes. Before that, society wasn’t developed economically enough and be politically stable enough to allow big growth of entertainment sector.

Numbers start to pick up after the war. More and more people can now afford luxuries and market responds by providing them. Steady growth continues until the mid-nineties, when it really booms. Major culprit (if not the main) for this boom was a game called Settlers of Catan. While it wasn’t special or first in any aspect of game design, it was first advanced board game that hit mainstream.

Suddenly, Catan was everywhere. Game designers and publishers realized the potential of the market and began to jump on the bandwagon. More and more games followed every year. And then some more.

This trend still continues to this day and it shows no signs of stopping. It’s growing at 5.7% per year (according to this very in-depth analysis by Dinesh Vatvani).

Is the balloon going to pop?

Naturally, one asks himself, how long can this trend continue? With the current state of world economy and political stability, we’re enjoying at the moment, I do not see this growth slowing or even reversing. There have been no signs of market saturation yet. Situation is actually very similar to other forms of mainstream entertainment (video games, movies, TV shows) – growth is still sustainable.

What will happen in the distant future is a bigger enigma and is connected to growth of capitalism itself. It will grow, until it inevitably collapses into itself. But then board games will be the least of your worries.

More likely (or more hopeful) scenario is that humanity finally realizes, that resources are not unlimited and transcends into a modified sustainable-socialistic-capitalism where production rates for goods will be reduced to a sustainable level. All sorts of entertainment will have to follow, of course.

OK, I have digressed a bit into speculation and futurism. Let’s get back to present. Summa summarum, don’t expect the growth to stop in the next decade.

Quality is going up

In this part, I planned to speculate how with more and more board games published, there are more good games, more games to choose from and that the overall quality of the games improved. Luckily for me, Dinesh Vitvani has made the analysis for me:

Graph shows that average quality of board games is increasing each year

Graph confirms my predictions. There has been steady improvement in board game quality in the last 20 years. I think there are several factors for that:

  • more money is available for designing and testing,
  • designers of today have a lot more experience (both from designing more games and learning from others),
  • as competition grows, players open their wallets only for the best games.

All good stuff. Some might even say, that we live in a golden era of board games. And that wouldn’t be far away from truth. This is an exceptional time to be a board game player. There has never been so many good boards easily available.

Quantity is going up as well

Now that we’ve established that the overall quality of board games is increasing, let’s get back to quantity (increasing as well) for a bit. I think that’s the part, board game players have the most problems with.

With so many new published games and expansions, new Kickstarter projects and other sources, the average player can become overwhelmed. It’s not easy to stay up-to-date and follow (let alone play) every game.

That’s why there exist pages like victoryconditions.com (and many others). There’s no chance I can play (or even briefly cover) every game that is out there. That has never been my goal. Just like you, I have a limited amount of time and resources.

But what I can do, is to give you my honest opinion on the small part of spectrum of board games that I look into. And if that helps you pick a game that you like, then my mission is complete.

Conclusion

Board games sector is experiencing an unseen growth and it does not look like it’s stopping any time soon.

With ever-increasing number of board games, it’s sometimes hard to keep track of what is what. Pages like victoryconditions.com are there to be your guide in a world of board games. As an example, I make top games lists like 5 Best Educational Board Games for Teens or reviews like Mage Knight Ultimate Edition Review.

Do you think the economy behind board games is sustainable? How long do you expect the growth to continue? Leave a comment below.

Vasilij

16 thoughts on “Board Games Trends – Finding Your Path Through the Growing Industry”

  1. I am surprised board games are so popular with all the electronic and digital games available today, I have never been big into playing games but I did have an addiction to the Monopoly game as a boy. Would you be able to recommend a good board game for my 15-year-old niece, your article gave me the idea to get her a board game for Christmas since she does enjoy playing all types of games?

    Jeff 

    Reply
  2. Interesting website and great topic to discuss. Board games are awesome! What I like about them is they bring people together and nowadays can take us away from technology. We tend to have our attention too focused on our screens lately and forget about the important things in life such as our family/friends so thats what I like about board games. You creating this website about board games is a great idea.

    Reply
  3. yeah board games has been in one of  the most dominated games over the years.It has been in existence  even before the modern technology  was invented and ever since then till now people have been playing it,its very broad and been developed yearly it’s a good game for kids as it may help on there thinking thanks for this post and a nice recommendations 

    Reply
    • Influence on kids is another nice positive of board games. I’m a video gamer myself and there is nothing wrong with being one. But if I had to choose, I’d much rather see my kids get into board gaming than video gaming.

      In the world we’re living in, there is less and less time available to see our friends and having a mutual hobby like board gaming is a great tool to stay close.

      Reply
  4. Hey there Vasilij, I believe board games will remain going up and up… why?

    Because there is nothing more interactive, fun to do with friends or family and promotes more quality times than board games.

    Who didnt go up playing them, and how many of them? 

    Another point is… Have a look how stupid and silly are games for phones and tablets? Even when they try to adapt classic pc games… 

    Board games are here to stay! 

    Reply
    • The physical and in-person advantage board games have over video games cannot be neglected. More and more people choose them as a form of entertainment, where they can combine entertainment with hanging out with friends.

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  5. Hello Vasilij!

    In my opinion, board games have optimistic perspectives ahead, and they will continue with the growth. I witnessed a few board games among my own fellows at the workplace. Games are part of the entertainment side of life, and people will always be interested in entertainment! We can remember concrete situations when Facebook friends send invites to their entire list for playing games like Candy Crush Saga, we may think of people who deliberately create large lists of Facebook friends just for playing such games rather for true virtual socializing. So we don’t have to be that much surprised to see further increases in the statistical data about board games.

    Best regards!

    Peter

    Reply
    • Board games will continue to grow and they will reach mainstream as well. In fact, it’s already happening: the latest South park episode is about board games.

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  6. Hello vasilij,I love your article because I am a big fan of board games especially monopoly,chess and checkers and some other ones but these ones are my favourites.i my own opinion I believe there is a rapid unseen growth in the gaming sector with the discovery of new games.thanks alot for the time you took in bring this article it would help us checkmate the game sector.

    Reply
  7. Board games were the best and I do remember those such as Monopoly. Some other greats were Battleship, Clue and Candy Land. The chart I see here is pretty amazing how board games have expanded so rapidly. I bet it makes it tougher to be a board game creator as there is so much competition out there, but great for consumers to have so many options. I would think that more competition too is cause for the quality to improve. With so many improvements and so many new games out there, do you know if there are any good affiliate programs out there for this niche? Thanks for a great post!

    Reply
  8. I don’t think you can conclusively say that quality is going up. In the article you cited, the author offers the alternative possibility that ratings now mean different things.

    Many people now see an 8 as an average rating. If you take a training test at your job nowadays, you will probably fail if you get less than 80%. Retailers, such as Walmart, that give surveys on receipts, consider any store with a yearly average rating below 9.0 to be unacceptable. (1-10 scale) At personal service companies (such as Shipt) you can be fired if your customer approval rating drops below a 4.0 (1-5 scale).

    I think it’s possible that quality is getting better with games. I think it’s just as likely that a game that would have been given a 6 on BGG 20 years ago is now being given an 8.

    Reply
    • That’s one way to look at it, although the cited author does not come to a definitive conclusion, he only speculates (just like you and me) why the average ratings when up, whether it’s the actually quality or perceived average.

      I’d still say the average quality has increased, but I won’t rule out that the perceived average hasn’t. It’s probably a little bit of both, just like you concluded.

      Reply

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