C2C Studios

Board Games Continue Down a Winning Path

by Mary Couzin, founder, SMG Leisure

Many game industry experts consider this the golden age of board games. History will decide if the moniker sticks, but one thing is for sure: Games and puzzles were the fastest-growing toy category last year, climbing 11 percent to $1.6 billion, according to The NPD Group. This year, game sales continue to grow at 24 percent, more than three times the growth of the toy industry overall. And that number could be even higher if you consider all the crowdsourced board games, a category that has become a major player (pun intended) in the publication and manufacturing of board games. Platforms such as Kickstarter allow independent game designers to reach thousands of consumers, and retailers are tuned in to this trend, which will only continue to rise.

Though lots of games sell at retail for less than $20, and some fall into the impulse category at less than $10, other more complicated games are selling for more than $50, contributing to the overall rise in game sales. During a recent trip to Target, I spotted 10 games selling for more than $50 each. Target.com has 67 titles selling for more than $50, including multiple strategy games.


North Star Games’ Happy Salmon

There is a perfect storm of many trends contributing to strong game sales. Below are the top trends from my research. We could meet over signature cocktails at one of the growing number of board game cafes and enjoy a long discussion on this topic, but it’s tough find an open table!

Getting Social

One of the best things about board games is that they allow for face-to-face social interaction, and many small business owners are seeing the value in this. Game cafes are opening worldwide, bringing people together over cocktails and board games. Specialty game stores have increased their game nights, where friends and strangers can come together to play, and some stores have added workshops to teach people how to play new games. Some local businesses will even send people to your home to teach you and your family how to play games you want to learn. Even larger retailers, such as Barnes and Noble, are getting in on board game events. The specialty retailer recently expanded their game events to all 640 of their stores. This trend is spilling over into corporate lunch hours and after-hours work events. If I had a dollar for every time someone outside our industry mentioned this, I could buy more of those $50 games.

Crowdsourcing Continues

The crowdfunded trend continues to be strong. More than $500 million has been pledged on all types of games (digital, video, projects, board, etc.) on Kickstarter since the platform’s inception, and of that, $265 million went to board games alone, outpacing video and digital projects.

Both independent companies and inventors use Kickstarter to launch their new products, and larger companies use the platform to find products to add to their lines. Looney Lab’s successful launch of Pyramid Arcade decreased many risks for the company. On a larger scale, Hasbro partnered with Indiegogo last year to source new games from independent game designers, and it was so successful that the company will repeat the effort this year. Of all the trends in games over the past few years, crowdfunding has probably had the biggest impact.


Looney Labs’ Pyramid Arcade

Silly and Simple

While complicated strategy games for adults are populating the shelves, games that require almost no instructions for silly and simple fun are also selling out at retail. The incredible success of Hasbro’s Pie Face last year proves that easy-to-learn, laughter-inducing games are popular with consumers. And this year, North Star Games’ Happy Salmon will be a sure hit in this category. At ASTRA Marketplace & Academy, the fast-paced action card game drew a huge crowd. Goliath Games also has a wide range of products in this genre, which has contributed to the company’s growth in North America.

Adult Party Games

Games aren’t just for kids. Adult party games that gather lots of people together for a good laugh have been gaining traction in the past few years, thanks to mega hits like Cards Against Humanity. And by “adult” I mean “cheeky,” and by “cheeky” I mean “kinda dirty.” This not-so-family-friendly trend continues this year with games such as Galactic Sneeze’s recent release Spank the Yeti, No Kidding’s Rotten Apples, PlayMonster’s Game of Nasty Things, and more.

Going Green

Game companies are jumping on the conservation train this year by using smaller boxes, pouches instead of boxes, and less internal packaging. This not only helps the environment, but it also helps cut costs and allows retailers to expand their offerings since smaller packaging means more products fit on a shelf. Hasbro recently earned Newsweek’s 2016 Green Rankings at No. 1 out of the 500 largest publicly traded companies in the U.S. on overall environmental performance.

Galactic Sneeze_SpanktheYeti

Galactic Sneezes’ Spank the Yeti

The Importance of STREAM

Hot on the heels of the familiar STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and STEAM (which adds art to the mix) trends, is STREAM (which includes reading and writing). Games are a great way to help kids learn these important educational concepts, and demand for these products is at a high. This year, ThinkFun’s Circuit Maze, Foxmind’s Pack’n Go!, Griddly Games’ Rocket Lander, Pressman’s Pass the Pen, and Blue Orange’s Dr. Eureka are great options for STREAM learning.

Screen Fatigue

Peggy Brown, game inventor and producer of the upcoming documentary film OPERATION Operation: The Power of Play, believes the rise in the popularity of board games across all genres is because people are unconsciously longing to connect with more meaningful story-based experiences, and desperate to connect with each other. She says, “While board games can be perceived as old-fashioned, there’s no doubt that they bring us together and force us to interact with each other in ways nothing else does. Playing board games, for players of any age, can reconnect us, compel us to discover and invent new and different ways to communicate and solve problems, and refresh our basic social skills which, for most of us, get rusty in the fast and often lonely connections of the interwebs. In an era where we’ve become connected to everybody and are subsequently close to nobody, board games plug us in to each other as we unplug from our devices, even if it’s only for a short time.”

I don’t see an end in sight to the continued rise of board games. At London, Nuremberg, and New York Toy Fairs, as well as ASTRA Marketplace recently, I heard many times from retailers that they were increasing their board game selection and allocated space, all of which is golden news, contributing to a burgeoning golden age.

MaryHeadMary Couzin is CEO and founder of the Chicago Toy & Game Group, with a mission of promoting the importance of play through hosting consumer, fashion, inventor, and media events. Events include Chicago Toy & Game Fair, Inventor and Innovation Conferences, Toy & Game Innovation Awards, PlayCHIC Fashion Show, Young Inventor Challenge, and more.

BattleBo Launches Updated Design in Time for Holiday Season

BattleBoConsumers can now pre-order the newly minted BattleBo game with an updated design in time for the holiday season.

The game is a fast paced, high intensity game, where players compete to capture their opponent’s castle pieces. BattleBo comes with defensive pieces for players to protect their castles and offensive pieces to attack their opponent’s defenses. There are different ways to play with new and expanded gameplay with alternate rules, pieces, and themes, and each game lasts about five minutes.

BattleBo first launched last October, and up until recently has been hand made. In order to keep up with demand, the company is now working with toy manufacturers to help produce the game. Orders of the new game will ship no later than September 1.

Second Annual Play Fair to Return to New York in November 2017

Play FairThe second annual Play Fair will return to New York City from November 2-5, 2017, and will nearly double in size. The event will take place at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center as a public celebration of play and entertainment for all ages. A joint venture between the Toy Industry Association (TIA) and LeftField Media, Play Fair offers families and media the opportunity to enjoy interactive play experiences with new toys, games, and popular characters, as well as purchase new and exclusive products. [Read more...]

Massachusetts 5th Grader Awarded ‘Top Banana’ At Inaugural Bananagrams Challenge

BananagramsTopBananaEleven-year-old Keely Cahoon, from Ralph D. Butler Elementary School in Avon, Mass. defeated 10,000 other 4th through 6th graders in New England to win the first-ever U.S. Bananagrams Challenge. The fifth grader was crowned ‘Top Banana’ after triumphing over 11 other kids at the live Grand Final of the word game tournament, held on April 9 at the Omni Providence Hotel in Providence, RI, home state of Bananagrams. [Read more...]

Techno Source Changes Name to Toy Island

Techno Source has officially changed its name to Toy Island as part of a company initiative to better position itself within the toy industry and communicate its expanded offerings to customers. While initially a developer of electronic games, the company will now also focus on the development and manufacture of high-quality, innovative toys meant for kids of all ages.

Care Bears Belly Match Available for iOS and Android

care bearCare Bears Belly Match, a free-to-play match-three game from Ubisoft in partnership with American Greetings Entertainment, is now available for Apple and Android devices.

Players are able to test themselves against boss battles featuring the mischievous Beastly and time challenges. They journey through the land of Care-a-Lot and match as many belly-badges as possible before their time runs out, making Care-a-Lot a happy place again. Care Bears Belly Match can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

COMMENTARY: Everybody’s Game at ASTRA Game Night

A version of this commentary first appeared in the July/August issue of The Toy Book.

ASTRA Game Night Pic 1

ASTRA Game Night took place in Ballroom CD of the Charlotte Convention Center.

Game nights are a terrific way to unwind, and the one hosted by the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) during its Marketplace & Academy in Charlotte, N.C., this past June was no exception.

[Read more...]

Tactic Teams Up with Ty for Beanie Boos Games

Tactic Games' Beanie Boos Friends GameTactic Games USA has a new line featuring Ty Beanie Boos, courtesy of a licensing agreement with Ty Inc. The game maker is offering preschool and children’s games featuring the Beanie Boos branded character property.

[Read more...]

Jakks Pacific Secures Licensing Agreement with Warner Bros. Consumer Products for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-logoJakks Pacific Inc. has announced a licensing agreement with Warner Bros. Consumer Products to manufacture, distribute, and market a line of toys and products based on Warner Bros. Pictures’ and RatPac Dune Entertainment’s upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, scheduled to hit theaters on March 25. The agreement, which covers the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice film, also includes a domestic and international renewal for the full DC Comics franchise.

The multi-category license includes large-scale action figures and vehicles, accessories, games, wagons, and more. Jakks plans to launch its Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice product line next spring to coincide with the film’s worldwide theatrical release. New DC Comics product lines will also be available at retailers this fall.

Spin Master Enters into Agreement to Purchase Cardinal Industries

spin masterSpin Master Ltd. has entered into an agreement to purchase Cardinal Industries Inc., one of the oldest privately held toy companies in the U.S. The acquisition will enable Spin Master to expand its selection of games, puzzles, and licensed products. Cardinal will continue to operate as an independent entity, while benefiting from Spin Master’s global scale and infrastructure.

[Read more...]