Why Are Board Games Expensive? A Simple Explanation


Cloudspire

I’ve heard it a thousand times from friends and family. Why is something made of cardboard and plastic so expensive? How can a board game cost that much? So, I thought I’d write about why board games appear to be expensive.

So, why are board games expensive? Board games are expensive because they cost a lot to design, manufacture, package, and ship. They go through a process of publishing (usually in smaller print runs), and on to the distributor, retailers, and finally the consumer. Taxes are also taken out, and everyone still needs to get paid along the way.

But not every board game is expensive. And the ones that are “expensive” typically just appear to be. In this post, we’ll discuss the cost and process of producing board games that make them cost as much as they do. I’ll also dive into why I think board games are worth their price.

The Cost of Modern Board Game vs. Classic Board Games

Most people are familiar with the cost of classic board games, but not as familiar with how much modern board games cost. Modern board games can cost anywhere from $15 up to $300. For a comparison, take a look at the board games in the image below. Those are classic board games and nothing is priced over $15.

As taken from Walmart.com

So, why is there such a big difference? Well, most modern board games have custom components, and they have a lot more of them. On top of that, classic games like Monopoly and Sorry! are made in big print runs by big publishers, not small ones.

Large board game publishers are given a discount when they print a large run of games. For a big publisher like Hasbro, that’s no problem. But small board game publishers just can’t do that. (And they’re typically the ones creating the modern board games.) They print what they think they can sell (or what they can afford) and test the market before they risk investing in a larger print run.

Producing Board Games From Start to Finish

One reason board games are “expensive” is because they cost a lot to produce. The interesting thing about board games, though, is that the companies creating them aren’t getting paid until the game gets published and sold.

But during the long time that they’re designing the board game, the designer, artists, developers, play-testers, etc. all need to get paid. And once the board game is almost fully developed, the company needs to market it if they want a successful launch. That’s not cheap either. Production costs are high, and then there are costs for assembly, storage, and distribution on top of that.

Here’s how a board game typically goes through the journey from an idea to becoming a game on a shelf in stores. It starts with the designer, then gets passed onto the publisher. From there, all of the board games have to get shipped to the distributor who then distributes the games to the retailers before they go to the customers. And don’t forget that the government has their hand in that process and take taxes out as well.

Everyone along that journey needs to be paid. Sometimes, retailers and distribution partners take a fairly large cut. I’ve heard it said that in order for everyone in the distribution model (as mentioned above) to get paid, a $60 game needs to be manufactured for about $7.50 per unit.

While the process I described above is the traditional board game publication route, several small to medium companies are actually now using Kickstarter to publish games. The cost of producing board games remains the same, but this allows these companies to collect money up front to use in production.

Modern Board Game Hobbyists

Another reason that board games cost so much is that hobbyists are asking for a better board game experience and are willing to pay for it. Let’s take Cloudspire for example. It comes with really high-quality components. When my husband and I opened up the box, we were impressed. We were also excited that we were able to give $150 to someone in exchange for what we had on the table.

Cloudspire

The cards are so high quality (they’re like plastic), that it makes shuffling them a breeze. The chips are also high quality, and the hexes are too (basically everything in the game is).

It comes with organizers that make setting up and putting away the game so much better—and that makes a huge difference to avid gamers like me. And the board game art is just beautiful. It’s a game that will last us a lifetime, and we appreciate the experience the higher-cost components provide.

Are Board Games Worth the Cost?

Now, just like with everything else, the people who decide to buy something are the ones who determine whether or not that item is worth it to them. But, when comparing board games to other forms of entertainment, you’ll see that they have really good value.

You buy board games once and play them over and over again. And then if you decide you don’t want them anymore, you can sell them and get some of the money you originally invested back.

Let’s take a look at the cost of a few activities/items below. The example will calculate the cost for two people since that’s the minimum number of people it takes to play most games.

Item/ActivityCost
One Meal Out (for two people)$50
Movie Theater (for two people)$30
Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure $45

Not only is the price of a board game pretty comparable to other activities, but you also get to play it over and over, and only pay for the cost once. Clank is one of my all-time favorite games, and I’ve probably played it over twenty times by now. That means that each time I’ve played it, it cost me $2.25. (And that’s assuming I’m “paying” for the other players’ experiences as well.)

Now, my husband and I hardly go to the movies anymore, and rarely watch them at home either. Board games are our favorite form of entertainment. And for this reason, they’re definitely worth the cost for us.

Conclusion: Why Are Board Games So Expensive?

To me, board games really aren’t that expensive—they only appear to be. But they’re priced how they are because they cost a lot to design, manufacture, package, and ship. They go through a unique process involving publishers, distributors, retailers, and then finally the consumers. After taxes, everyone along that journey has to get paid.

For most board game hobbyists like me, board games are totally worth the cost. But if you’re new to board gaming, you get a chance to decide that for yourself. I encourage you to start with buying one board game that you, your friends, and your family can enjoy so that you can all experience hours of fun for a low cost.

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