If you’re in the board game industry, then you probably have been asked, “why are board games popular?”, especially as they rise in popularity. So, I thought I’d write about it.
Why are board games popular? Board games are popular because the internet furthers their spread, the desire to interact with others away from screens is increasing, it’s easier to get into the hobby because gateway games are growing, and fostered board game communities have a multiplicative effect.
Curious to hear how each of those reasons play out? In this post, I’ll first cover board game popularity as a whole, and then I’ll dive into five reasons why board games are so popular.
Board Game Popularity
If you’re new to board games, you may be wondering if they actually are popular and growing. Here’s some data that PR Newswire shared:
The global board games market is anticipated to reach values of more than $12 billion by 2023, growing at a CAGR of over 9% during 2017-2023.PR Newswire
Wow! The reality is that board games are popular, and growing rapidly. But why? I’ll share five reasons why, below.
1. The Internet Furthers Their Spread
Board games are popular because the internet has furthered their spread (and continues to do so). People are learning about board games through these various platforms and mediums:
- Social media
First, let’s discuss Kickstarter. It’s a crowdfunding platform that has been huge in the growing popularity and success of board games. Before Kickstarter, there was a huge barrier to entry in the industry—money for printing board games. Because of Kickstarter, board game designers can now create games with greater ease. Tabletop gamers can also easily find out about and support new games.
Thanks to the internet, podcasts about board games are becoming more readily available. Social media accounts dedicated to sharing the love of modern board gaming are growing as well.
And if you’re been around the board game industry for any length of time at all, then I’m sure you’ve been on Board Game Geek, which provides a great community for board game lovers. (If you’re new to board games, check it out here!) Several other blogs also exist as resources for those who are new to the hobby as well.
The internet, and more particularly, Kickstarter, podcasts, forums, blogs, and social media (on and through the Internet) have all contributed to and supported the popularity of board games and continue to do so.
2. It’s Easier to Get Into the Hobby Because of Gateway Games
The increasing number of gateway games is another reason why board games are popular—they make it easy to get into the hobby of modern board gaming. Gateway games are games that introduce otherwise non-gamers to the world of “real” board games. A few examples of these are Ticket to Ride and Catan.
Most people have at least heard of one of or played one of those games at a board game night they were invited to. But after playing them, people typically don’t just keep playing the same games over and over again. They start to explore the hobby of board games further.
However, if a game like Gloomhaven, or other more complex games, had been the first game someone new to the hobby had tried, they would most likely get overwhelmed by all of the components and the learning curve. And worst-case scenario, that overwhelm might cause them to not get into or further explore modern board games at all.
Modern board games could otherwise be pretty difficult to get into, but gateway games provide a gentle and easy introduction, resulting in rising popularity.
3. Desire to Interact With Others Away From Screens
Another reason that board games are popular is that we are all desiring and craving to interact with others away from screens. Many people are trying to reduce screen time, and playing board games is a great and unique way to do just that.
By playing board games, you get a break from the screens but also the isolation that can come as a result of the digital world. Furthermore, the tangible pieces of a board game provide a refreshing oasis in a world dominated by digital entertainment.
The internet provides a false sense of connection that I think can, in turn, lead to isolation. And as humans, we’re created to talk and interact with other people in real life. In board gaming, (with the exception of solo games), there is a lot of back and forth talking, engagement, and interaction with others. You have a chance for real human connection, and that’s something we are wired to need.
Many families and individuals are working to reduce their screen time, and have turned to board games as an aid in achieving this. This longing and desire for real connection away from screens has fed and advanced the popularity of board games.
Whether you’re competing with your spouse to see who has the most cows (in Agricola) or cooperating with your kids to fight zombies (in Zombicide), the interaction between each other and the memories created are what keep many people hooked to the hobby.
4. Fostered Board Game Communities Have a Multiplicative Effect
Board games communities are being fostered around the world and online, and it’s having a multiplicative effect. A quick search on Google, and we find that the definition of multiplicative is:
tending to multiply or increase; having the power to multiplyDictionary.com
The board game community is multiplying and growing, because it’s part of its very nature—board games are meant to be played with others. Tabletop game cafes are popping up and thriving, blogs and forums encourage an online gaming community, and local communities are growing spreading the love of modern board games.
Those same communities are creating events for others who are new to modern board games, loaning them games from their own libraries, and putting on board game nights. They’re constantly sharing about their love for gaming, and teaching others how to play.
As my husband and I share the love of board games, we are teaching others how to play games, buying games with themes we think loved ones in our lives would like, and then we also strategically gift games. We’re always sharing about modern board gaming on social media, and we receive a lot of questions about it. We’ve seen and have helped several people get into gaming, as we cultivate a community of board gamers in our lives. It’s so fun to see how it’s multiplying just in our lives, and I’m sure this is happening in the lives of many other avid board gamers as well!
5. The Supply of Board Games Through Designers
Finally, another reason why board games are so popular is that designers are creating new board games, creating the supply for the demand that is growing. While the love for board games is growing, so is the love and passion for board game design.
I’m amazed at the creativity and skill that board game designers have, and I’m so thankful that they continue publishing their art (board games) into the world. This design work is a critical component that has allowed board games to continue to grow in popularity.
Conclusion: The Popularity of Board Games
I covered several reasons why board games are popular in 2019, and why I think they’ll continue to grow. To recap, board games are popular because:
- The internet furthers their spread
- Gateway games provide a gentle introduction to the hobby
- The desire to interact with others away from the screen is increasing, and board games provide a unique way to do just that
- Board game communities are growing due to their multiplicative effect
- Designers are creating the supply of games for the growing demand
If you’re new to board games, maybe it’s time to see what this craze is all about! And if you’re contributing to the board game industry in any way, whether you’re fostering the love of board games in others, or designing games yourselves, thank you. You’re contributing to the rise in the popularity of board games, and I’m grateful.