The board game industry is undergoing tremendous changes...again. This time, the influx of Eurogames is bringing a new player to the hobby and the current method of selling board games in the US is impeding the growth of these new games and their players.
These shifts have occurred every 10 to 15 years. In the 1960s and early 70s, wargames from Avalon Hill dominated the hobby. Then, in the 1970s, role playing games came on the scene, Dungeons and Dragons became the dominate force.
With role playing games like Dungeon and Dragons, the board game hobby started come to the public's awareness due to the nature of the game and it being successful. ET, the 1982 Spielberg movie, had major scenes with the main characters playing Dungeon and Dragons.
In August of 1993, Magic: The Gathering was released and again shifted the focus of the board game hobby. Magic introduced board gaming to a new generation of gamers as well as to those who were not interested in role playing or wargames.
With each change, the hobby has been opened to a new group, increasing the scope of those involved with boardgaming.
Shortly after the release of Magic, a new type of game was introduced in Germany called Eurogames. Settlers of Catan being the lead game in this category.
Eurogames tend to be competitive without conflict, allowing all players to play until the end. What is especially different about Eurogames is that they are generating a strong following amongst women, a group traditionally not part of boardgamers.
The Challenge - Violence and Sex
With women entering the board game market in the US, it is causing problems for those companies wanting to attract this new market; the problem of the current distribution channel.
Board games are not usually sold through mass retail stores like Target or Toys-R-Us. They are usually sold through specialty game stores or comic book stores. These stores have traditionally catered to young males, focusing on fantasy, science-fiction, and wargames. But many women, looking to buy a game for their family, are put off by these types of games and especially by their marketing methods, focusing on violence and sex.
What you find is an awkward mixing of wargames, role-playing, fantasy, and family games all within the same store or from the same manufacturer, creating confusion. The confusion is not from the traditional market of young men, but the women and non-wargamer/roleplayer who is looking for a family game like Settlers of Catan.
Some game stores attempt to cater to this new market, focusing on family games, eurogames, and de-emphasizing the more violent games. Unfortunately, these stores seldom have the marketing resources to advertise their presence, making it difficult for uninformed buyers to find them.
Shifting Channel, Big Changes
Eurogame manufacturers are finding that to succeed in the US market, they must sell through a different distribution channel to achieve strong market growth. Current, signs indicate that this market is the national book store chains of Borders, Barnes and Noble, and the online book store, Amazon.
The Game Whisperer conducted a recent interview with a local Barnes and Noble store manager who admitted that they were becoming a game boutique, with more and more of their customers asking about or asking for board games.
This represents a major opportunity for the board game industry to expand into an untapped segment of the market, mainly women buyers looking for a collective activity game.
The Game Whisperer believes that this trend will have major impact on the board game industry, forcing many companies to rethink and readdress their current go-to-market methods.