Walk into any game store and ask the clerk for a game recommendation for you and your family and you have a good chance of hearing the same answer every time: Settlers of Catan.
Setters of Catan has been around for 15 years. Originally published in Germany in 1995, the game has been growing in popularity throughout the world.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal ran a front page story on the game and how start-ups in Silicon Valley use Settlers of Catan parties to break the ice and have face-to-face events.
Here is a link to the story:
An Old-School Board Game Goes Viral Among Silicon Valley's Techie Crowd
In doing research, the Game Whisperer recently spoke with some game stores in California and Utah. All of them, without exception, stated that Settlers of Catan was their top selling board game. What is particularly interesting about the answer is that the people buying the game are not traditional board gamers. These are often first time buyers who have never been in the store before and have come because they have been exposed to the game through word of mouth or playing with a friend.
Several of these stores have top 10 lists for the board games selling within their stores. This is done to help the local shoppers know what other people in their area are buying and playing. Often there is a second list, the top 10 Board Games from www.boardgamegeek.com, the definitive site for board gamers online.
Currently the top 10 games on Boardgamegeek.com are:
Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization
Tigris & Euphrates
Of this list of top 10, in one store, only Dominion appeared on the top 10 list for the local game store.
As previously mentioned, all stores listed Settlers of Catan as their top selling game. Ticket to Ride and Carcassone following close behind. On Boardgamegeek.com, these games are no where near the top.
Setters of Catan - #46
Ticket to Ride - #56
Carcassone - #65
When The Game Whisperer asks people which games they like to play with family members like aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and parents, these three games are always mentioned.
Why the discrepancy between the online list of games and what is being sold and talked about in the local stores? Partly it is the nature of the games and the demographic of the player. Board game GEEKS know they are part of a hobby and go online to participate, sharing their opinions and ranking their favorite games. Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Carcassonne do not appeal to Board Game GEEKS, and the term GEEK is used in a defining manner, to describe someone who is heavily involved in the hobby of boardgaming.
Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Carcassonne appeal to the new buyer in the game market, the woman. She is often buying for her family, but according to The Game Whisperer research, she is increasingly buying for herself. And the woman buyer is not attracted to the traditional violence, sex, and the occult of hard-core boardgamers. She is also not attracted to conflict oriented games, but instead is looking for competition, without the conflict. Where everyone participates at their own level and own skill.
This allows three generations of family members to enjoy playing the same game. According to one game store, the easier, simple rules that are quick to learn but still provide strategy and complexity in the game play, is very appealing to women who aren't looking for the conflict associated with more competitive games.
This isn't to say that women aren't competitive, they most assuredly are, but they are not looking for a conflict game that forces one player out of the game in order for others to win.
The Game Whisperer believes that game stores and hobby stores will slowly begin to adjust their marketing and image in order to attract this new buyer, and board game manufacturers who have traditionally sold to the young male will begin looking for games that they can develop that are attractive to this new buyer as well.