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Why Board Games Are So Popular in 2019

Board games are more popular than ever right now and they are only going to get even more popular.

The global board games market is worth over $3.2 billion and is set to rise to $8.12 by 2021 according to board games market value data on Statistica. That is some huge growth! Google Trends shows the same upward trend in board game searches over the last 5 years too.

Many meeples from carcassonne
Many meeples from Carcassonne

What is going on? Why has this happened? Well, if you ask me, it’s not just one reason.

Why are board games popular? Board games are popular for lots of different reasons. The internet has made it easier for people to find out about them, crowdfunding means a wider variety and larger volume of board games are being published and people are trying to reduce their screen time.

But that’s just a few reasons why board games are popular. There are so many more…

It is easier to find out about board games

In the past, the only way to find out about board games was by going into your local friendly game store and talking to a shop assistant. Today, there are loads of different ways to find out about tabletop games.

Tabletop on YouTube

Wil Wheaton has a show called Tabletop on YouTube where he invites celebrities to play tabletop games with him. The show has had a huge impact on the popularity of tabletop board games.

After a game is featured on Tabletop, sales of the game spike and it goes out of stock in lots of places. It happens so consistently that it has a name – ‘The Tabletop Effect’.

The internet

The internet is amazing. It makes it so much easier for people to find others that share their interests no matter how niche they are.

Websites like Board Game Geek, The Dice Tower and Shut Up and Sit Down are valuable places where tabletop gamers can discuss their hobby, share reviews and get recommendations on games.

With more people within the hobby talking about board games and sharing their favourites, more people find out about them and their popularity grows.

Board game podcasts

Podcasts are free to listen to, so anyone with an internet connection and a speaker can enjoy them. What I love about podcasts is that I can put them on while I’m doing something else.

If you’re looking for a podcast to try out you’re in luck – there are a lot of board game podcasts! The Dice Tower, Shut Up and Sit Down, So Very Wrong About Games, This Game is Broken, The Secret Cabal to name just a few.

More podcasts talking about more board games means a popularity boost for all the games.

A wider variety of board games

The more games there are, the more chance there is for everyone to find something they like.

Kickstarter and crowdfunding

Tabletop games is by far the most popular category of projects on Kickstarter.

Crowdfunding is making it possible for more games to be published more frequently by new game designers.

There is less risk to the publisher because they’ve already sold the games before they are made. Kickstarter (and the internet in general) make it easier than ever before for publishers to find an audience to sell to.

The promotion of Kickstarter campaigns leads to lots of marketing for board games too – spreading people’s awareness of the hobby.

Digital versions

Board Game Arena
Board Game Arena

Even if people can’t get together to play board games, there are apps and online platforms where they can play together, on their own, or with other people online. Small World, Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne all have phone apps.

Board Game Arena has over a hundred games online like 7Wonders, Puerto Rico and Stone Age where anyone can join games with other people. Because board games are getting more popular, it’s much easier to find people online to play with. In this post, I checked out 6 of the best sites for playing games online.

Websites like Roll20 provide a platform where groups can play Dungeons and Dragons together when they can’t get together in person. (Not familiar with D&D? I wrote a short intro guide to Dungeons and Dragons.)

More Gateway games

Dixit Odyssey board game score board with animeeples
Dixit Odyssey board game score board with animeeples

For a long time, Carcassone and Setters of Catan were the popular gateway games that every tabletop gamer played early on in their board game adventures.

Now, there are more gateway games for people just beginning with hobbyist board games. Some of my favourites are King of Tokyo, Pandemic and Dixit.

The easier it is for people to get into the hobby, the more popular board games become.

Societal changes

Parents introduce their children

People who played board games as children now have children of their own who they can play board games with.

As the younger generation are digital natives, they spread the word about board games via social media, raising awareness of the hobby. They have also grown up with video games. Given that the game mechanics of many board games are pretty similar to video games, it’s easy for them to understand board games.

Wider acceptance of geeks

Celebrities like Wil Wheaton and Vin Diesel are both proud geeks. Wil Wheaton hosts Tabletop and Vin Diesel is a Dungeons and Dragons fan and has been on the YouTube series Critical Role.

Celebrities like Wil and Vin are helping the general public see that nerds don’t necessarily fit the stereotype they have in their heads. Geeks are people too!

The 2008 recession

The recession hit people hard. Everyone was looking for ways to cut back on their spending, but they still wanted to see their friends and have fun. Cue the humble board game. I bet a lot of people dusted their board games off and rekindled the love for them they had as a child.

Board games are a pretty cheap form of entertainment even if people think the initial cost is expensive. I wrote about why board games are worth the cost.

Real human connection

Scrolling through Facebook and liking your friends’ photos is not a friendship! People still want real human connections. They want to meet up with their friends, catch up and have fun together.

Board games are an excuse to get people together! The more friends you introduce to board games, the more popular they become even within your own friendship circle.

Backlash against digital

A lake in the Peak District, England
A lake in the Peak District, England

Paperback book sales are up, people are being encouraged to get back to nature and a lot of people are trying to reduce their screen time. Board games are another thing people can do to get real. They have physical objects that you can hold in your hands.

There’s just something magical about handling cards, rolling dice and placing pieces on a board game.

Board games are part of mainstream society now

Instead of being a niche hobby that only a few people take part in, tabletop board games can now be found in mainstream society. These might be more of a result of board games getting popular, rather than a cause but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t now contributing to their continued growth.

Board game bars and cafes

A few years ago no-one had even heard of a board game cafe. Now they are popping up all over the world.

Board game cafes are fantastic places where board gamers can go to try out new games, meet other gamers and have fun with their friends. To find out more check out my post about how board game cafes work.

More and more board game shops are offering drinks and snacks and hosting regular gaming events too.

Board games are in TV shows

The Big Bang Theory regularly shows the characters playing tabletop board games – both real and fictional. But board games have also been seen on other shows too. There are hundreds of instances, here are just a few:

  • The guys in the IT crowd can be seen playing War of Terror.
  • Orphan Black has regular references to board games including Runewars and Agricola. It even features a local friendly board game store in Season 4!
  • In Stranger Things, the kids play Dungeons and Dragons and name the monster in the Upside Down the Demogorgon after a creature in the game.

High street stores sell them

It used to be that your local friendly board game store was the only place to buy tabletop games. But now you can order a board game from Amazon and get it delivered to your house the same day. You can even buy Forbidden Island, Pandemic and other gateway games at Waterstones.

A sure fire sign that board games are popular is that they are in your high street stores. And once they are in these stores, any shopper can pick them up, leading to increasing board game popularity.

Onwards and upwards

Board games are hot right now and it’s awesome! Tabletop gamers get access to lots of games. Families and friends are getting together and having fun. People are saving their eyeballs from too much screen time!

Board games are a great way to get a group of people together and give them something in common to focus on. They even work across language barriers if you choose the right type of games.

I put together a list of my favourite language independent board games based on my own experiences playing them with friends who speak English as a second or third language.

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