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November 14, 2019

A Board Game Revival? Examination of Rising Popularity of Tabletop Gaming Among Millennials

MHT Partners  | Consumer Investment Bank

In an ever-increasing digital world, board games are making a surprise comeback. The board game market encompasses packaged games typically set on hard surfaces, including boards, game pieces, figurines, cards, dice, and other accessories. In 2018, Value Market Research estimated the global board games market to be approximately $4.6 billion in revenue.  By 2025, this number is expected to nearly quadruple in size, to $16.3 billion, a compound annual growth rate of 20%.

People of all ages are growing fonder of tabletop gaming, but young adults are the driving force making this traditional style of gaming popular again. Millennials are turning to traditional cards, dice, and game boards, seeking in-person social experiences that their phones and laptops cannot provide. Interestingly, much of the rapid growth in the board game market is attributable to this young adult crowd rather than children, the traditional demographic target for most board game designers.

Desiring collaborative experiences with groups of friends, young adults tend to prefer games that emphasize strategy, social skills, and cooperation over games based on conflict or sheer luck. To this end, old-time board games like Monopoly do almost everything wrong. Monopoly has a very shallow strategy – players try to buy all the properties they can early on in the game, in order to gain an advantage that will snowball into a larger advantage later on.  Settlers of Catan, on the other hand, is a good example of the type of game millennials enjoy. The game forces players to strategize how best to devote limited resources over a period of time and encourages collaboration with other players through trade.

How are board game designers responding to these shifting demographics? There has been a clear pivot towards strategy-oriented games, not only in new releases in Europe, but also in North America. Furthermore, since millennials are attracted to games that require critical thought about decisions they make at each step, industry players are now designing more games with heightened complexity.  Designers are seeking more than ever to embed multifaceted, clever strategies into new games to hook the intellectual young adult crowd. Aside from complexity, millennials tend to care greatly about the aesthetics of board games.  Designers are creating sleek, contemporary board games that appeal to the tastes of younger demographics, and doing away with the juvenile, simplistic designs and flashy colors that characterized the board games of twenty years ago.

Board games are often a medium for millennials to spend a few hours socializing in groups, so pairing games with food and alcoholic beverages is popular. Catering to this trend, cafes and bars that offer dining and drinking experiences centered around board games are appearing across North America and Europe. In a recent survey, approximately 30% of millennials said they are interested in visiting one of these board game cafés or bars. With the rapid growth anticipated in the board games’ market, it should be expected that parallel industries, like these game cafes, should see quick growth as well.

As consumer investment bankers, MHT Partners will continue to monitor the rising popularity of board games with millennials, and we expect M&A opportunities to proliferate as new entrants looking to capitalize on trends in the fragmented games sector consolidate. We encourage those interested to keep up with our views on the board game market by subscribing to our consumer blog.

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