Board and card games did fine in 2010, just as they have been doing for at least the last 20 years.
Here’s our pick of the top twenty stories for board and card games in 2010.
Maybe next year: Just as they did in 2007, 2008, and 2009, we heard a lot of noise from Hasbro and Mattel about board game turning into movies: Monopoly, Ouija, Battleship, etc. We heard about directors, producers, actors, and scripts associated with several of these projects. But the movies are still not here. And we’re still waiting.
20. boardgames.com Sold For $450,000
While less than the sales prices for poker.com or gambling.com, the sale of the URL with the highest price tag and search ranking for a general board game related site garnered expectations. The new owner promised a roll-out with amazing new features and social tools for September.
The site launched in September, but it didn’t work properly for a few months, and, as of now, it looks like any old online game store. Ho hum.
19. Chess Superstars
Three guys battled for the rights to claim the world’s number one ranked Chess player: Magnus Carlsen from Norway, Veselin Topalov from Bulgaria, and Viswanathan Anand from India. Since Gary Kasparov retired in Jan 2006, these three have rotated as the number one ranked player (excepting a three month period in early 2008 when the honor went to Vladimir Kramnik of Russia).
Magnus turned 20 this year, won Corus, and took time out to become a fashion model and defeat the world in an international Chess match. Veselin took Linares but remained an odd character and the “bad boy” of Chess. Anand defeated Topalov to retain the world championship title. The fighting continues at the London Chess Classic.
18. Phase 10 Suit Settled, Sold to Mattel
Fundex settled a suit against it from the creator of Phase 10, only to turn around and sell the number 2 card game in the world to Mattel, the publishers of the number 1 card game in the world (Uno).
Mattel also bought iMAGiNiff from Blue Opal.
17. Catalyst Game Labs’ Accounting Problems
CGL, owners of several good licenses such as Shadowrun and BattleTech, discovered that the accounting practices that worked for them when they were little didn’t work well for them now that they were big: one of the owners was “co-mingling” CGL’s money with his own accounts.
It didn’t appear to be embezzlement, just a case of mismanagement. Nevertheless, several people quit and Wildfire and Posthuman Studios ended their relationship with CGL and landed at Sandstorm Productions.
Things seem to be working out for all involved, however.
16. Settlers of Catan Makes More Mainstream Inroads
Catan, already breaking into the mainstream last year, is now essentially mainstream. Wired talked about gaming parties in Silicon Valley, its name and pictures of the box are sprinkled throughout the mainstream press without comment, and celebrities are beginning to mention it, when they mention games at all.
Other Euro-style games to achieve some mainstream success include Dominion expansions, such as Alchemy and Prosperity, and Forbidden Island.
15. More Companies Turning To Kickstarter
When funding from investors dries up, it’s time to take your funding directly to the people. Kickstarter, and a few similar offerings, lets you crowd-fund your project with minimal risk for either party. Pledges are automatically collected when the project is fully funded, and not collected at all if the project doesn’t get fully funded.
It’s like the GMT P-500 pre-order system, but the company gets the money up front and the pre-orderers get a list of choices for something special as a reward for their early commitment.
14. Brick and Mortar Retailers Fighting Back
Local game store have complained about the unfair advantages available to online discounters – no tax collection, little in the way of location or storage costs – for some time. Many publishers who see local stores, rather than online discounters, as their means of getting new customers, sympathize. Until now, little has been done to address the issue in any concrete way, excepting Mayfair Games’ high profile resort to price fixing resale price maintenance.
This year, some publishers and distributors took action. Panini changed its distribution policy to favor brick and mortar retailers. Crytpozoic, Green Ronin Publishing, and Margaret Weis Productions, among others, began offering bonuses to retailers. From the retailer side, one local game store owner a group of game store owners started the Professional Game Store Association hoping for strength in numbers.
13. Pervasive Gaming Making Noise
Gamification, pervasive gaming, whatever you call it, hit the stages of several prominent conferences, such as TED and DICE 2010. Jane McGonigal wants us all to collectively play 21 billion hours of games each week in the search for solutions to human problems, while Jesse Schell talked about what pervasive gaming might really look like. Dozens of board games meant to be played while you do chores, do business, or just do life were released. From the other direction, augmented reality games took a few more baby steps.
While essentially born of the video game industry, the ideas of pervasive gaming are relevant to all types of games.
12. 4Kids Kills Chaotic, Hasbro Kills Heroscape
Meanwhile, Hasbro aka WotC killed one of its only really good gamers’ games, Heroscape.
Which is to say that not all the news for the game industry is necessarily good news.
11. Super Licenses
The world of toys and games is still mainly one of licensing, and Toy Story 3, Ben 10, Harry Potter, Iron Man, Shrek, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Avatar were some of the top performing licenses for the year, mainly because of the associated movies.
Note that these are mostly “boys” licenses. “Girls” top licenses pretty much continued from what they were last year: Littlest Pet Shop, Barbie, Breyer, Liv, etc., although Twilight and Alice in Wonderland also did well.
10. Hasbro and Mattel Add New Twists
Hasbro brought out Monopoly Revolution with a circular board in honor of the 75th year of holding the license. Not much to say about it, really.
However, Hasbro and Mattel also experimented with applying their game brands to constructable games and new rule twists. Scrabble Flash is a top seller on Amazon, and the new family version of Scrabble – Trickster – made some of the purists uneasy. Other games include a series of U-Build games, where you construct the way the game plays before the game starts (shades of Settlers?) as well as various Uno products, such as the popular early Uno game Uno Moo.
9. Milestones: People Who Passed On
Some people who passed on this year:
8. Continuing Lawsuits Involving Mattel
MGA won a stunning upset against Mattel regarding its Bratz line; this doesn’t have much to do with games, but what happens to Mattel affects the game industry.
Elsewhere, Super Duper Publications, maker of speech pathology materials and games, lost a judgment it sparked when it tried to trademark the word “says”, forcing Mattel to respond the way big guys often do. The judgment is done, the appeal was denied I think, yet SDP’s site remains, still selling the controversially name material. I don’t know what happens next.
7. Beyblade: Metal Fusion
The best selling toy in Amazon’s action and toy figures section is the best selling toy in France Amazon, period. It’s a re-invention of the massive hit game Beyblade. Huh, And I thought Battle Strikers would do well. When all is said and done, you’re just endlessly spinning tops.
6. Hasbro, Mattel, and the Game Industry, Thriving
The big news about the industry is also not really news: Hasbro, Mattel, and other players in the game industry such as Games Workshop, Fantasy Flight Games, and Jakks Pacific, continue to thrive, despite, or maybe because of, the bad economy.
Hasbro and Mattel are looking particularly strong. Hasbro launched its own TV network The Hub, has its games featured on Ellen, and apparently is stronger than the much larger Universal Studios who still hasn’t managed to get any of its movies out. Mattel is working on its own licensing and visual arts projects, as well as advanced electronic games to compete with the Wii and Kinect, such as Loopz and Sonic Slam.
5. LEGO Dives Into Board Games
LEGO launched 18 games this year, all the most surprising as these are its first games, ever. And some of them were designed by people who know what they’re doing. Many of the games are top sellers.
LEGO made moves in several directions this year.
4. Spin Master Ramps Up
Spin Master has risen to the third largest toy company in America. Bakugan did crazy well; they’ve shipped over 250 million units, and earned Toy and Property the Year recognition. They produce a million units of the girl’s version Zoobles each month.
Universal is scheduled to release a Bakugan movie in 2011 (ha ha).
3. The Battle for FIDE Presidency
The alien-meeting, possibly corrupt despot, FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was re-elected FIDE president for another four year term. The election brought in arch Chess-rivals Karpov and Kasparov onto the same team, secret trips to lock the doors to the Russian Chess federations, and the Kremlin, and basically continued to make FIDE look like a circus sideshow.
That’s when Kirsan offered to buy the NYC building slated to become a mosque in order to turn it into a Chess center in order to appease the alien overlords.
2. Upper Deck Forges, Fights, and Freefalls
Almost too unbelievable to print, the CEO of Upper Deck reacted to the loss to Konami of the lost Konami’s Yu-Gi-Oh franchise by personally directing the counterfeiting over 500,000 cards in attempt to sink the franchise and then threatened to counter-sue Konami into mutual destruction. UD got slammed by the court.
1. The Ipad
The most requested toy this holiday season isn’t a toy, it’s a touch screen device. The iPod and iPhone worked well enough for games, but the iPad was the killer technology; site after site looked at it and thought one thing: board games.
Now there is a mad rush to bring games to the iPad, so fast that we covered some but have long since stopped trying to keep up. Among the most popular are Monopoly, Scrabble, Poker, and Mahjong, but all the old and new standbys – Settlers of Catan, Uno, Small World, Carcassonne, and so on – have made it, are making it, or will make it soon.