U.S. board-game sales rose 6 percent to $794 million last year.
“You sunk my battleship!” “Remove funny bone.” “Corner the market in utilities; you can’t lose.”
Baby Boomers will instantly recognize these classic soundbites associated with three iconic board games, “Battleship,” “Operation” and “Monopoly.” But playing these enduring board games today is not an exercise in nostalgia. It’s an actual thing. Board games are back…but they never really went away.
The Uncommons, Manhattan's first and only board game cafe, is just one of many new establishments across the country at which, for $5 or so, visitors can play vintage and new board games with friends and strangers; everything from chess and checkers to Clue and Risk, as well as popular trading card games such as Magic: The Gathering.
"We started The Uncommons to provide a home to tabletop gamers of every kind, and because we were tired of hauling games to dark bars, as well as spending a bunch of money on games that would couldn't try out first," owner Greg May told Millionaire Corner in an email.
Hundreds of thousands have viewed Wil Wheaton, of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “The Big Bang Theory” fame, playing board games with famous friends on his mostly family friendly web series, TableTop (except for those episodes that feature Cards against Humanity).
Board game sales, too, have way passed “Go.” Over the past three years, Monopoly sales have increased more than 15 percent, Operation more than 40 percent and the Game of Life more than 45 percent, according to Hasbro, which produces nine of the top 10 bestselling board games. U.S. board-game sales rose 6 percent to $794 million last year.
This year looks to be a real winner for board games. Monopoly is marking its 80th anniversary (there is an acclaimed new book about its untold history). Hasbro partnered with Buzzfeed to ask people around the world to choose which cities will be featured as property spaces in new Monopoly Here & Now games launching in the fall. Four million people in 182 countries voted. Pierre, SD will land the coveted ‘Boardwalk’ space on the U.S. Edition game and Lima, Peru takes the top spot in the World Edition game.
According to Hasbro, Pierre, which a population just shy of 14,000, rallied on social and regional media and went from No. 57 out of 60 to No. 1 in just two weeks.
What is behind this renewed board game mania? Some credit the pervasiveness of mobile devices, which at once connect and disconnect people, for a desire to experience real quality time with family and friends. "Tabletop gaming has definitely grown incredibly over the past few years...in parallel to the general rise in popularity of everything geeky," May observed. "Analog games provide a fun alternative to spending a fortune at the movies. (The Uncommons) has become a popular date spot for anyone who doesn't want to look at one another with a digital screen in the way."
“With the growth of digital and advancements in technology, we find that families are craving social interaction and a way to connect with each other,” Jonathan Berkowitz, VP of Marketing for Hasbro Gaming, said to Millionaire Corner. “Kids tell us they want to spend more time with their parents and parents want to spend more time with their kids, and playing games like Monopoly, Scrabble and The Game of Life are a great way for families to spend time together in a fun and interactive way.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.