Hobby Game Trends 2000-2014 Final Round: Conclusions


I am very pleased that this research confirmed some general speculations about the hobby game industry while it tempered others. Here are a few final conclusions, as always with the caveat that this research is based on the data available in the BGG database. There is much that can be discovered in the analysis and I extended to many areas in which I was not specifically interested now, but I wanted to leverage the process while I was practiced at it.. So the following conclusions are not all that can be drawn from the data, but just a few that interested me. Read the specific articles to better understand each category and the data challenges associated with it. You can review all of the figures that were included in the articles in the Hobby Game Trends 2000-2014: Figures gallery. It is worth repeating here that some of the data sets are so small that they are prone to large swings when calculating changes.

Social Deduction Games

When I set out to mine the BGG database I was primarily interested in answering 2 questions:

  1. Is there a social deduction game boom? It seems like every other new game is a social deduction game, but maybe that is due to the games that catch my interest right now are ones that meet that criteria.
  2. Is there room for more? I have a few game designs in progress for which social deduction is the primary mechanic. Am I entering the market at the wrong time?

Yes, though social deduction games are rising in popularity, they are a very small segment of all games released. My next analysis related to social deduction games is to look at what makes one and to compare several popular games in the genre based on criteria that I am developing. As usual, this is not to review the games, but to identify how they use the social deduction mechanic and how they differ. Watch for this series of articles coming soon in the Game Design Notebook under Game Genres.

As I started researching the data, though, I started asking other questions and other avenues were opened due to other discussions that I took part in. I made a few conclusions along the way and left a lot to your own discovery, but here are a few noteworthy conclusions from the series.

Annual Games Releases

Yes, there is an increase in new games releases every year and there has been for the last 15 years. The last 7 or so years have seen an acceleration in that increase, though, unlike the anecdotal evidence that it is growing exponentially, the acceleration (the increased rate of increase) has been mild (about 0.5% per year).

Why is there a disconnect between what we see and what the data supports? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. The number of releases for a traditional game and for hobby games are not equal, so as traditional games get replaced by hobby games, the actual number of new games increases.
    1. 40 new releases of Monopoly look like 1 new release (if that).
    2. 40 new hobby games with different titles look like 40 new releases (and are).
  2. People interested in the hobby game industry are not even looking at traditional games. They are not “released at Essen” or “released at GenCon.” They just show up on the shelf at Target.
  3. The prevalence of dynasties has fallen off (at least temporarily), so most new releases are new games, not just repackaging of the same game. (See Expansions).

Expansions and Dynasties

Yes, the number of expansions released is growing each year and the percentage of new releases that are expansions is also growing. I have collected the conclusions about expansions and dynasties into one category because I think some of the current and future dynasties are built on expansions.

Instead of re-theming and light changes to Monopoly to make Monopoly: The Lord of the Rings Collector’s Edition, we will see more dynasties built on expansions and take-offs like Catan (which has over 130 titles listed on BGG! – yes, several are promos, but not that many) and one that is emerging now, Pandemic. It may have been off to a slow start as a dynasty, but it is in full break-out mode now.

You might even include these titles in this dynasty, depending on how you are defining it:

Is there any doubt that there will be at least one new release in 2016?

Economic Games

Yes, gamers are tiring of “traders in the Mediterranean” games. Economic games had a steady increase from the beginning of the study data (2000) until about 2011. Since then new releases have been declining steadily.

Yes, particularly interesting is that some mechanics typical of economic games continue to rise, but not in economic games; Trading, Negotiation, and especially Auction/Bidding are all popular in new releases. Presumably these mechanics are being used in non-economic, non-traditional ways.

Traditional Games

Yes, the decline in releases of traditional games is obvious and striking. Although, this data does not represent the number of units sold, it is obvious that game publishers are putting their stock in hobby games. We can all do a victory lap. The next time you get pulled over by a cop late at night and say, “I’m just driving home from playing board games with friends.” The cop might say, “Board games? You mean like Pandemic?”

Since I did not include children’s games in this study, it would be interesting to know if there is a similar movement in this category. Certainly with great publishers like HABA (on BGG) and Blue Orange Games (on BGG) growing internationally, there is hope for the future of the gaming universe.

But Wait, There’s More…

Note: At the time I am writing this, I am not adding other chapters, but if I do further research along the same lines, I will add it into the notebook. I certainly plan to look at the 2015 data for some of the categories already researched to see if it meets my predictions. So you can expect me to add at least one more chapter in early 2016.

If there is any category or topic that you are interested in knowing more about, please comment and I will see if it is something I can add to this research. If you have any questions about how I collected this data or drew my conclusions, please comment. It is highly likely that you have questions or ideas that can help extend this information.