Hobby Game Trends 2000-2014 Round 4: Expansions

Categories Focus: Expansions

As with fans of the movie or TV industry (one I am most familiar with), in the game publishing industry it is common to hear from consumers, “They don’t make anything new anymore. They just keep making serials/add-ons/expansions.” Is there any truth to that sentiment? Before we get into some deeper analysis of specific game categories, let’s take a look at expansions.

At a Glance

Fortunately, BGG has an indicator on a game record identifying it as an expansion. Unfortunately, like so many other factors of interest, this identifier is not available in the advanced search in a way that allows us to search for all expansions. Instead there is a means to filter expansions out – to return a list of games that has no expansions in it. This meets the common request of gamers to list base games, but makes this study more difficult. The only way to get at the number of expansions is to exclude them from the list and take the difference between the two numbers (total Study Games – Study Games that aren’t Expansions = Study Games that are Expansions.) I am expecting some error to be introduced, but hopefully it is minor.

The Data

Despite the indirect method of obtaining the data for expansions, there appears to be a very consistent trend revealed. Similar to all Study Games, the number of releases has been steadily increasing over the last 15 years.

Now to address the criticism that the percentage of releases that are expansions is increasing, we compare Expansions within the Study Games to all Study Games. Although the percentage of releases that were expansions decreased significantly between 2000 and 2002, it has been steadily increasing for the last 13 years; passing its 2000 high of 27% in 2008. In 2014 the percentage of game releases that were expansions was a whopping 35%; a rise of 13% in the last 12 years and 7% in just the last 5 years.


Like the number of games in general, the number of expansions released each year is steadily increasing. What’s more, the rate of increase is greater for expansions than for new games. So the anecdotal observation (and oftentimes complaint) that there are more releases, but more of them are expansions is validated. For a discussion about the different types of expansions, expand your reading with my article The 4X's of Expansions