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“Digital fatigue” is fuelling board game sales among adults - report

Games and Puzzles market expected to top $12bn worldwide this year, Euromonitor International predicts.
Friends playing a board game together around a table
Image: BullRun/stock.adobe.com

The rising number of older players looking for a non-digital alternative to video games helped the tabletop gaming industry reach new heights last year, with the hobby expected to keep growing in 2021.

That’s according to a new report from market research provider Euromonitor International, which predicted that the global Games and Puzzles market - which includes board games, tabletop RPGs and trading card games alongside traditional jigsaws - will exceed $12.4 billion in value this year.

The prediction follows a booming 12 months for tabletop games despite the impact of COVID-19 on the industry. Players were said to have turned to the game cupboard in droves as the result of having increased free time during lockdown, the growing nostalgia for classic games and the value of board games in the face of economic uncertainty caused by Brexit in the UK.

The Games and Puzzles market was worth an estimated $11.7 billion worldwide last year, according to Euromonitor - a leap of more than $1bn on its $10.3bn value in 2019. The US market alone comprised over a third - $3.6bn - of that total, with the UK industry worth $436 million. The US Games and Puzzles industry is expected to exceed $4bn in 2021, with the UK market growing to $449m in value.

Senior analyst Marc Alonso partially attributed the jump in board game sales - as well as increasing interest in toys such as Lego and action figures - during 2020 to a weariness among some older players when it comes to video games and other digital hobbies.

“Apart from online gaming, some of the biggest catalysts for growth in 2020 were some key categories of traditional toys and games,” Alonso said. “Construction toys, action figures, and games and puzzles have attracted adult populations in recent years, providing a safe haven as consumers experience digital fatigue.

“This trend continued throughout the pandemic in 2020, with games and puzzles showing value growth near 20% in both the US and Western European markets.”

Alonso added that the popularity of tabletop games and other hobbies sometimes stereotyped as being ‘for children’ had also been spurred by the rebuttal of such stigma by older fans.

“Construction toys and action figures also allow for a disconnection from online platforms; however, a main attraction for these toys continues to relate to the ‘kidult’ trend embodied by older millennials,” Alonso said. “A refusal to abandon ‘child-like’ hobbies such as superhero action figures or Lego building sets is proving positive for the traditional toys industry at a time where young generations are moving online earlier than ever.”

Euromonitor estimated that Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering and Monopoly maker Hasbro continues to be the biggest Games and Puzzles company in the world. The publisher recently revealed that 2020 had been the biggest year yet for Dungeons & Dragons, with the tabletop RPG said to have grown 33% year-on-year and exceeded 50 million players to date. The news followed Hasbro’s previous announcement of record-breaking years for both trading card game Magic: The Gathering and board game Monopoly, as well as “stellar years” for other family classics such as Jenga, Operation and Connect 4.

The second-largest Games and Puzzles maker is German manufacturer Ravensburger, which produces a number of jigsaws and board games including family classic Labyrinth, acclaimed dice game The Castles of Burgundy and the Disney Villainous series. Third is Mattel, the maker of family board games Scrabble, Pictionary and Uno, as well as Barbie, Hot Wheels and Fisher-Price toys.


Matt Jarvis avatar

Matt Jarvis

Editor-in-chief

After starting his career writing about music, films and video games for various places, Matt spent many years as a technology, PC and video game journalist before writing about tabletop games as the editor of Tabletop Gaming magazine. He joined Dicebreaker as editor-in-chief in 2019, and has been trying to convince the rest of the team to play Diplomacy since.

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