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Wingspan maker’s sales decline for second consecutive year, but the board game company isn’t worried

Infinite growth is for the birds.

Wingspan layout image cards
Image credit: Stonemaier Games

Board game publisher Stonemaier Games recently posted their annual stakeholder report for 2023, revealing that the maker of Scythe, Wingspan and the upcoming Wyrmspan revenue fell for the second year in a row. Stonemaier reportedly earned $16.7 million last year compared to $20.7 million in 2022 and $24.7 million in 2021.

Despite this, president and co-founder Jamey Stegmaier expressed little concern about the state of his business, saying that “Joy is always our goal–we don’t measure success by money, units sold, rankings, followers, or awards. Those are just metrics.” He reinforces this optimism by saying that Stonemaier Games’ profit (revenue minus business costs, crudely) actually increased in 2023 thanks to “some improved partnerships and logistics”.

Other measures of the Stonemaier’s good health include a debt and loan-free year, even when their operating cash dipped during critical periods between paying manufacturer Panda and receiving payments from board game distributors, and adding three new full-time workers to their previous staff of four. The company released two new board games, Scythe spin-off Expeditions and bees-in-space factional strategy game Apiary, and began design for the dragon-themed Wyrmspan built on the framework of their most successful title.

Let's play Wingspan's digital board game versionWatch on YouTube

Speaking of Wingspan, this rare hobby-sized success in the mass market clocked 1.9 million lifetime units sold by the end of the year. In order to put that number into context, the older Scythe has sold 550,000 copies and Viticulture measures about 244,000 since releasing in 2013. Wingspan is an order of magnitude more popular than nearly every other non-Hasbro, non-Catan board game, and its success is an aberration that no company can predict or rely upon.

Think about 2021, a year that feels both like it happened a decade ago but also yesterday. We were neck deep in the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and tabletop games of all kinds were experiencing a boom. Stuck inside, folks turned to hobbies they could share with their pod. Wingspan had already achieved success - and accolades - within the hobby since its 2019 launch, and board game stores, Amazon and other retailers were flush with copies. Call it kismet or serendipity, but Wingspan punctured into pop culture.

Stonemaier Games could have easily doubled down on this runaway success in a fashion similar to other corporations, believing (or hoping) that the hockey stick graph would continue upwards for years. Plenty of businesses are now reaping the bitter fruit of just such a harvest in 2024, leading to rounds of mass layoffs, project cancellations and shrinking financial forecasts now that money is no longer free and the cost of paper and shipping remains steep.

An image of the artwork for Apiary.
Image credit: Stonemaier Games

To its credit, Stonemaier seems to have compartmentalised Wingspan’s success and kept their financial expectations reasonable. This is still an industry that requires a company to rely on the work of, according to Stegmaier, over 100 independent contractors to turn a profit - say what you will about how the reflects on the tabletop industry writ large.

2024 will see the release of Wyrmspan, which promises to be much more than a re-skinned version of its mechanical inspiration, as well as expansions for both Expeditions and Apiary, and a brand new title that Stonemaier Games has yet to name. Stegmaier ended his stakeholder report with one more injection of optimism, which is hard to fully doubt given the numbers:

“In 2024, my goals are to welcome both new and experienced gamers into the gaming community and bring joy to their tabletops, to support my amazing coworkers, and to lead with kindness, compassion, and empathy.”

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Chase Carter avatar

Chase Carter

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Chase is a freelance journalist and media critic. He enjoys the company of his two cats and always wants to hear more about that thing you love. Follow him on Twitter for photos of said cats and retweeted opinions from smarter folks.
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