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Why the boardgame market has to open up

For many people, digitization does not only mean that they use new technologies. They perceive fundamental social changes in their private life, at work and in social coexistence. This change also has a significant impact on the gaming behavior of children and families, whether alone or together. In this article, I would like to think about how this change is also affecting the board game market and how board games can evolve without the advantages of analog board gaming. Does the analogue board game market have a future?

An essay by Jakob Hase.

Digitization is progressing at an unstoppable pace

But let’s start at the beginning. What changes are we facing?

Children and young people are increasingly showing changed behavior when it comes to playing games. The life cycle of games has decreased significantly, which is primarily a response to the fickleness in children’s choice of games. The rapid progress of digitization also contributes to the fact that new technologies are constantly conquering the market (e.g. AR, VR, Metaverse). At the same time, the pandemic has shown us, among other things, that there is a strong need to slow down and break out, towards analogue movements and activities (I can no longer count how many friends and acquaintances have started DIY projects in the last 2 years).

What trend are we able to notice here? – Digitization is unstoppable, but the will and desire for something “real”, something physical remains.

Curiosity and the desire for something new is growing

And exactly this trend can also be seen in the board game market.

The need for analogue games is growing, while at the same time the interest in digital content is increasing. At the same time, players yearn for strategic innovation, which above all entails more complex game mechanics. I see a contradiction in the probable development of board game cafes. Even if it’s not in the form of a board game cafe (which we’ve seen increasing numbers over the past few years, excluding the pandemic), I think bringing people together will still be an essential need. Here I like to take the comparison from the world of work: During Corona, many predicted that pure web meetings would replace physical presence in the office. Certainly, working has become more flexible, but now that on-site meetings have become possible again, people still want at least one day a week as a day in the on-site office. Humans feed on social interactions and just “seeing” is not enough for this.

The gaming world can learn from this development

The gaming world (and board games in particular) can take advantage of this development and are facing an opportunity to embark on a journey into a new era of gaming.

Previous attempts have not been well received: integrating the tablet (explaining rules, recording the score) or the smartphone (hidden cards, interactions in the game) have failed. But why is that? It is an attempt to marry two independent systems without considering game mechanics. This inevitably leads to a bad user experience and breaks the consistent experience for players. Even the transition to purely digital offers does not offer the same experience that board gamers expect from a game night together: Social interaction, haptic experience and nostalgic memories are lost. Every coffee stain on my playing card comes from a common (bad as well as good) memory.

Now the time has come to embark on a new path together

The digitization of games can be accompanied in the current generational change in order to meaningfully meet the demands of both parties. This includes the educational factor, learning social soft skills and the gamification of educational processes in board games.

It must be noted here that not only the analog processes are digitized, but that a space is created in which the digital content generates the same benefit (or a better/more intensive benefit) for players. Digitization is the tool and not the solution. At the same time, digital possibilities must create a world in which creativity knows no bounds. This promotes the creative potential of each individual and offers mutual experiences like you have never experienced before.

What is your opinion on this? Does everything really have to be digitized or should some things remain analog? What dangers or potentials do you see?

About the author

Jakob Hase

"Digitalization should support socialization and interaction and be sustainable in every way. We translate available digitalization into things that make a difference to people."

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