Our group has long been into board games, and while many people have fond memories of basic board games like Life, Monopoly, Battleship, and others while kids, but as you get older you just want more challenging or more in-depth games. And, fortunately, for those of us who have always loved the board game experience, board games have caught up to that idea.
More complex games like Lords of Waterdeep, Stone Age, or Dead of Winter are all much more in-depth, start at a recommended age of teenager, and provide deep and detailed gameplaying experience. These are also three of our favorites, but there are many more.
In fact, between the 4 Meeples of Assorted Meeples we have over 400 board games between us all and those are just games we actually own, these do not include games that are Kickstarter funded or stuck in shipping purgatory (again, something our Kickstarter expert Phil knows all too well).
There’s a lot to love about board games, and there’s no denying we’re hitting an absolute Golden Age of board games. But why is this happening and will it continue, or is it just a temporary fad?
We believe the board game revolution is here to stay, now let’s jump into the why!
6 Reasons Board Games Have Become So Popular
Board games have become much more popular than ever before. While board games used to be very niche, they’ve started to gain traction and become increasingly mainstream.
This shows in the bottom line numbers of global sales. The board game market is worth over $7.2 billion globally. That number is expected to rise to a whopping $12 billion by 2023 based on current projections. There’s no reason to believe that growth is going to do anything other than continue.
Unlike purely online services or projects which have suffered post-Pandemic as people wanted to socialize and interact in person once again, but board games still fill that space.
Even more, the negatives of social media and spending too much time online have become sharper and more clear in recent years and further boosts up the idea of an offline way to socialize which includes board games. Considering how expensive everything has gotten (and how screwed young Gen-Xers, Millennials, and Gen-Z are based on pure economic numbers) having to buy a board game once and then get countless hours of joy with friends in a night in is not only going to seem like a fantastic idea, but it increasingly is one of the few budget-friendly options available to most people.
The explosion of the Internet into every day life has played a huge role. It’s much easier than ever before to find out about new and exciting board game releases, not to mention indie developers can create and sell games that never would have been released by a traditional publisher…and when one genre of new board game does very well more are sure to follow.
There’s also been a major uptick in crowdfunding. With the help of crowdfunding platforms, just ask our board game Kickstarter expert Phil, a lot of board game developers can effectively pre-sell their ideas to an audience which reduces a lot of the risk associated with developing them. Many people are also looking to minimize their screen time in the increasingly digital-dominated age.
However, the aforementioned reasons are not the only things that are driving board game sales. Here are some of the other reasons why board games have grown so quickly in popularity:
1. It’s Easier To Learn About Them
Previously, you had to purposefully seek out board games just to learn about them. You had to go to a local game store and look at the back of the box or ask someone that works at the store. If you only had a big box store close by you were limited to the games they had, and Toys ‘R Us didn’t have a major reason for diving into indie games or niche games.
Nowadays, you don’t have to go to such extreme lengths just to learn about new board game releases. You also don’t need to venture out to learn about tabletop games or how to play them.
You also have amazing gaming blogs offering great blog posts on board games (cough, cough)
- Lords of Game Strategy Guide
- Best Plot Quests in Lords of Waterdeep
- Red Dragon Inn Complete Deck Guide
- Best Munchkin Expansions
2. Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop on YouTube
This particular YouTube show has garnered a diverse and wide-reaching audience. It’s a show by Wil Wheaton and he invites celebrities to play tabletop games with him on it. Whenever he invites a celebrity, it drives that celebrity’s target market to the show which gets them intrigued with board games.
This is shown in the figures. Once a board game gets featured on the show, the sales of the game spike drastically. It even goes out of stock at a lot of retailers once the show airs. It’s become such a constant theme that it’s been labeled “The Tabletop Effect.”
Even years after the last episode was filmed, these videos still see thousands of views a month and continue to introduce people to new games.
That was a powerful driving factor in the 2010s to showing that board games weren’t just for little kids but that there was an entire world of board games out there that groups of gamer friends could enjoy.
3. The Internet
As mentioned previously, the internet has played a critical role in how popular board games have become. After all, you can do a simple Google search and find all of the information about board games that you want to know. You can find opinions about board games, look for specific types of board games, and even watch or read reviews.
Different websites like The Dice Tower and Board Game Geek are all resourceful for anyone seeking to learn more about board games. They are sites where board game enthusiasts can speak with one another about the hobby itself, share their opinions, and even get personal recommendations on board games.
Because the hobby has become so accessible, it’s led to drastic exponential growth. More people are sharing their love for board games on the internet which is only getting more and more people involved with the hobby.
4. Gaming Podcasts
Everyone listens to podcasts. Seemingly every hobby has its podcasts. They are free to listen to which makes them increasingly accessible. They are also usually distributed across all major platforms. A podcast is so accessible because they don’t require 100% of your attention. You can do other things as you listen to them.
If you want to find a quality podcast that you can check out as a board game enthusiast, you have a wide range of diverse offerings! There’s The Dice Tower, So Very Wrong About Games, The Game Is Broken, and many more.
With more and more podcasts getting launched seemingly every year, the hobby is quickly growing.
5. The Kickstarter Phenomenon
Since you don’t need to go through a big publisher anymore, anyone with an interesting game concept that can create the most basic of working models and a good pitch can get a chance at fully funding their games and selling without needing a big publisher, a contract with a big box store, or even a contract with indie stores.
This Kickstarter phenomenon has truly opened up the opportunities available for game developers, which means those of us who love unique, interesting, or different board games have more options of good games to buy than we have ever had before.
If you have 50 good games instead of 2, you’re going to play a lot more board games.
6. Geek Has Gone Mainstream
It wasn’t that long ago that being a geek or nerd was reason for the majority of people to bully you without consequences. I grew up in the 90’s, I am all too familiar with this. Friends of mine growing up in the early 2000s said it was the same.
It hasn’t been until the mid 2010s where most forms of “Geek” or “Nerd” have actually gone mainstream as trendy. D&D is openly beloved, Star Trek fans can openly be Trekkies, and Super Hero Movies have made comic books, graphic novels, and a whole host of what used to be considered “Uber Geek” mainstream.
Turns out when you then get introduced to gaming stores and populations of interesting people with a lot of stories, knowledge, and interests, your life tends to become much more interesting.
Board games are a part of that movement where geek has gone mainstream as being accepted or even niche cool in many cases. That has further opened up the market for board games.
More Variety Than Ever
Because the development process has become increasingly streamlined and because crowdsourcing has reduced a lot of the risk associated with making a board game, there’s a lot more variety to choose from. Crowdfunding has made it a lot more viable for smaller designers and new designers to release their board games.
We already discussed the Kickstarter markets, but the success of indie games has made larger publishers more willing to design more games, try out more games, and with more good games out there are a possible selection, that has only increased sales and interest.
It’s the type of self-fulfilling cycle that is actually extremely positive in this case and leads to large companies being more open to publishing more games, meaning more good ones get out, and more happy buyers become even more open to growing that board game collection.
One of the biggest things that hold people back from playing board games is scheduling. While it’s great to have everyone there physically in person, sometimes even when we crave that type of socializing with friends and family, it’s not viable.
Online board games gives another way to interact with favorite games everyone enjoys without having to show up in person, and it is a one-time commitment. Some friends can commit to leveling up a character for a MMORPG or always be there when other people want to play the group farm on Stardew Valley.
However, one board game is often viable, and at odd hours when only a few people might be available…or depending on schedules, the only times those special people are sometimes available.
The proliferation of legitimately good online board game options has definitely had a massive effect on the surge in board game popularity. The online option even lets you find players for a favorite digital board game even when the people you know aren’t available, and that has been a massive help for the board game space – especially when lockdowns happened because of the pandemic.
Board Game Arena
Board Game Arena is a platform that features hundreds of board games online. These games include Stone Age, 7Wonders, and more. It’s become much easier to find people to play with online because the popularity of board games is increasing.
In fact we’ve talked extensively about Board Game Arena because it was such a crucial part of being able to keep up playing and streaming during those early years when we couldn’t meet in person for board games. The fact that one person can have a premium annual membership (which is ridiculously cheap for what you get) and invite non-premium friends to the same game is outstanding.
There are literally hundreds and hundreds of board games on BGA and we even discuss this in an episode of Unqualified Experts discussing why we think Board Game Arena Premium is amazing.
Board Games on Steam
There are many outstanding board games offered on Steam, which also opens up playing against A.I. opponents so you can play some of your favorite games whenever you want is also another big sell for board games. Love Lords of Waterdeep, Splendor, Uno, Life, Root, or one of hundreds of others?
They’re all on there. That means there are always options available for some of your favorite games, and Steam games can be played online or offline, giving you yet more options for playing board games whenever the urge hits you.
Other Free Online Board Game Options
There are multiple free online board game options of varying quality but it just goes to show how many options there are for finding great games and players that you can enjoy thanks to digital board game options.
Just a short list of options includes:
Give them a look and see which ones, or others, speak to you!
More Gateway Games
There is more of a “board game meta” in today’s board game markets. What does this mean? This means there are games designed to be played as a series as well as games that are specifically made as a great entry or gateway to a particular genre of games. This often not only makes for good games, but a less intimidating one that can open up new possibilities for long-time board gamers.
Settlers of Catan
This has long been one of the more popular gateway games. Pretty much every tabletop gaming enthusiast played this board game early on when they started to get into this type of gaming.
A gateway game for strategy board games, resource management games, it’s just a wonderfully designed games and one of the kings of the board game space for a reason.
Nowadays, you will find more and more gateway games available for those that are just getting started with the hobby. Some of the best available for me personally included Dixit, King of Tokyo, and of course Settlers of Catan.
The hobby becoming increasingly accessible is only making the genre and hobby itself more and more popular.
More Reasons Board Games Are More Popular Than Ever
At this point it shouldn’t be hard at all to see why board games are so popular with so many people. They are cheap, they are social, they are embraced by arguably the very first generation growing up at a time when nerd culture was considered mainstream or even cool – and at a time when there are more possibilities than ever.
Don’t underestimate two very important factors: There are many cheap options & they’re social.
Budgets are tighter than they’ve ever been and younger generations don’t have even a fraction of the recreational income that their parents’ generation did.
That means a reliably fun and cheap option that allows people to socialize, not spend money, and stay in is going to do well over the long haul.
The second is the social aspect.
At this point it’s well documented and well known that social media and too much time online is horrific for mental health, depression, and other similar issues. While these can be good tools for keeping in touch here and there, the yearning for actual in-person socializing without the smartphones, without the distractions, is stronger than ever.
Board games fill that gap in a way that’s easy to do something to enjoy the time together without having to argue over food, taste in socializing options when going out, etc.
The Push Against A Digital Future
You will find that more and more people are fighting against the idea of a digital future. Companies keep trying to move everything online and then force an expensive subscription model, and most people have had enough.
Many people are fans of various fans of physical media which is why board games aren’t the only thing with record sales, but so are physical copies of video games, paperback books, and hobby/art crafting supplies.
Board games can be brought out to pass the time during a power outage, and that isn’t nothing, either.
They’ve Become Mainstream
Board games were already mainstream to some extent, but they’ve only become more so. Adult board gamers was often a bit of a niche group, but as the types of games available expanded and appealed to more people, more adults have gone with board games as a normal part of their lives.
This move from niche hobby to mainstream hobby has made a huge difference and is almost certainly one of the biggest drivers of the growth of the hobby.
There Are Board Game Cafes and Bars
It would be wild to think that there would be something out there like a board game bar or cafe. However, they exist and they are thriving. You will find these cafes exploding onto the scene across the globe.
These make for very unique and interesting places to go and have a good time with friends, family, and strangers. This is also a great place to meet new people who have a similar interest in games you like and can lead to new and interesting friendships.
Also from personal experience, a great board game cafe is just super freaking cool and has an ambiance that is very hard to match.
More Places Sell Board Games
Previously, you had to go to board game-specific stores to buy them. Nowadays, you can find them easily at local stores and online. You can even buy different board games online at Amazon and have them delivered in under a day!
You will find plenty of dedicated board game aisles at places that are actively shopped at daily which shows there’s enough demand for prime shelf space.
Also, The Kickstarter Phenomenon mentioned earlier gives people who don’t have a board game store nearby even more options for finding unique board games that suit their interests or needs.
This only increases the number of games that are going to be out on the market.
The Market Is Exploding & We’re All For It!
There has never been a better time to be a board game enthusiast. The hobby is exploding. More and more people are finding out about board games and getting introduced to how fun they can be.
There are games for every taste, every style, every genre, and as more people are becoming very much aware of This is leading to more diverse board games releasing and more people having fun.
Board games are a unique way to get people together and share quality time. You can even find board games that bridge existing language barriers if you choose the right one. Board games are a blast and it’s no wonder sales are increasing, and will only continue to do so as the army of board game fans enjoys this golden age of board games we’re currently living in.
Other Board Game Articles You May Enjoy:
- Should Board Games Be Considered A Sport?
- How to Play Imperial Assault
- Gloomhaven Vs Descent
- 7 Wonders Board Game Strategy Guide
- 12 Best Board Games with Cards
Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.