Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Rise of the BoardGame

Board games are back. If they’re not yet, they will be. I went looking on the internet to see if there is any sales information published that would back that statement up, and I couldn’t find any. Sales information on board games compared to other sorts of games isn't readily available. My guess is that hobby board games as a whole compare favorably to a single successful trading card game. If it hasn't happend already, I predict that soon each sub-category of board game (Eurogame, Wargame, ect.) will catch up to the successful TCGs. I do not predict that any one board game will ever sell as well as a single successful TCG because of the genres format just doesn't support that sort of situation. Not super news for board game publishers. That doesn't mean a thing to the board game players, who'll still be getting better and better games to play.

Why do I think this?

First, the remarkable website www.boardgamegeek.com, which I am proud to be a new member. I am consistently knocked out by not only the website itself, which is tremendous, but the amount and quality of the user comments, which the site is elegantly crafted to support. If you do a google or blog search for most any game, multiple hits from BGG come up. Even non-board games are covered, to some extent. The information provided there often well written and surprisingly impartial. And there’s lots of info. Tons.

Now, having worked for Wizards of the Coast for so many years, I’m a fan of trading card games. That's not so much a trend on BGG. In fact, being a ‘trading’ game to the BGG crowd is generally considered at the very least a shortcoming, and at worst a vile affront to the nature of gaming. That’s a shame because the tools and support provided by BGG are so powerful that similar tools would be a huge boon to the trading card game fan. In theory TCG players could invade the BGG website, but it wouldn’t be welcome and besides, it won’t happen. Here’s why:

Trading card game players are largely monogamous. The fact is, the games are expensive…and time consuming…and require a dedicated fan-base single mindedly devoted to just that one game in order to be successful. Those factors not only feed the genre’s critics, but are also the cornerstones to their success. A game you’ve invested in is a game you’re likely to be loyal to. The time spent is worthwhile, fun time. The dedicated fan-base provides a network of opponents, play-locations, and events that support a successful and engaging community. This is why trading card games can be so successful, where other types of games struggle. Almost no non-trading game can generate a user base large enough to support a community on its own.

Enter BGG. Its very strength lay in the massive variety of games that are reviewed, discussed, played, and generally enjoyed by the membership. Click on any member’s user profile and you’ll see their top 10 (!) games, the number of games they own, usually in the dozens…or more, and other general info all pointing to the fact that this person plays a lot of different games, often. Click on any game, no matter how obscure and you'll find that BGG members have played it and rated it. Most games have at least one fully written review, some have several.

Trading card game sites, like their players, tend to focus on a single game. The games require that sort of attention, and if you have a great TCG site, the people going to that site won’t care if you’ve also got information on something else. They want info on their game and their game only. You won't find reviews, because everyone there already knows about the game. You won't find comparisons, because there's only one topic.

For years, board game sites followed a similar model, a site dedicated Blue Max, or a site dedicated Civilization. They failed because the interest level wasn’t high enough to make it worthwhile to keep the sites updated. The sites are still there, but most haven’t been updated for years. There weren’t enough players for any but the most successful games to support an active forum (IMHO, the litmus test for a successful site.) Since it didn’t appear anyone was reading the pages, their authors sensibly abandoned them.

Now, with Blogs taking the stage, the general board game site or blog (BGG supports several Blog lists, I subscribe to two) are popping up. Typically run by game stores, they talk about what they played recently and how it went. Reviews and general game impressions abound. It took natural selection to come up with how the internet can support board games, but it happened. I think it's happening big. I predict big things for board games.

Other sites with multi-game information:
www.thegamingreport.com - Covers all sorts of gaming, from a manufacturer’s perspective.
http://www.bloglines.com/blog/SteveBl - Great example of a retailer Blog. Well written.
and a new one I’ve got high hopes for:
http://www.boardgamenews.com/index.php - They’ve got a nice start, but they better come up with something to set them apart from BGG.

-Adam

4 comments:

Coldfoot said...

It could be that I'm giving you information that you already know, but you will note a bunch of boardgame blog links if you follow the links back to my blog "&games".

Yehuda updated his links to boardgame blogs just the other day, his is probably the better site to peruse links to boardgame blogs. http://jergames.blogspot.com/2005/11/as-long-as-were-linking.html

There is some good stuff out there. You seem like a welcome addition to the community, I will link your blog and a couple others I've found in the last few weeks when I get a little time.

Adam Conus said...

Thanks! I'll check it out.

-Adam!!!

Anonymous said...

http://www.boardgamenews.com/ is basically the new version of http://www.gamefest.com/news/. You can pop over there and see the kind of quality you will expect on the new site.

It isn't direct competition to BGG. Rick (from BGN) does a great job that no-one on BGG does (and those that do are generally just pinching his stuff).

Adam Conus said...

I like both BGG and Board Game News quite a bit (which is why I pointed them out specifically.) I do think BGN will have to provide information distinct from BGG to really set itself apart. I'm not convinced its done that yet, though it does have a far better signal to noise ratio. Oddly enough, there are so many sites devoted to boardgames now, readers really need to pick and choose.

No so much so with TCGs...Hmmm...

-Adam!!!