A couples days ago, our family turned the corner at the local Target. We were there to pick up a board game for a friends birthday. As we walked up to the game aisle, my eyes got big. Days earlier a friend told me that a huge shelf space was cleaned out at this same store. That space had finally been filled with some amazing games!
Over the past couple years, Target has done a solid job of recognizing how big the hobby of board games has become. They’re one of the first big box stores to carry games like King of Tokyo, 7 Wonders and Small World. Previously, your only hope to get these games would be to find a local game shop, order online or hope your nearest Barnes & Noble had a decent selection.
Why This Matters
Tabletop games have become a huge business. Currently, board games and tabletop games are bringing in the most money to crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter. The hobby game market in the U.S. and Canada has hit $880 million in 2015 and is still climbing. In a digital age, analog games are making a huge surge and it’s an industry that is seeing incredible creativity.
Board games are not something that people hide in a closet any more. There’s an entire culture that is built around this hobby and it’s been growing consistently since the early 2000’s. Around the world, board game cafes are opening, tabletop groups are forming and people are finding their seat at the table.
Board games are big business and major retailers are finally getting on board.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
So what does this mean as the average consumer of this hobby?
Getting our hands on great games will become easier for the average family. Right now, you can walk into Target and find a game that will be a fantastic fit for your family and chances are that it won’t be terrible. Some people don’t have a local board game shop. In our home town, we have an incredible shop called Moxie’s that is run by some great people. Unfortunately, that’s not the case in every city.
While it’s exciting to see retailers take notice of our hobby, this recognition comes with side effects. It’s only a matter of time before other stores start filling there shelves with mediocre games that will give board games a bad name. It’s already tough to convince some people that board games are more than Monopoly and RISK.
Instead of carrying games that are high quality and fun to play, some stores are going to stock shelves just based on cool box art. This happens in many industries and the consumer that hasn’t done their homework will get burned.
The worst part about all of this is that local game and hobby shops are going to feel the most pain. The average family will never take time to visit a board game shop if they can get the same product for $4 less at a big box store while they get groceries.
The community that local game shops are building is a thing of wonder. People come together, share a piece of their life and form bonds over these games. This is something that non-gamers need to witness.
The truth, is that our hobby needs both the local game shop and the big box store. Places like Target, stocking their shelves with top quality party games, family games and card games mean that we’ll begin to speak the same language. When we say, “Want to play a game?”, people will start to think of Pandemic instead of Apples to Apples.
I’m personally excited by the fact that Target has 50 exclusives hitting store shelves before Christmas. I won’t have to tell relatives how to find a decent game that can only be ordered online.
This won’t keep our family out of our favorite game shop because they are so vital to our hobby and the local economy. But it will get us really excited when we’re invited over to a neighbors house to play a copy of some obscure board game they just found at Target.