Mary Couzin comments on Marbles the Game Store, Barnes & Noble and why the board game business is alive and very well

Mary Couzin, a regular blogger on Global Toy News and one of the most knowledgeable people in the board game industry, wrote a response to my article, “Games Are a Struggle for Hasbro, Zynga, Nintendo and Microsoft; What Does it Mean?”  In that Mary is so knowledgeable about and such an advocate for board games, I felt that her comments deserved to prominently posted.  Here is what Mary had to say:

A recent article, “Board games and our industry changing”. states, "(board games) Sales are rising year on year, while the hobby's biggest convention (Spiel, in Essen, Germany) now attracts more attendees than E3 and PAX combined."

Barnes-and-Noble MarblesLogo2I've been to Spiel, over 154,000 attendees looking for the hottest new board games (and toys to a lesser extent), and it inspired me to found ChiTAG (although I need toys and entertainment at our Fair to attract mass appeal, unlike Spiel). At Spiel the attendees are the people you see buying at mass market (loads of families), not a hobby crowd like GenCon or Origins.

What about the incredible expansion of Marbles the Brain Store across the country and that Barnes and Noble's board game sales are up 30%. If you look at their games, it is a wide variety, including many Eurogames. Settlers of Catan has sold over 25 million worldwide. Settlers and other 'gateway' hobby games can be found in the mass now.

I don't agree with the article’s (“Board games and our industry changing” dissing on popular games. People want choices, different experiences on different platforms as well as different types of games within one platform and they are buying them everywhere.

There is a significant segment that is not being accounted for in the board games sales numbers –


Barnes and Noble, Marbles and the plethora of other places games (all types of games – euro, indie) are being purchased online and offline. At ASTRA (a growing show) both Spin

Master and Mattel were giving special discounts or lowering their opening orders and offering free shipping to the specialty. Mattel even sponsored a lunch. It is a different world. Everything is changing. The Mayans may be right, the world as we know it ends in 2012, but the new possibilities are exciting. We need to embrace it and think differently.

3 thoughts

  1. Dan, do you happen to have any financial evidence backing your claim that there is a “long tail” for the board game industry? I ask not because I’m questioning your claim, but because I’m genuinely curious and would love to see the numbers behind that. I’ve struggled to find hard numbers on the board game industry from 2010-2012.

  2. Mary, you are so right. Board games are making a comeback, and people are expecting more than the old standards. It might not initially be good for Hasbro and Walmart who rely on a few SKUs, high volume hits, and quick inventory turnover, but it’s great for the industry, and for gamers. Indie developers are following the path of indie musicians and craft breweries. There truly is a long tail in table top gaming.

  3. Mike Woods • When I visited the Nuremberg Toy Fair last year there was 15.000 games (none-digital) on show. I wouldn’t say the board game was dead, would you? The first board game – Senet was invented 3.500 years BC. I wonder how many people have prophesied the demise of the board game since then. No – I think that the digital versions will only encourage folk to play the tactile versions. It’s a little difficult to get six or eight people around a mobile or even an IPad. And board games are social. I don’t find it much fun playing a game on my own on my mobile and I think that users will soon get tired of this type of recreation and look to games that they can interact with their friends. And getting your game out on a mobile is an excellent marketing strategy as well

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