Yesterday, I tweeted a link to Amazon UK's bestselling board games, and I got curious. My own corner of the internet is full of people who have board game collections that look a lot like mine. Many of us have general agreements about what "good games" are, or what it means to have good taste in board games.
But if you aren't fully immersed in our hobby, the world will look different to you. VERY different. To get a sense of what "board gaming" means to the overwhelming majority of people, I created a table that juxtaposes the BGG top 25 with Amazon's top 25 best selling board games (as of today, 12/22/17).
Here are some decidedly unscientific conclusions that I will shamelessly draw anyway:
1. Ticket to Ride and Catan really ARE "new classics."
These games were my own "gateway games" back in the day, and it's clear that they have really broken through to the wider gaming public. Ticket to Ride is Amazon's #6, and Catan is #8. I find that very encouraging. How many more people can we bring into our already-booming hobby, if these two games are doing so well? I was also very excited to see Codenames come in as Amazon's #15.
2. Board games are still mostly being purchased for kids.
Many of the games on this list are skewed towards a younger audience either thematically or in terms of complexity. Most adults are not going to buy Yeti in my Spaghetti to play with other adults. Other entries like Candy Land, the Trolls game, and the Googly Eyes Drawing Game are strong indicators that most consumers are turning to board games as a way to entertain children. I would be very interested to see sales statistics based on age. What games are adults buying for themselves?
3. Old classics die hard.
Connect 4, Clue, Monopoly, Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Yahtzee... there are some familiar names on this list, and that trend continues past the 25 spot. There are several editions of Monopoly further down the list, as well as more than one iteration of The Game of Life. As much as hobbyist board gamers pooh-pooh these classics, they have such a strong place in our overall culture that they won't be going anywhere soon—especially if a lot of board games are being bought for kids. These board games are among the ones that parents buy. A new generation of children is at this very moment being groomed to start their own children off with old school games like Yahtzee and Monopoly.
4. Hobbyist board gamers are VERY different from the mainstream.
You might have noticed that there is very little overlap between BGG's Top 25 games and Amazon's top 25 bestselling board games. The only crossover game is Codenames. Further down the list there are a couple more overlaps. Ticket to Ride: Europe is #84 on BGG. The Dominion base game is in the 80s on Amazon, while Intrigue is #53 on BGG.
I see articles every year about alternative (i.e. "better") games to play with your family. In fact, I wrote my own holiday guide for 2017. But the fact is, the world of gaming looks very different to different groups of people. There are, however, a few points of contact. That's great news for the growth of our hobby.
What, if anything, should we do with this information?
I won't mince words—I want to see our hobby grow. I think everybody should play board games, and that there are games out there for everyone. I don't see Amazon's top sellers as a reason to bemoan the tastelessness of the hoi polloi or whatever. Instead, I think this list can give us perspective as ambassadors for board games. When we talk about games to newer players who want to know what else is out there, what connections can we make? What messages are we sending? Are we making choices that will include new people and help our community grow, or are we turning interested people away because we aren't able to connect with where they are coming from?
The best thing about the board gaming community is its ability to welcome anyone, to help anyone connect with other people. Knowing how other people might see the world of board games can only help with that.