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Casual Crossover
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Queen Games’ Kingdom Builder has won the 2012 Spiel des Jahres award – learn how to play and find out how the publisher came to be. Plus: an in depth look at tabletop funding on Kickstarter by game weight, a new hierarchy of gamers, helpful tips from a successful game retailer, and what the board game industry can learn from the casual video game movement. More »

Understanding the market

The video game industry has invested heavily in studying its demographic.  Several studies from reputable research firms like the Nielsen Industry have found time and again that users want simple mechanics, quick play time, and they like to return and play the same game or kinds of games in frequent but short intervals. 

The board game industry should drill down into existing video game studies and invest in studies of their own. It seems highly likely that evidence from existing and new studies will help push the industry to focus in on new and creative board, card, and dice games that meet the needs of the average consumer, are simple to learn, and enjoyable to come back to.

Enhanced user experience and accessibility

The video game industry has leveraged new technologies and simplified controls so that anyone can play. My two year old son is sitting on the floor playing Angry Birds with his fingers on my Nintendo 3DS as I write this. Touchscreens on portable devices, not just game devices, have revolutionized the way we play games. My neighbor loves her Apple iPad; she is in her late seventies and she had never played games before in her life, yet last month she and I had a discussion about the games she was playing avidly! A few years ago, my dad and my son, both video game novices and generations apart, picked up the Nintendo Wii motion controller and played virtual golf together.

So much of what has enabled the casual video game industry to grow stems from the fact that the technology to play these games is already in customers’ hands. A portable device with a touchscreen is now in the hands of 46% of the U.S. population2 — that is a staggeringly huge gift to casual game developers who can sync up with and deliver their games on these devices for little or no charge to the consumer. Games that leverage new technologies like touchscreens, motion controls, and social media to enable simple control schemas for all users have created new inroads for non-traditional video game players.

iPad

The board game industry has begun to take advantage of these new technologies by creating virtual board game apps that simulate the experience of playing a physical game, yet the opportunity is often missed to promote the physical counterparts. For instance, I often play Settlers of Catan on Xbox live, and there is no mention of the physical game, nor is there an option to receive more information about purchasing it. If gathering around a table for face-to-face play is the ultimate goal, virtual board game apps need to do a better job of promoting the “real thing.”

To further make use of new technologies, casual board game designers should begin to think more about how mobile devices and physical games can be integrated. With cameras and scanners on nearly every device, it would seem that apps that can interface and enhance the gaming experience would go hand in hand — yet only a few publishers are beginning to experiment with this. All tabletop games should also come standard with QR codes that provide instant access to demos, instructions, more ways to play, and anything that simplifies and enhances the user experience.