Chaz Marler from Pair of Dice Paradise, with the next installment in this series on whether the board game industry is experiencing a bubble, and what it could mean when it bursts.
Last time, we talked about an increase in the number of board game retailers, and I pondered whether this was actually good for the long-term health of the industry. Well, I think it depends on the cause of this increase. Is it due to a steady, growing interest in the hobby spread throughout multiple demographics, or is it because boardgames are just a current cultural fad?
Fads often feed off a collectibility mentality. Remember beanie babies? How’s your bobble head collection these days? Or, returning to my previous point of comparison, the state of the comic book industry in the mid 90’s, which was a zenith of funnybooks with frivolous frills in order to capture the purchasing power of the collector’s market. Oh, sure, their gimmicks temporarily fueled inflated sales, but it wasn’t sustainable. And once the fad-following customers moved on, comic shops across the nation were left with a glut of schlock they couldn’t sell.
One gimmick used by the comic book publishers was variant covers. For example, 1991's X-Men #1 had five different covers. The contents of each of these issues is the same. This can not only cause confusion in the marketplace, but also a false sense of collectibility by speculators where there is none.
Another was utilizing cross-overs. That’s where one character appears in another book. You may only be a fan of one of the properties, but maybe the cross-over will be a gateway to introduce you and your wallet to the other one. This can lead to some real “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter moments. On a completely unrelated note, Cryptozoic and AEG recently announced that they have entered into a strategic partnership to release versions of the popular card game Love Letter, which feature cross-overs by characters from Adventure Time, DC Comics and The Hobbit. Mmm, chocolatey.
And then there was a flood of annual editions and yearbooks, which celebrated arbitrary milestones by wrapping recycled content in a fancy, overpriced new wrapper. Unfortunately, I don’t have any examples of this because, ironically, I spent all my time playing the tenth anniversary editions of Power Grid: Deluxe and Ticket To Ride while waiting for my deluxe version of Takenoko to arrive.
These gimmicky practices it could lead to an artificially inflated, unsustainable market in danger of fatigue; a bubble. And what happens when that bubble bursts? Find out in the next installment, a special all-hologram edition with a cross-over by a limited-edition collectible guest star… or just me standing here talking.