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Board Game Sales Statistics – Modern vs Classic

Will modern board games ever reach the sales levels of the classics?  The games that many in the hobby wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole are still some of the best-selling board games of all time and we have to accept that fact.  Even though our favorites are still nowhere near those sales levels, their numbers are nothing to scoff at.  

We have done some rough, and we mean really rough estimations of yearly sales for some of the top selling board games of all time.  So, take all this data with a grain of salt, or maybe a thousand grains of salt.  It’s very difficult to find accurate board game sales statistics for most board games on the market.  Even though it’s not the most accurate chart it still gives a great perspective on where the board game hobby is at right now and how modern board game sales compare to the classics.

Board Game Sales Statistics - Modern vs Classics

We honestly can’t believe that many copies of monopoly are sold every year.  I mean we thought every copy of Monopoly has been passed down from one generation to the next because I know our copy looks like it could be from the 1950s.  

Anyway, there’s no denying that modern board game sales look a little pathetic compared to the O.Gs like Monopoly and Chess, but it’s clear that they’ve come a long way.  Take Catan for example, it’s one of the oldest “modern” board games but was still released 60 years after Monopoly. 

Given its much shorter existence, it is quite impressive that Catan is starting to catch up to games like Battleship and Scrabble in yearly sales.  It’s important to look at the bigger picture because it shows that modern board games have come a long way.  

So what can we gather from these board game sales statistics?

I think many people assume the modern board game hobby is much larger and more widespread than it is.  The data we have gathered shows exactly the opposite, this doesn’t make it any less meaningful but sometimes it’s good to be reminded that not everyone has played something like Terraforming Mars, 7 Wonders, or even Catan.  

For many people, when they say they like playing board games they are talking about Monopoly, Uno, or other similar games, and we tend to think of these people as the minority, but in actuality, we are the minority.  A lot of you reading this right now might be saying “but those aren’t “real” board games”, we’re sorry to inform you that the majority of the population would disagree with you.

This distorted perception of the current status of the modern board game community is what could hinder its growth, which would be very unfortunate because we think it’s great to see how far the hobby has come in the last 25 years.  Data like the board game sales statistics we have gathered can help adjust said perception to align more with reality which could result in many not-so-obvious benefits.

A story…

Modern board gamers sometimes don’t have the best attitudes towards the classics and they’re usually not afraid to show it.  This wouldn’t be a problem if only people already in the hobby were the ones seeing their remarks, but people who are interested or trying to learn about modern board games will also see it which could negatively impact their journey into the hobby.  

For example, let’s say Joe is somebody who likes board games, with his favorites being Monopoly and Clue.  Then let’s say there’s Chet, who’s been playing modern board games for as long as he can remember and has over 500 of the best board games in his collection.  

Now imagine, Joe has been hearing a lot about these “new” board games that are rising in popularity, he goes online to try and find out more about them.  Maybe he posts in a popular forum asking where he should start and shares the games he already likes, and then…. Chet comes to the rescue.  

via GIPHY

Chet says “Well Monopoly sucks, and Clue sucks, there are so many better board games than those.  You should try these first. Well actually you’re too much of a beginner for those, you should try these games, and these ones too, and those ones too.  Also, burn your copy of Monopoly and Clue”.

Now how would you feel after an interaction like this?  Joe still likes Monopoly and Clue but now Chet has made him feel stupid for liking and playing these games, and he feels even more stupid because he had no idea half of what Chet was talking about.  Do you think Joe will explore further into modern board gaming because we don’t think so?  

Advice to the Community

This might be an extreme example but there is a lot of hate online for these classic board games. Every time you hate on a classic game, a simple game, or a gateway game and are a little snobby online there might be millions of people who come across that post who are trying to learn more about the hobby. Instead of being interested in modern board games, they end up being pushed away from the hobby because new board games seem too out of their league since they like playing games like Monopoly. 

Even Catan, which should be praised for what it has accomplished for the hobby, has gotten so much hate online when we should appreciate the game for what it has accomplished.  Once you’re more into the hobby it’s okay and perfectly reasonable to prefer other games over these great gateway games but we need to be careful as a community to not seem snobby and deter new board gamers.  

Catan and other games like it are the reason modern board games have risen in popularity and are starting to compete with the classics. This is because they are easy to play and appeal to a much wider audience.  We get it, you’ve scoured the world for the best board games and your collection is top-notch, and you’ve moved past the likes of the simpler and easier gateway games.  That doesn’t mean you need to diss people and the games they enjoy who aren’t on your level yet.

We didn’t intend to go on this giant rant when we started researching board game sales statistics but here we are. All we are trying to say is that as a community we need to watch what we say and how we treat people new to the hobby.  We have seen a huge rise in board games and we would like to see it continue.  

The current top 10 best-selling board games

via GIPHY

  1. Chess – 3,000,000 copies of this timeless game are sold each year.
  2. Checkers – It is estimated that 50 billion units of this simple and elegant game have been sold.
  3. Monopoly – Has sold over 275,000,000 copies in over 114 countries as of 2015.
  4. Scrabble – It is estimated that over 150,000,000 copies of this game have been sold worldwide.
  5. Clue – The sales of this classic mystery game are also estimated to be over 150,000,000 copies.
  6. Trivial Pursuit – Everybody likes trivia as evidenced by over 100,000,000 copies of this game being sold.
  7. Battleship – This classic two player game has also sold over 1000,000,000 copies since its creation.
  8. Backgammon – This game is ancient, but it is estimated that 88,000,000 modern copies have been sold.
  9. Candy Land – It’s no wonder everybody remembers playing this as a child, with over 50,000,000 copies sold.
  10. The Game of Life – Another popular family game, selling over 50,000,000 copies.

BUT hopefully one day some modern board games could make it on these types of lists.  So be kind, humble, and introduce people to the hobby in the right way.  Don’t be a snob and be understanding that most people think of Monopoly when they hear the words board game. 

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