Michigan retailers benefit from virus-fueled interest in board games

Lansing, Mich. — The same pandemic restrictions that close down movie theaters, bowling alleys and other activity centers are driving increased sales of tabletop games.

“The very fact you don’t have sporting events, you don’t have bars, you don’t have dance clubs, you don’t have all this outdoor, big gathering kind of things, has made some people search for alternative entertainment,” said Ryan Johnson, the co-owner of GOB Retail in Clawson, Michigan’s largest comics and games store.

Board and card games are the top-selling categories of products sold at GOB Retail, Johnson said. Tabletop gaming miniatures and paints are some of his hottest sellers.

In the second quarter of 2020, American toy and game company Hasbro Inc. reported that revenue for board games increased 11% globally.

Compared to the same six-month sales period in 2019, Hasbro’s total gaming revenue increased 4%, generating $659,497 by June 28. Hasbro listed sales of Monopoly and Magic the Gathering as among its most notable sources of revenue.

Roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons have seen similar demand. The roleplaying game platform Roll 20 reported more games hosted for nearly every title on the site. It reported an 81% increase in the number of games hosted in the first quarter of 2020.

Sales surged at the height of the government’s distribution of stimulus checks, Johnson said.

While some game shops have closed, most stores with a strong retail component have done fairly well, he said.

“Games help facilitate communication across digital media in a way that existed before but wasn’t necessary,” said Andrew Devenney, the associate director of the Center for Learning through Games and Simulations at Central Michigan University. He also helps publish game books as part of Superhero Necromancer Press.

At Summit Comics and Games in Lansing, Dungeons & Dragons has been a bestseller, according to co-owner Regan Clem. Miniature figure sales are booming.

The newest Dungeons & Dragon book, “Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything,” was likely Summit’s new best seller for the franchise, he said.  Sales for other tabletop games are more modest. Classic games like Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride saw more sales than newer, more trendy titles.

The increased sales are welcome. Summit closed during the early months of the pandemic, Clem said. Without a significant online presence, sales took a massive dip. But after reopening, sales took off compared to prior years.

“I think people want to support local,” he said.

Game stores are a great place to discover new games, said Joshua Jenkins, 24, of Lansing, who started playing Dungeons & Dragons in college to hang out with friends.

“They’re usually fairly priced there and they usually have a large stock, so most of the ones you’re looking for they’d most likely have,” Jenkins said.

The games market was growing even before the pandemic. In 2019 Grand View Research Inc. reported the global playing cards and board game market size was expected to grow to $21.56 billion by 2025. In 2019, game sales in the U.S. and Canada totaled an estimated $1.65 billion, business magazine ICV2 reported

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