museums&MORE Fall 2017
Game On By Zeke Jennings

Games and puzzles fastest growing category in toy industry last year

No category in the toy market is currently hotter than board games and puzzles.

“Thanks to a great mix of both classic and new games, the board games and puzzles category is on the rise,” said Adrienne Appell, trend specialist for the Toy Industry Association (TIA). “In the first half of 2017, the category grew 24 percent (per the NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service), proving that games continue to appeal to kids and adults alike.”

The first-half numbers of the games and puzzles category are even better than during 2016, when sales were up 18 percent from the previous year. As a whole, toy sales were up 5 percent in 2016.

Multi-player games and puzzles aren’t just enjoyable, they’re a way to focus on being together rather than what’s on the smartphone or tablet, or at least to a lesser degree. If the activity can be mentally stimulating for parents as well as children, then even better.

We asked Appell about what’s trending in the board game world, as well as the allure of classic games and puzzles versus ones new to the market.

MM: Are parents still attracted to classic games, like Candyland, or is the market shifting to games where adults can be a little more challenged, such as games with multiple skill levels?

Parents and grandparents still like to play classic games and (complete) puzzles with their kids, especially younger ones. It’s the perfect way for them to connect and bond through play and build lifelong memories while having fun. Many classic games — from Candyland to Battleship — remain popular because they remind parents of their own childhoods, and they want to share in the joy of their old favorites with their kids.

On the other hand, there are some great new games on the market that incorporate current trends, like social media — Pie Face and Speak Out are examples. These light-hearted games appeal to players of all ages, from kids to teens to adults, and are going viral on social media, catapulting their popularity even further. Rather than involving strategy, they’re silly games that bring all ages together for laugh-out-loud fun.

MM: What sort of higher-level skill games are appealing adults as well as kids?

If you are looking for something more serious or action-driven, there are also some new games on the market that have multi-generational appeal because they require enough skill to be challenging for adults (examples include Yeti in My Spaghetti, Tricky Trunks, Soggy Doggy, and Ice Cool). Cooperative games are trending, too — they take competition out of the mix, allowing players to put their heads together to come up with creative solutions to various challenges.

MM: Are there any particular themes or subjects trending?

STREAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, & math) is a growing trend in the toy and game industry, and this is reflected in new games that encourage learning or incorporate innovative technologies. Coding is a hot trend right now, and coding games are on the rise, as are games that encourage strategic thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and communication. Pressman, Mindware, Educational Insights, Foxmind, Gamewright, Blue Orange and Thames & Kosmos are all leading the pack in terms of incorporating STREAM elements into their games.

Toy Categories on the Rise in 2016

  1. Games/Puzzles — Up 18% to $1.95 billion
  2. Outdoor & Sports Toys — Up 10% to $3.73 billion
  3. Dolls — Up 10% to $2.88 billion
  4. Plush — Up 6% to $1.08 billion

* Source: The NPD Group. Increase relative to 2015 numbers.

Zeke Jennings

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