A major shake-up happened in the board game industry, as Asmodee made a strong move to boost their presence in North America by acquiring Days of Wonder, a company known for having a limited but wildly popular roster of games.
I know my first reaction was “wow”. There were absolutely no indications that Days of Wonder, founded by two ex-Silicon Valley tech workers, were even available for sale. As the Forbes article linked above notes, the company has sold over 5 million games in 12 years, a wild success by any measure in tabletop gaming, even if you’re just looking at their physical sales.
But, as I think about this, I’m approaching it with cautious optimism. Both the “cautious” and “optimism” parts need some explanation.
First, the caution. Part of the reason to be so nervous about another company taking over Days of Wonder is because, honestly, Days of Wonder operated much differently than most board game publishers.
While most publishers are in a constant state of launching new titles to keep public interest up, Days of Wonder operated from a radically different approach - release only a couple, at most, new games every year, but make them be really good games. And many of the games, including Ticket to Ride, Small World and Shadows Over Camelot, have become some of the most popular designer board games in the world.
But beyond the physical, Days of Wonder also made massive strides in the digital realm. The company has made vivid, top-notch versions of many of its tabletop games available over iOS, Android and Steam. And rather than have the sales of $50 physical copies dwindle because you could play the same game on an app for $10, Days of Wonder has seen its physical sales continue to be strong, if not even become stronger with the introduction of an app (Let me offer a potential bias by noting I, in fact, played both Ticket to Ride and Memoir ‘44 on Steam before buying physical copies)
So the question there becomes, even though Days of Wonder will remain an independent studio under the ownership of Asmodee, will that same unique spirit still exist at the company?
But, at the same time, there might be optimism here. Asmodee’s has a game library is very similar in feel to Days of Wonder; heavy on relatively fast-playing, quick-to-lean Euro games. Examples of Asmodee games that would also be right at home in a Days of Wonder box include Dixit, Takenoko and 7 Wonders. Asmodee is going to know how to successfully sell Days of Wonder games to target markets because those markets are familiar.
In addition, each side had something the other wanted geographically. Asmodee is a powerhouse in Europe, while Days of Wonder’s strength is in North America. In fact, Asmodee was already Days of Wonder’s largest distributor on the old continent. The acquisition allows both companies access to the other’s regions. Asmodee gets a stronger presence in the New World it’s been seeking, while Days of Wonder now has extra European push on all its titles.
And again on the app market, this possibly means there is a real genuine shot for Asmodee games to improve in that realm, where to be quite honest, Asmodee has not been spectacular. The company has preferred opting for online multliplayer sites like Board Game Arena as opposed to developing stand-alone mobile/Steam apps that offer single-player options. (Again, let me note I played several Asmodee titles this way before deciding to purchase physical copies).
So, here we are. Two very popular, yet very different board game companies are now one. How this changes the fortunes of board gamers on multiple continents? That will remain to be seen.