Russians game for it

Annual 20 per cent growth sees Russian board games market emerge.
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The market for board games in Russia is growing steadily, according to Hasbro, as increased incomes mean families have more time to spend together.

In the Soviet era every Russian family had a chess set or dominoes, and the 1990s saw Monopoly fever take hold as public tastes shifted towards new forms of board games. And the sector is still growing.

Fifteen years ago, a new range of family games, involving everything from business and politics, to fashion, came to Russia. Nowadays, the board games market is growing by 20 per cent annually. But, in an interview with Russia Today, Hasbro says Russians still play less than westerners.

“It’s not the market where games are heavily promoted to the consumer,” explained Henk Suelmann, general manager of Hasbro, Moscow.

The domestic board games market is still small, worth about $60m annually. However, this year country’s leading games producer Zvezda has doubled its range to 50 products, from simple colourful sets for kids to strategic historical war-games. The games based on popular movies, books, and cartoons are most popular.

“The Toy industry follows the mass-media. You cannot imagine how our sales rise when Charmed or Shrek is on! Kids like to play with characters they know,” said Konstantin Krivenko, MD of Zvezda.

As well as imported characters, imported games enjoy more popularity and command higher prices. Industry insiders say, part of the reason is that Russian games often fail to explain how to play.

“If you buy a game you want to know what the essence of the game is, what do you get out of it, and how do you play it. Very often when you buy a game you cannot see on the box what it really does. Is it questions and answers? or is it a skill and action game? Can I play it alone, or can I play it with a lot of people? Those things are very important to communicate,” added Henk Suelmann.

After doubling its sales in Russia over the past year, Hasbro says Russian board game makers need to create stronger brands, that will allow them to compete with world favorites like Monopoly and Scrabble.

Producers are optimistic about the industry, the top board games have survived through the centuries. And they are confident that computer games will not steal their market simply because board games bring people together in real life, unlike the virtual reality of computer games.

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