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Pastimes Increase in a Time of a Pandemic

How analog (and digital) games are selling quickly during this trying time.

In February, License Global was at New York Toy Fair at the Javits Center in New York City. Aside from toy trends, the COVID-19 pandemic, which was affecting China at the time, was the talk on the show floor. Many licensees and licensors talked about factories shutting down and whether orders would arrive at all, never mind on time. 

Among the attendees at NYTF was a small business owner who goes to the event year after year to place orders for its novelty shop. This year, however, the small business owner would only work with vendors who had stock currently in their warehouses.

Now, NYTF feels like a lifetime ago. We’re all self-quarantining. Our homes are now satellite offices and schools. The Javits Center, once a venue for many trade shows and live events, has transformed into an emergency hospital taking in patients stricken with COVID-19. Staying indoors is our new normal. 

So, how are we biding our downtime? With activities, namely, board games. (Coincidentally, this was one of the trends discussed on the NYTF show floor.)

Gaming companies have shown an uptick in sales during the pandemic. According to The NPD Group, total toy sales in the U.S. increased by 26 percent in the week ending March 21, with the fastest-growing categories being games and puzzles (up 228 percent); building sets (with an increase of 76 percent); and arts and crafts (up 70 percent). Sales of outdoor and sports toys grew by 20 percent.

“Board games are a perfect fit for families looking for educational, fun and smart entertainment at home while staying safe,” says Darren Kyman, senior vice president, business development, Asmodee Entertainment. “Sales are increasing for both, while digital board games naturally benefit from their dematerialized online distribution. We see impressive growth in both sales and playtime, reaching historic highs for digital board games across all platforms: mobile, consoles and PC.” 

Some companies are offering free activities online. There’s the Mattel Playroom, where parents can access online games, coloring books, videos and apps to keep children entertained. BuzzFeed’s Camp may have closed its kids’ retail experience for the time being, but it is releasing a free activity book online every week. 

Let’s hope that small businesses at NYTF helped families pass the time while keeping their stores running as well. Whether it’s playsets, puzzles or board games, family-friendly activities are needed now more than ever during this time of our lives. We can all use a little fun with our loved ones, if only for a moment. 

Learn More

To read more of License Global's coverage on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting licensing, visit our special report section for the latest news.

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