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Board games go digital in the holiday season, finds UK publisher

December 25 2021: Board games are going digital for the festive season as families look for new ways to stay connected on video despite the surge in Omicron hitting plans to socialise, the UK’s leading digital board games publisher Marmalade Game Studio says.

A big driver for sales is its innovative Bubble feature which was introduced in March. More than a million people are now using the unique system which offers video chat allowing gamers to add friends and family to group chats, start games from these, and talk on video whilst playing.It has seen strong growth with 54% of accounts created in the past two months as more families switch on to online board games.

Up to 200 people can form a group chat and play together, helping more families and friends to stay in touch during the festive season. Bubble is available in Monopoly, Taboo and Jigsaw Video Party, with Marmalade Game Studio planning to add it across their entire portfolio, which includes Cluedo, Clue, Jumanji and The Game of Life.

Its research* in November before the Omicron variant sparked renewed fears about the spread of COVID-19 found nearly six out of 10 adults (57%) expect to be playing a board game during the Christmas season this year with Monopoly or Scrabble the most likely to be played.

Average spending on a new board game will be around £22, the study found, with 828,000 people expecting to spend £50 or more on board games for the festive period.

Much of the spending is now switching into digital games with video as families and groups of friends can stay in touch and stay safe while enjoying improved online games such as Monopoly, Cluedo, Taboo and Battleship.

Says Michael Willis, Co-CEO at Marmalade Game Studio: Families are making sure they celebrate Christmas and stay connected with family safely despite worries about the spread of COVID-19. Adding video chat to the board game experience is a great new way of helping families and friends enjoy the festive season and is proving very popular with more than a million downloads already.Downloads of our games were already growing strongly but have been further boosted by growing interest in the Bubble feature which helps family and friends stay in touch as much as possible.”

Digital gaming has surged in popularity throughout the pandemic and over the period of the lockdowns Marmalade Game Studio estimates downloads have increased 144% in total compared with the previous 18 months.

The UK’s leading digital board game publisher, which recently secured a £22.5 million investment from private equity firm LDC to support recruitment and the development of new games, has seen revenues more than double in the last three years.The company, which has offices in London and Lisbon, has managed to boost staff numbers from 28 to 65 while its range of games which includes Monopoly and Cluedo has expanded from 3 to 10 titles with more planned.

Online gaming surged in popularity during COVID-19 lockdowns with the global online video market growing in value to $155.89 billion last year*** with nearly one in five (18%) gamers across the European Union spending more time gaming online. In the UK that figure rises to 26%.

Digital gaming proved to be important for mental health – 16%* of European Union gamers say being able to play games online and connect with others particularly families helped during lockdowns and 42% say playing multiplayer games during lockdown made them happier.

*Marmalade Game Studio commissioned the independent consumer research company Consumer Intelligence to interview 1,022 adults aged 18-plus weighted to represent the UK population between November 12 and 14 2021

** https://www.statista.com/topics/8016/covid-19-impact-on-the-gaming-industry-worldwide/#dossierKeyfigures