Bored? Games? – Festival of Licensing examines the crossover between licensing and board games

Published on: 22nd September 2020

Anna Knight, Informa Markets’ Global Licensing Group vice president, offers readers an in-depth look at licensing in the toy and game space.

As Kids Industries’ co-founder Gary Pope recently said: “In times of difficulty, entertainment is the thing that keeps a family together, so there are reasons to be cheerful.” Of course, what constitutes entertainment to one family may be very different to another. And while Netflix subscriptions have gone through the roof, and parents couldn’t get trampolines for love nor money over the summer, sales of board games have kept tills ringing over the past six months.

It’s a trend that’s been rapidly increasing in popularity over the last few years, albeit in a reasonably low key and dignified manner. Board game cafes have popped up across the country, toy industry PR Lesley Singleton co-founded Board Game Club, while in 2019, more than 25,000 people visited the UK Games Expo.

But who knew that all it would take was a pandemic for board games to soar and families to start fighting over who gets to be the car in Monopoly and sobbing when they land on Mayfair with two hotels? Sorry, I mean ‘spending harmonious quality, screen-free time together over the dining room table.’

According to NPD Group, the overall toy category grew by 17% during lockdown and 7% in July. At 66% – yes, that’s right, 66% – games and puzzles is one of four key categories showing the biggest growth. Since lockdown, the games and puzzles super category has continued to grow, while adult puzzles and family board/action games are now in the top 10 gaining subclasses. Classics young and old –  Hasbro’s Monopoly and Cluedo, Jenga and Asmodee’s Dobble – have all performed well, helping the category to grow.

All three of these companies are exhibiting at Festival of Licensing, which launches with Europe week powered by Brand Licensing Europe from 6th-8th October and runs online until 29th October. Entertainment and lifestyle licences are such a natural fit for board games that, according to the Monopoly Wiki, there are 1,144 different versions available. Many of these are licensed, covering everything from sport (WWE, Liverpool FC), movies (Star Wars), video games (Fortnite, Monopoly Gamer: Mario Kart, Zelda), TV (Stranger Things, Game of Thrones, Star Trek, Friends) and toys (L.O.L. Surprise!). Personal favourites are Game of Thrones and Manchester United, of course.

Did you know that you can play Cluedo English Heritage, Cluedo Sherlock, Cluedo Downton Abbey and Cluedo Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? And what about Dobble Harry Potter, Gruffalo or Disney Princess? So, now we’re all board game aficionados, the big question is whether this is a trend that’s going to last? According to Lesley Singleton, MD, Playtime PR, yes, it could well be: “Due to lockdown and the newly enforced ‘Rule of 6’ impacting opportunities to socialise, people are seeking out more creative ways to recreate social experiences in the home. So, we’re seeing more innovative games coming to market in time for Christmas, such as the Trapped range from Golden Bear, which lets people turn any room into an escape room, and Nightmare Horror Adventures – a totally immersive horror game for adults from Ideal. But the other, really lovely, trend to come out of the pandemic is a move towards people buying more gifts with purpose. There’s a raft of games and puzzles that give back: the Rainbow Heroes jigsaw from Gibsons, which raises money for the Samaritans; Conservation Crisis which is an indie game from Tunza Games all about animal conservation and which raises money for multiple conservation charities, plus a Great Ormond Street Hospital edition of Dobble is launching soon, which raises funds for GOSH and even features their logo as one of the Dobble symbols on the cards.”

Festival of Licensing runs online from 6th-29th October. Visitors can register for free and access the platform at to book meetings and plan their diaries.


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