Wired has a story on Settlers of Catan, “Monopoly Killer“. It’s a nice mix of discussion of the game’s mechanics, the story of its creation and its inventor, and the status of German games in general, among other things. But what really piqued my interest was this graph:
The article says that Catan has started to really sell better over the last few years in the US, and speculates on it (and German-type games generally) overtaking more traditional games like Monopoly. I remember when I was HRSFA’s External, talking with Rob Daviau at Hasbro–he said something I found very interesting at the time, though it seems obvious in retrospect. He said that because of its brand recognition, Monopoly was Hasbro’s big board game, and that most of its money came from various licensed versions of it; that the more special-interest board games were a much, much smaller sliver of the pie.
Maybe this will start to change that, and push smarter board games more into the popular culture in the US. I’d certainly be excited to see more of that. But from the graph (which you’ll note is cumulative sales), the growth is relatively stable. Although it does appear to have increased recently, the per-year increase doesn’t look tremendously large–about 100,000 sold up to 2004, then 100,000 in 2004 and 2005; 150,000 sold in 2006 and 2007. 600,000 copies sounds pretty good for a single board game–but remember that with approximately 100 million households in the US, that’s still under 1% penetration. Hasbro is reticent to let out detailed data on Monopoly sales or estimated number of copies in the US (as was Mayfair, the source of the data in the article), but a New York Times article reported that they sell “several million copies” in the US each year, and they claim to have sold over 250 million copies total worldwide. So while Catan has an undeniably growing public awareness and acceptance, it would have to multiply its sales fiftyfold before it reaches Monopoly.
Finally, a couple of other interesting links:
- An academic paper analyzing musti-agent systems for Catan-playing bots
- A website analyzing Monopoly using Markov chains, showing probabilities of landing on the various spaces, expected returns, etc.