James Vaughan, the founder of Ndemic Creations and the video game series Plague Inc., Rebels Inc., and Plague Inc.: The Board Game posted a blog yesterday giving an unprecedented look into the sales data of the board game. Raw sales numbers and actual performance data in the board game industry is normally tricky to find, so Vaughan’s blog feels surprisingly transparent. Vaughan explicitly states in his “vivisection” of the game’s commercial data that when he first decided to turn his video game into cardboard, he found it “really hard to find good sales data about the number of copies a reasonably successful board game might sell.”
According to Vaughan’s findings, a successful board game sells about 10,000 copies (and he notes that most board games that are published each year don’t even hit that number). For a game to be an overwhelming success, the target number to beat is 100,000 units sold. Plague Inc.: The Board Game has sold, at the time of the blog, around 35,813 copies in a little over two years.
A little over twenty percent of those sales went to backers of the game on Kickstarter, with the rest of the sales being retail (and primarily sold through Amazon). What’s really interesting about this post is how Vaughan takes this data and offers honest explanations and analysis of the numbers. He explains that through miscalculating their supply needs, they’ve lost between 2,500 and 5,000 sales around the holidays when they run out of stock.
In the end, Vaughan comes to a fairly blunt conclusion: you should only design and produce board games if you love to do it, because it’s not something that’s going to make you a lot of money. “From a hard nosed business point of view,” he explains in the blog, “I should probably only do video games as the market is much bigger! (I always find it amusing how different the numbers are – 120 million digital players vs 35k board game players.)”
Plague Inc.: The Board Game‘s first expansion has just hit Kickstarter. What do you think about these sales figures and this level of transparency in the tabletop world? Let us know in the comments below.