Board games had a very bad 2020, with the industry hit hard by Covid thanks to manufacturing issues and the fact people literally couldn’t get together to play. Things were looking slightly up for 2021, until freight shipping prices just decided to fire themselves into space.
While I’ve seen publishers and retailers talking a little about this on Facebook over the last couple of weeks, designer Jamey Stegmaier (whose Stonemaier games has released Scythe and Elizabeth Hargrave’s Wingspan) has put together a wider look on his own blog, accompanied by some data from research firm ARC Global. Cardboard Edison have also been polling companies about things like delays and price increases.
And things look...bad!
Some of the lowlights from everyone’s findings include:
- Shipping times are currently lagging 2-6 weeks behind what companies would normally expect.
- Most publishers are paying 3-4 times as much for their shipping, despite the delays, with one publisher telling Cardboard Edison, “their shipping costs are up ninefold from before the pandemic.”
- Many publishers are now being forced to increase game prices, and are cutting costs elsewhere in areas like localisation, as margins are slashed due to the increased shipping costs (on top of manufacturing costs, which have also gone up).
Note that we’re talking about freight shipping here. So not the cost you’re paying directly for one copy, but the cost publishers and manufacturers are having to pay to ship containers worth of product around the world. Though of course those two things are related, and the whole reason this is fast becoming an issue is that if shipping prices for companies are spiralling out of control, that’s going to have a big knock-on impact on a consumer’s shipping price, if not the price of games themselves (and the viability of some smaller publishers entirely).
Interestingly, most of the delays and biggest price hikes are being felt by companies manufacturing games in China (which is a lot), with those having games made in Europe instead reporting that things aren’t as bad. At the same time, the trimming of margins is affecting traditional retail/distributor sales more than Kickstarter campaigns. And of course, I’m only writing about this because this is a games site and this is impacting board games, something I cover; anyone who ships anything around the world is currently feeling the same pinch.
While this is a crisis in the short-term, there’s hope that as the pandemic’s worst effects start to wane, supply lines will normalise. And that in order to meet increased demand for shipping, carriers will simply start building more ships on which to lug stuff around the world.