Board Game Arena Acquired By Asmodee

Board Game Arena has been acquired by Asmodee after its massive 600% growth in 2020.

What's Board Game Arena?

Board Game Arena takes your favorite tabletop gaming experiences and brings them online for you to compete with friends worldwide. Unlike its competitors such as Tabletop Simulator and Tabletopia, BGA hones in on accessible gameplay by offering easy to follow tutorials, convenience of choosing between real-time vs. turn-based play, and ultimately the familiarity of playing a 2D game. (Whereas Tabletop Simulator and Tabletopia simulates a virtual board gaming experience.)

This all started in 2010 as a passion project of two IT professionals, Grégory Isabelli and Emmanuel Colin. After more than 7 years of managing the website for free, it finally grew to a point where they could maintain a full-time salaried position. This was not only well deserved, but necessary as the community was growing at a rapid pace and needing community participation/volunteering to keep up with the pace.

Now with more than 5.8 million registered users and over 260 games to choose from, BGA has become a lifeline for the hobby ever since COVID restrictions began. Enter Asmodee, dubbed the "Disney of board games."

Who's Asmodee?

Asmodee is a French publisher of board and card games and RPGs with undoubtedly the strongest porfolio in the industry. (Think Catan, Carcassonne, Pandemic, and other global hits.)

It's the second largest publisher in the world next to Hasbro, and owns a number of publishers such as Fantasy Flight Games, Days of Wonder, and many more, to a point that if there's an emerging company thriving in the industry, hobbyists immediately start speculating the potential of an Asmodee acquisition. Hence, "Disney of board games."

Why the Worry?

Despite this post from the team reassuring that BGA will always remain BGA in its core identity, fans are rightfully worried about its future direction. It's like the latest Star Wars trilogy by Disney:

  1. The trilogy started off on the right foot for the most part. Great production coming from a big budget film that only a giant in the industry can afford, and opened up the Star Wars universe to a much wider audience. Largely optimistic and excitement was in the air.
  2. Still an enjoyable cinematic experience but signs of worries as the studios' idea of "subverting expectations" began to alienate its own fans.
  3. Final nail on the coffin. Subverted expectations to a point where the core identify of Star Wars (and plot) went missing.

For the next 12 months, it'll be exciting times for BGA. Asmodee is eager to start adapting their own digital games for the platform and to quickly expand the library of games through their connections. But the question remains whether Asmodee will continue to make decisions that respect the nature of BGA that Gregory, Emmanuel, and their community has formed.

 

What are your feelings toward this news? Let me know in the comments!



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2 months ago

I use Board Game Arena a lot.  Been playing there with my family and now a few of the lovely people here.  And it for sure kept me sane during the pandemic.  But I am concerned about this.  I also was reading through some of the forums and it seems unfair that a lot of people donated the licenses for their games to this small, independant company and now those licenses are being transferred to this new agreement with this mega corporation without consulting them.  It seems quite a few people are looking to pull their games from BGA with this announcement. 

Owner2 months ago

Thanks for sharing this. I didn't think too much about the publishers' perspective on this and that makes a whole lot of sense.

2 months ago

I'm largely unaffected since I'm a TTS user, but I also feel concerned for the smaller game developers. ): 

Plus, I never hear anything good about Asmodee Digital. 

59 days ago

I've tried TTS a couple of times and I can see how its a cooler experience, but I feel like its a lot less accessible to the average gamer.  I've played some random board games with friends on BGA when we can't get together in person and to do that on TTS would require much more effort haha.  I'm going to try to do TTS sometime with a few of my friends who are much more committed to gaming. 

58 days ago

I've actually never used BGA. I'm simply a TTS user by default since that's the only one I've bothered to try. I'm really satisfied with it though, so I haven't ventured to other platforms. I definitely do agree with you in that TTS would be less accessible - especially because you actually have to pay for it to begin with. 

58 days ago

Yeah, even given that, once you're on its hard to figure out how to start or join a game and all that.  Or maybe if I poked around some more it would be easier.  I'm assuming they have some sort of mechanic where you can join random other games? I've only tried to set things up with people I know.

51 days ago

Oh geez, I responded to this post in my head but didn't actually physically do it hahaha... 
(You can blame my business with schooling on this) 

The main screen is a lobby and you can join public rooms; there should be a list for you to pick! There's also a chatbox in the main screen to find people to play with as well.

And assuming you're the host of the room, unless you've bought DLC, you'd need to subscribe to usermade mods (which are free) on Tabletop Simulator's workshop on Steam. I haven't had the chance to play with random people because I prefer playing with my small group of friends, so I can't say I know what the community is like though. 

36 days ago

Don't feel bad.  I do the same thing all the time.  Like this time haha. 

Premium User2 months ago

Usually when a larger corporation takes over a smaller endeavour it doesn't end well for the consumer.  I hope I'm wrong though as I quite like Board Game Arena.  Between that, Tabletopia, Table Top Simulator, and Yucata there's a ton to play!

 

Owner2 months ago

I was aware that BGA was growing quickly, but I didn't realize it was at close to 6M registered users. I imagine it won't be too long until small little changes start happening to seize opportunities to increase revenue. Yucata is the only one I haven't tried yet!

Premium User2 months ago

It's lower tech and can be a bit harder to work with initially but works well enough.

I can only hope TTS stays free from influence for a while.

2 months ago

Definitely mixed feeling here. I love the structure of what they have right now where you can pay to play more but can still play a good amount of games with a free account. That is my main worry!

Premium User2 months ago

I rarely use Tabletop Simulator, Tabletopia, or Board Game Arena.  I play Gloomhaven with a friend and hope to start playtesting with a game designer soon on TTS.  Scythe gets a solo play from me once in a while but I like it more in person.  

Generally, I probably don't care too much.

Owner2 months ago

It's very rare for me as well. But I have been wanting to jump back into playing Root on Steam to tackle the challenges offered on the solo mode :)

2 months ago

forget "for free" any time soon...

Owner2 months ago

I don't think they'll get rid of free account, but I can imagine increasing limitations on which games are free, upping the cost of premium accounts, or maybe even introducing one-time payments to unlock a game (similar to how Amazon prime or Disney+ users still have to make one-time payments to access certain movies). I think that last one will be highly unlikely, but who knows!

I also wonder to what extent they'll take advantage of the platform to market their own games. I wouldn't fault them for doing that though, as long as it's done "tastefully"

2 months ago

Exactly, I said it rather bluntly but you brought the nuance I had in mind as well :)

an elengant balance of pree/paid will be the challenge.

Take a look at what youtube tries to (desperately?) sell us all: a premium account.
In the meantime they are gradually showing more and more ads. 
"Gruadually" is the keyword here; you get used to it and it spreads the the critical points users pass:
The point where you cave in and actually starting paying for a subscription :)

 

 

 

Premium User2 months ago

Agree with here. Not looking forward to that pay wall you know is coming

Supporter2 months ago

Honestly, I've never been a big fan of Board Game Arena.

Premium User2 months ago

Really? It makes playing games so easy! Obviously physical is better, but boardgamearena is the next best thing to me.

Supporter2 months ago

It just didn't seem natural to me the few times I tried it.  And I mean natural from a playing board games online standpoint.  Because as you said none of them are like the real thing.  Maybe if I had done more "digital" board gaming for an extended period of time it would have stuck.

2 months ago

It's great for playing games live with a group. My (formerly in-person) group does 90% of our gaming on there.

Apps are nice, but they require everyone to have them.

Supporter2 months ago

Oh yeah, I don't really do apps either.  I did use TTS in March and a bit in April but then my gaming group started getting back together so I didn't really jump on there anymore.  The ony thing that threw me off the few tiems I used Board Game Arena was the turn structure felt a bit unnatural for me.  Maybe it would have been less strange if I had been playing with people I knew live.  TTS was really good for me to get gaming in with people I didn't know.

Owner2 months ago

I can relate to your sentiments, in that if I'm going to play something digitally, I prefer something with more "action"/animation/storyline/etc. For example, I'd play a game on my Switch. Or I'd play Root on Steam.

Supporter2 months ago

Yeah, I have moved into that realm now too.  Like I said above I just didn't enjoy the turn sequence/structure set up in BGArena.

2 months ago

Oh dear.

Has any Asmodee takeover resulted in an improvement?

Owner2 months ago

Dave knows the answer (from the Board Game Group on Facebook)

For those who are out of the loop, here's some context, where it was announced that Asmodee will no longer replace damaged parts in the US.

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