Return of the Board Game

As Americans cope with the recession, some look to old-school entertainment.

ByABC News via GMA logo
February 10, 2009, 11:43 AM

Feb. 10, 2009 — -- High-tech games are practically old hat. When the chips are down it's sometimes instinctive to yearn for tradition. And lately, many nostalgic parents have wanted their children to enjoy the same games they used to.

"Monopoly" was first introduced at the height of the Great Depression as a way for people to feel like they were acquiring property when they couldn't in real life. It also helped to keep them entertained while being cooped up at home with no money to go out on the town.

Does this sound familiar? It's no coincidence that when the economy is tanking, an interest in board games soars. It's part of a "cocooning" comeback where staying in becomes the new going out.

"We are noticing that board games are up almost 20 percent because of the economic times. Families find that it's much less expensive to solve a murder mystery at home than shell out the money to see one unfold on the big screen," said Gareb Shamus, publisher of Toy Wishes Magazine, which tracks industry sales

But there is still a lot of competition for people's home bound attention, such as Nintendo Wii or other video games. In a world of virtual bowling and "Grand Theft Auto," board game makers have had to shake off their old-fashioned images.

Forget that crusty old "Monopoly" shoe. Play pieces now include a Learjet and a flat-screen TV. And in another sign of the times, you can now buy Boardwalk with a credit card. Colonel Mustard may not approve, but the newest version of "Clue" will have a text messaging feature and a black light that helps you find clues. Even "Operation" has evolved past removing the trusted funny bone. It now involves extracting an implanted cell phone.

In this age of over-scheduled lives and dwindling attention spans, even board games have had to pick up the pace to catch up. You can now play "Monopoly" and a host of other games online. And you no longer have to concentrate for hours. Hasbro's newer versions of "Scrabble" and "Sorry" are designed to be played in 20 minutes or less.

"We spend a lot of time with our consumers," says Jill Hambly, the VP of Marketing Global Brands of Hasbro Games. "And understanding the amount of time they have to play, the places they play and who they are playing with. All of that feeds into our design team and they use that information to make sure that every brand that we are working on and every game that we come out with is relevant to consumers today."