Anyone with half an eye on the board gaming space of late wouldn’t have failed to notice that Asmodee has been on a bit of a spending spree. Over the last two years, the gaming goliath has been on a growth trajectory, consuming a banquet of distributors to build out a high-performing portfolio into one that comfortably sits between 200 and 300 titles today.
During that time there had been murmurs of a greater game at play for the international outfit, but what that looked like at the time, only little was really known.
When Asmodee finally took on its own book publishing endeavour with Aconyte Books at the start of this year, the edges of that plan started to shift into focus, and it wasn’t long after that the first announcement of Asmodee’s design for the wider entertainment space hit the headlines: Asmodee was to operate not on one or two cylinders in Asmodee (its board games division), and Asmodee Digital, but a third and altogether more ambitious cylinder in Asmodee Entertainment.
It’s via this platform that Asmodee will be bringing its board gaming IP to the masses like never before. If Asmodee Digital has grown the audience for the likes of Catan or Pandemic outwards for a digital-first generation, the potential for a platform that will span TV, book publishing, or the myriad content platforms available to audiences today, is huge.
Consider this for example, the TV production studio Propogate is currently developing an adventure competition TV series based on the now iconic Ticket to Ride board game, created by Alan R. Moon, and published by Days of Wonder and Asmodee Studios. And the only question is: why indeed wouldn’t they? As board games go, Ticket to Ride is one of the biggest of this ‘new wave’ board gaming era out there. Its digital game has been played over 65 million times online, while its physical counterpart has sold over six million copies in more than 40 countries worldwide. Now consider the other 200 to 300 titles Asmodee has under its arm, and just what the company could achieve in the wider entertainment space suddenly looks pretty sizeable.
To Andy Jones, head of Asmodee Entertainment, it’s all just a matter of mountains, really.
“You identify an exciting new mountain to climb and want to get going straight away, right?” asks Jones when confronted with the question of ‘why now for Asmodee Entertainment?’ “Remember that Asmodee Digital has been quietly achieving great successes for a number of years now as it keeps growing and growing in the interactive space, and Asmodee Entertainment is the next natural and complementary step in expanding our stories beyond the games.”
That’s not to say that Asmodee will be taking its eyes off the board gaming market from whence it sprang – given the 10 per cent growth the category saw last year alone, it would be foolish to do so. Asmodee’s board gaming division is also the longest-serving, most established and “by far the biggest part of Asmodee today,” and one poised to grow only bigger in the coming months and years.
“I tell people that the boardgames platform has ‘twin DNA’, says Jones. “On the one hand it develops and publishes all the great games from our many wholly owned studios – from Zygomatic, Days of Wonder and Space Cowboys, through to Plaid Hat, Fantasy Flight and of course Catan Studio.
“On the other hand, Asmodee has a huge distribution network to place boardgames into everywhere that makes sense – high street, hobby store, online… you will find boardgames distributed by Asmodee everywhere you look.”
That’s a big audience already being tapped in to. So it’d make sense to leverage that and complete the circle – or sphere – of entertainment, and position Asmodee as a true powerhouse – and boundary-breaker – in the tabletop sector.
“It’s true, we could simply carry on growing our boardgames and digital games platform into the distant future (and indeed we will do), but there is so much more we want to do on top of that,” explains Jones.
“When we say we have a game for every gamer, we mean it – and this means that our underlying intellectual properties are very varied too. Think Dobble at one end and Twilight Imperium at the other.
“Asmodee Entertainment is here to begin to tell those amazing stories in all sorts of media and product types. This means that we will both be showcasing and developing myriad new ways for our fans to engage with the games and worlds they love in ever greater detail, and introducing many new initiatives to our worlds.”
Sensibly, Asmodee’s approach to expanding on the worlds of its IP strictly won’t be a case of chucking any of the 200 to 300 properties to the wall and seeing what sticks. The unit’s approach will be decidedly more pragmatic. Where Ticket to Ride will work as an adventure TV series, Arkham Horror, for example, will fair far better as an Escape Room experience.
“Asmodee Entertainment is a broad church – we are looking at a wide variety of properties, appealing to different audiences, so it certainly will not be a ‘one size fits all’ approach,” continues Jones. “And with such a vast catalogue in the first instance, we have to focus on the top priority games.”
To achieve this, Asmodee Entertainment will be looking both at what it can do in-house, and the scale of what it can achieve with the right specialist partnerships in place for all those projects deemed a little more complex.