Ravensburger sees big potential in tablet board games

When it comes to the international board games market, few names are as big as Ravensburger. They recently started to make a push into the digital space with iOS adaptation of games like Puerto Rico and Ramses II. And there’s good reason for it – with tablet sales on a steady incline, the digital board game experience is poised to explode.

I recently had a chance to play Puerto Rico‘s iPad edition with Andreas Seyfarth, the game’s creator, and BoardGameGeek‘s Gabe Alvaro. Ravensburger’s Managing Director Thomas Bleyer joined us for a bit of conversation, and offered a good deal of insight into the company’s feelings about the touch screen devices.

Bleyer talked excitedly about recent predictions released by the tech forecasters at Gartner, claiming that more than 63m tablets will be sold by the end of 2011, with more than 100m being sold in 2012. Long term, Gartner is predict 326.3m tablets will be sold annually by 2015 – “which is as big as the worldwide tv market today,” says Bleyer.

“For us as a board games publisher… it’s a whole new world of opportunity growing at an amazing speed, and we’re definitely here to take advantage of that – to bring good games to tablets.”

Board games are admittedly something of a niche market, but digital platforms have the capability of bringing that market to a wider audience. To give you some perspective, Scotland Yard has sold 4 million units since its debut in 1983. The aMAZEing Labyrinth, Ravensburger’s most successful game (which Bleyer confirms will be coming to the App Store soon!) has sold 16 million copies over the last 25 years. Compare that to the 250 million iOS devices already in the hands of consumers and the 67 million players on GameCenter, and you can see why the App Store might just be the future of board games.

Bleyer’s thoughts also turned to the future of tablets. “What I’m really excited about is tablets coming out with even bigger screens than the iPad,” he says. “Why should you not have a tablet the size of a pizza box?” It’s a great question – and as a board game publisher, there’s no doubt an appeal to be had in a tablet that provides more room for their players.

But the best question of the day came from BoardGameGeek’s Gabe Alvaro, who wanted to know how long it would be until iOS board games start selling more than their print counterparts.

Short answer: I’d be shocked if it hasn’t happened yet.

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