EghtesadOnline: Apart from the huge videogame market in the country, tabletop games have also found a large fan base among Iranians in recent years.
For the first time, five Iranian companies will take part in the largest international board game exhibition Spiel 2019 due to be held in Essen, Germany, on October 24-27.
Also known as Essen Game Fair, the event is the world’s largest fair for board, card and role-playing games with more than 1,200 exhibitors from 53 nations.
Tabletop games involve pieces and/or accessories such as dice, boards, and cards. They can be played by two or more players. Such games are considered one of the best alternatives to electronic gadgets and devices, which are keeping modern-day families busy and together, according to Financial Tribune.
Tabletop games experienced a substantial growth in the 1990s, especially in European countries. After the turn of the millennium, the board game industry registered significant expansion, with companies producing a rising number of new games for a growing global audience.
The global market value of board games was around $7.2 billion in 2017 and is forecast to reach $12 billion by 2023.
In Iran, however, it is a rather new industry that is growing gradually. There are fewer than 20 Iranian companies active in the field of tabletop games, producing about 70 card and board games, although 10 such games are original and the rest are of foreign origin translated into Persian.
About 3 million domestic and foreign games are sold annually.
Farbood Engareh, Dorehami Games, Hoopa, Bahamzi Games and Fekrkade (Hampaayeh) are Iranian companies displaying their products in two booths at the fair. The producers will present their original games to foreign visitors.
Working in Iran for some years, “now we are just about to make ourselves known to the world and show our capabilities”, Alireza Lolagar, chief operating officer at Hoopa, told Financial Tribune.
Last year, 1,200 new games were unveiled at the fair, the number has increased by about 60% this year to reach 1,900 new games as well as thousands more from previous years will be presented during the event.
“It is a tough competition. I hope within the next three or four years, we will have reached a level to claim that we are an international publisher of games, exporting our products to the world,” Lolagar added.
Dorehami Games will present two new games, not released in Iran yet, namely Two Khans and Last Station.
Farbood Engareh will showcase its two games King, Thief, Minister (KTM) and Zaar. Hoopa is going to show prototypes of three original games named Persian Carpet, Potter and Black Cauldron.
Fekrkade and Bahamzi will display Bazaar 1295 and Diwan respectively at the event.
The themes of all the original games are based on Iranian culture, traditions, beliefs and customs.
First in MENA Region
This is the first time board games from MENA region, with new themes and stories for foreigners, are heading for Essen, Sohrab Mostaghim, director of Farbood Engareh, told Financial Tribune.
Mostaghim said well-known French author of board games, Bruno Faidutti, who recently held a workshop in Tehran at the invitation of Hoopa, also believes that they could be interesting for foreigners.
The five participating companies will have the opportunity to demonstrate and sell their games and communicate with other publishers and designers worldwide.
“More than selling games to individuals, we would like to find a foreign publisher for our works. Through our correspondence with many foreign companies in the past months, we have received positive feedback on our games and found some that are interested in collaborating with Iranian game makers,” Reza Agharahimi, marketing manager of Farbood Engareh, said.
An important part of any board game is its graphic design. Since tabletop games must appeal visually, graphic design is essential to a successful game.
“We have talented graphic designers and illustrators, but board games are different from posters or animations. Our artists have no experience in designing or illustrating the cover of a game box or its components, including boards and cards, so they should also gradually learn to work better in this field so that the final products are attractive for the audience,” Lolagar said.
Panel for Iran
The development of board games, in terms of production and sales, has been so noticeable in the past few years that the Essen Game Fair has even dedicated a discussion panel titled “Board Games in Iran—a Largely Unknown Yet Expanding Market”.
At the panel, Mostaghim is set to talk about the status of tabletop games in the country.
However, visa applications of some of the Iranians participating in the fair have been rejected and others have not received their visas yet. With less than two weeks to the fair, both the Iranians and fair organizers are racing against time to solve this problem. As they have paid for their booths at the fair, the Iranian producers are hopeful of receiving their visas.
“The logistics division of the fair has not cooperated with us in receiving our shipment of games due to the sanctions,” Mostaghim said.
“As we face restrictions on sending games to the fair, we will take some with us to sell there. But our main goal is to find a foreign publisher and distributor,” Ashkan Javaheri, director of Dorehami Games, told Financial Tribune.
Javaheri complained that no state organization is responsible for monitoring the status of board games in Iran, therefore game publishers receive no government support regarding production, distribution or advertisement.
“We expect the government to support us. Paper is the main material of our products and as the price of paper has shot up, our costs have also increased,” he added.
Mostaghim is of the opinion that the business is still profitable since it does not need advanced technology or specific equipment, and all the materials needed are available in Iran.
“This makes it possible for us to compete in the world,” he declared.