Latest resource: Maturing from social listening to digital consumer intelligence

A practical guide to levelling up how consumer insights are used across your organization

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Latest resource: Maturing from social listening to digital consumer intelligence

A practical guide to levelling up how consumer insights are used across your organization

Read the guide
Online Trends

Published March 26th 2015

Study: ‘The Kanye Effect’ is Making Board Games Sexy Again

What's Kanye West got to do with the popularity of board games? More than you might think. We research 'The Kanye Effect'.

You’ll probably be surprised to learn how Kanye West spends his evenings.

Some spend their evenings engaging in most valiant sports. Others take a less athletic route, crawling bars to discover the euphoria of an alcohol induced frenzy. More slovenly, some people will recline into the sofa, watching whatever episodic drama has been recommended to them most recently.

Kanye West and I? We play board games. Not together, of course. I don’t know him personally.

But after a little soul searching (aided with the entire Twitter firehose and the Brandwatch utility belt), I discovered how much I had in common with Mr. West.

This is my story.

The original and best

Forty-dollar, hundred-piece five-star rated boxed games have never done it for me.

Laying out cards for an hour then watching it unfold slowly doesn’t appeal to me. I’m a classic kind of a guy, so it’s card-and-felt staples that excite me most.


Scrabble. Monopoly. Cluedo. Chess. Connect Four.

It’s these charmingly retro games that make even my dullest evening very slightly less dull.

I wanted to find out if I’m alone in my love of old board games. And, if I’m not, what kind of people play them?

The drilldown

Here’s something you didn’t know: on average, people talk about old board games online more than 30 times a minute.

That’s once every two seconds.

By looking for all possible mentions of retro board games, I was able to find the first answer to my question: yes, people do still play old board games.

And they talk about them, too. In March alone, 38,697 people spoke about board games online. That’s more than double the amount of people that live in Gaffney.


After discovering this, I still wasn’t quite satisfied. Even looking at that huge number, I still felt alone.

It was like being at a party where I don’t know anyone at all. Left in the corner, dwelling on the sick triple-word scores I could be racking up.

Knowing more about these 38,697 people, however, might turn my mood around.

With enough information, we could have a re-run of the great Monopolstock of ‘87, a four day frenzy where thousands of Monopoly players played games late into night, in a euphoria of zinc and property taxes.

Digging deeper into the data with Brandwatch, my research taught me two things. The first was the most heartwarming – the conversation was represented by exactly 50% men and 50% women.

It’s (sort of) binary equality. Heard that, fat cats? Board games are for everyone.


Secondly, people who talk about board games aren’t even that interested in games. It was a revelation for me – while I call myself a gamer, not all board game players are so.

They listen to music, they play sports, they read books. They look just like you or I. The answer to my board game isolation was in front of me, and I couldn’t even see it.

These were conversations that I didn’t hear in public, and most surveys wouldn’t pick up.

Board game playership is actually much higher that you’d assume – but what exactly are people playing?

Roll the dice

There’s a clear frontrunner in the world of retro board games.

Scrabble routinely has the most mentions by far, clocking 15,269 in March alone.

Not far off, though is Monopoly, with 8,944 mentions. Together, these two games utterly demolish Connect Four, Cluedo and Pictionary. These two games take up 87% of the conversation. That’s almost a duopoly.

Preference for these two giants is different across continents. In North America, 64% of mentions are about Scrabble. In Europe, it’s only 35% – giving all the board games a much more even spread.

Does America have a problem with Monopoly? Is this a case of light xenophobia against the Monopoly man? That’s another post for another day.


Understanding ‘The Kanye Effect’

Day-by-day, there’s usually no great change in the most popular game.

Unlike music or tech industry evangelists, the board games with the most buzz are built on solid foundations.

In early February, however, Connect 4 sees a massive jump in mentions. From 34 on February 2 to 949 on February 3. That’s a 2791% increase.


It’s a phenomenon we call The Kanye Effect:

At last – I had found the answer at the centre of my questioning. Who plays these classical board games? The answer is simple: the best people on Earth.

Amidst these personal revelations, you have to consider the fiscal effects of Bey and West dropping mad coins on Connect 4.

Social mentions are proven way to track ROI on advertising and product placement – how much money did Hasbro make from that picture?

Last year, Monopoly was the hit board game on social media due to a mention by indie singer-songwriter Harry Styles. That tweet received 153,716 retweets.

What if Hasbro has learned about the Tweet as it happening, replying with a direct link to Monopoly: One Direction Edition™ (yes this is a real product)?

I’ll admit board games aren’t necessarily sexy – but that doesn’t mean sexy people aren’t waking up and smelling the corrugated cardboard. Wake up, Mr. West.

Crimson Hexagon has merged with Brandwatch. You’re in the right place!

From May 8th, all Crimson Hexagon products are now on the Brandwatch website. You’ll find them under ‘Products’ in the navigation. If you’re an existing customer and you want to know more, your account manager will be happy to help.