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By Kevin Kim,

formerly General Manager of Publishing and Development, Korea Boardgames

now Owner, Mandoo Games

I think that very little is known about the Korean board game market in the US.

The Korean board game culture started to spread in 2002 with the game café boom. At that time, more than 300 game cafés were opened all over the country. Young people were fascinated with beautiful artwork, great mechanisms and playing games together regardless of gender, especially German style games. It was a particular culture of college students. However, because of several reasons – such as the poor profit model of game cafés, fantastic online games and a changing trend – 90% of game cafés stopped business and playing board games seemed to be out of style or at least only a minor hobby for geeks in young people. But as teachers and parents found that board games could be a very good educational tool for kids’ learning and emotional development, the trend rose again. In 2012, board games are used and played widely in almost every elementary school. Board games are one of the most popular home entertainments in families who have children.

Since 2008, the Korean board game market has grown more than 30% every year.

To show the growth of the Korean market, HalliGalli is the best example to examine.

When this game was introduced in Korea 10 years ago, its fun factor exactly matched the Korean people’s favor. HalliGalli is an easy, quick play and stimulating game. It was popular in all the game cafés as the “Ding Ding game”. Korea Boardgames (KBG), the Korean distributor of Amigo, displayed it in hypermarkets in 2008 and 1. Annual Sales Qty of HalliGalli lineups White Paper 2012 increased the number of stores. As HalliGalli was gaining popularity nationally, several mimic games appeared in the market. So KBG needed to build the brand beyond an item. KBG did several things to build the “HalliGalli” brand such as TVC and demonstrations in hypermarket stores in 2011. As you can see in the chart above, KBG made some noise in the market. As the HalliGalli brand has grown, HalliGalli Extreme is becoming KBG’s 2nd Key driver.

We can classify Korean markets into three markets - Mass, Hobby and Educational.

In the Mass market we have 300 hypermarket stores (such as E-Mart, Tesco, Lotte Mart and Toys R Us) and 1,000 retailers such as book stores, small and big web stores. The best sellers in this category are HalliGalli, Jenga, Tumblin’ Monkeys, Rummikub, Game of Life and Clue.

The Hobby market is quite small in Korea. We believe there are less than 5,000 people who enjoy strategy games as a hobby. However, they’re very active consumers, so the market is growing slowly. Agricola, Settlers of Catan, Civilization, Citadels and Magic the Gathering are popular games.

Finally, we have another important market, the Educational market. Korean customers, especially teachers and parents, buy games for educational purposes. As well board games are the most favorable tools in addressing internet game addiction. In Korea, "internet addiction or game addiction" is quite a serious social issue. Students play online games too much. To solve this matter, teachers and the government are trying to lead them to more active entertainment such as sports, playing music or playing board games. They found board games are quite good to treat this addiction. Puzzle games such as Rush Hour and European family games such as Ubongo and Dixit are the popular games in this market.

(November 2012)

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