Board games in the focus of counterfeiters

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Counterfeit board games are rampant, especially on the web. Copies, often of poor-quality, are sold online, sometimes even of unpublished games. Publishers suffering from such infringements often receive little support from e‑commerce platforms.

Board games appear to be a popular new target for many counterfeiters, in addition to other products such as toys, clothing, and cosmetics. This was recently reported by the trade magazine Polygon. When they surveyed around a dozen publishers from the industry, the vast majority confirmed that they had already become victims of counterfeiting. According to the Polygon report, counterfeiters are not even stopping at unpublished games.

For example, the report mentions Laia Gomez, co-founder of Wonderbow, who recently came across offers for her as yet unreleased game Kelp on the internet. The game, which is being crowdfunded, was not actually due to go on sale until October 2024. However, with a simple Google search, she found several offers for copies of the board game being sold on Amazon, sometimes achieving hundreds of sales. Customers who had bought the counterfeits online eventually complained to Wonderbow about problems with the fake tabletop game: In some cases, the instructions were missing, or customers only received a Lego shark instead of the promised miniature figure of a shark.

The counterfeiters reportedly acted very quickly. After Gomez notified Amazon of the counterfeits and, after days of back and forth, finally managed to have them removed, almost 40 more listings appeared. The counterfeits also spread to Google Shopping and other e-commerce platforms.

According to Polygon, there could be various explanations for the fact that counterfeiters were able to copy a game that has not even been released yet. Apparently, images of announced games are often searched for on crowdfunding sites or social media platforms such as Instagram or YouTube; these images can then be used to make copies of a game. Other counterfeiters might look at games on the web portal Tabletop Simulator – a website where demo versions of new games can be tested.

//“The main concern other than revenue for me is reputational damage. The counterfeits are often very poor quality.”

Nathan McNair, co-owner of Pandasaurus Games, according to trade magazine Polygon

According to Polygon, other publishers were also concerned about the growing number of counterfeit board games, including Pandasaurus Games. Some publishers also took action against counterfeiting: Jamey Stegmaier, for example, managing director of Stonemaier Games, reportedly makes an effort not to disclose information about new games too early. For instance, Stonemaier Games only unveiled its new games Apiary and Wyrmspan less than a month before they went on sale. According to Stegmaier, Stonemaier Games also uses Amazon’s transparency program. This paid service provides a scannable code that can be used to check products for authenticity.

Another important aspect for Stonemaier Games is brand protection communications: The publisher for example provides tips on how prospective buyers can protect themselves from counterfeits – and calls on people to report counterfeiting. Laia Gomez from Wonderbow also highlights that communications and targeted awareness rising are now essential to protect against counterfeiting.

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