LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
Xbox, PlayStation and Wii continue to top holiday wish lists this year. But while electronics remain popular, a low tech corner of the game industry is also doing well.
From member station WNKU Cheri Lawson reports.
CHERI LAWSON: If you think board games are boring, think again.
Mr. MATTHEW FAY (Owner, YottaQuest): So all you do is roll the dice, and that's where you have to put your eggs.
(Soundbite of laughter)
LAWSON: On a recent evening, fans of board games gathered in Cincinnati to play together.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. FAY: Leave.
Unidentified Woman: Awesome.
LAWSON: Every night is game night at YottaQuest, a family-owned store. Five years ago, Matthew Fay opened his game shop, and since then his business has increased 25 percent a year on average. Even during the recession, sales are up 40 percent compared to last year.
Mr. FAY: There's no video games in here at all. No video games, no electronic games. This is all personal interaction between people where, yeah, the game's one thing, but the socializing is the key part.
(Soundbite of rolling dice)
Unidentified Man: Yeah. Awesome.
LAWSON: Shelves are stocked from floor to ceiling with games such as "Monopoly" and "Apples to Apples," even European favorites like "Settlers of Catan."
Toy manufacturers and major retailers won't disclose national sales figures, but industry insiders say board game sales increased by more than 20 percent last year. They're expected to be even higher this year.
Mr. JIM SILVER (Editor, Timetoplaymag.com): One of the main reasons why board games are doing so well has to do with the economy.
LAWSON: Jim Silver is editor of Timetoplaymag.com, a consumer Web site.
Mr. SILVER: You can buy a great board game for under $20, and every time you play it, it's a new game. This is a toy that can be played over and over again, so the consumer sees value in this type of purchase.
LAWSON: On this night, a mixed crowd fills the tables in the YottaQuest store. Players from ages 12 to 60 are enjoying the latest strategy games like "Pandemic." They include students, homemakers, research scientists and a few who are unemployed. Not all of them are so-called game geeks.
In this economy, some gamers have given up cable TV and eating out, and others, like Karen Miller and her husband, have cut down on going to movies.
Ms. KAREN MILLER: By the time you buy two tickets and your popcorn and your drinks, you're spending 30 to 40 bucks and I can buy a board game for about that much money and play it over and over again.
LAWSON: In this era of computers and online networking, some people who play together become addicted to human contact. That's true of 23-year-old Bryan Gerding, who used to spend hours on the Internet.
Mr. BRYAN GERDING: Like I can play online games where I'm talking to people, but these people are right there.
LAWSON: Real people.
Mr. GERDING: Real people.
Mr. GERDING: Yes. Exactly. It makes a big difference in a game.
LAWSON: Storeowner Matthew Fay is convinced the community aspect of face-to-face gaming is what will keep people buying and playing board games even when the economy improves.
For NPR News, I'm Cheri Lawson in Cincinnati.