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Game sales climb as more people stay home in St. Albert

"Puzzles are about to go the way of toilet paper very soon," business owner says.

This article has been updated to reflect current provincial regulations.

To keep from going stir-crazy, more people are going back to basics to entertain themselves during times of social isolation.

Mission: Fun and Games in St. Albert is seeing a noticeable uptick in sales over the last month, both in-store and online. 

Sales for board games, puzzles and other items have climbed between 20 to 50 per cent from this time last year, said store owner John Engel. 

"To see both board games, puzzle games, role-playing books and miniatures all spike so significantly at the same time is quite unique," Engel said. 

One of the more popular games is Pandemic, a collaborative game in which players take on different roles with the Centers for Disease Control to try and stop four diseases from spreading across the globe.

"The game is about kind of what's happening now, people working together from all over the world to do their best to slow down the spread of the pandemic and then eventually eliminate and eradicate it," he said. 

Since January, the store has sold 99 copies of Pandemic, 20 copies so far this month. In comparison, the store only sold three copies in February 2019, Engel said. 

That's not the only game whose sales have picked up significantly. Other multiplayer games like Settlers of Catan, Codenames and Gloomhaven, which is a fantasy-themed, campaign-based game providing weeks of play, are seeing lots of attention. 

Solo play in board games are becoming more and more frequent, Engel said. Solo adventures like the solitaire deck-building game Friday, space-exploration dice game Deep Space D-6, and war game Mage Knight are popular options for people isolating alone. 

Puzzle sets, which can be done alone or with help from family and friends, are in high-demand as well.

There are many benefits to playing board games and doing puzzles instead of killing time by staring at a computer screen or binge-watching Netflix, he said.

"First and foremost, there's social interaction. You're interacting with other people, you're working together and competing with one another. Both puzzles and board games are terrific stimulus for exercising your brain and being mentally active."

Video game store Game City in St. Albert Centre also noticed an uptick in sales over the last few weeks before the new provincial regulations around non-essential businesses were announced, said store manager Kayleigh Krasowski.  

Interactive, family-friendly games, namely those played on the Nintendo Wii like Wii Sport, are doing surprisingly well, she said. 

"I didn't expect it to be such a hot-ticket item right now because it isn't normally, but people are just jumping to more family-friendly games," Krasowski said. 

"I like to personally recommend a lot of family-friendly stuff, anything tried and true like Mario or Sonic. But I think spending time with family regardless of what you're doing can help make the most of the situation." 

Short supply

Unlike many businesses forced to lay off their employees, Mission: Fun and Games was hiring more people to keep up, Engel said.

"Based on our current volume, we do need some more help."

The store off St. Albert Trail is currently closed to customers since the Alberta government ordered all non-essential businesses to shut their doors on March 27. 

Now curb-side pick up is available through online orders, and Engel said there are plans to take measures a step further with a drive-thru service in the near future.

With restrictions placed on non-essential stores in provinces across Canada, coupled with backlogged orders in the puzzle and board game supply chain, Engel expects their online sales to jump by 25 to 50 per cent in a matter of days.

"Our five biggest competitors online are all based out of Ontario and they're in the process of shutting down... Then two of the suppliers who we had orders in for puzzles, they're in the process of closing down their warehouse, and we're not sure if our orders got out, " he said.

"Puzzles are just about to go the way of toilet paper very soon."

Brittany Gervais

About the Author: Brittany Gervais

Brittany Gervais joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2020. She writes about business and health, general news and features.
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