How a Board Game Dinosaur Survived Social Gaming

Mark Stephens

I imagine the social gaming revolution has claimed a few traditional board game companies around the world as its victims. But one pretty ancient Dutch company refused to lie down and let the social gaming juggernaut run over it and splat it into a million and one jigsaw pieces. Its logo is an elephant but the company was rapidly becoming a dinosaur of the gaming world, until it embraced new technology and started using it as the creative tool it was always meant to be.


Royal Jumbo and Social Gaming

Royal Jumbo is no less than 160 years old. Pretty impressive already, when you consider that means it started out in the 1850s.

The company develops, manufactures and sells a variety of games, puzzles and toys, employing around 130 people at its headquarters in the Netherlands, and in its offices in Belgium, Germany and the UK. Its best known games are the board games Wasgij? and Stratego.

To Royal Jumbo, social gaming is far from a new phenomenon; nearly all gaming used to be “social” – it just so happened that people used to have to be in the same room together to play the games; the fun of actually sharing the gaming experience hasn’t changed – and families still play together just like in days gone by – only the technology has changed, as people are able to share that experience remotely, on different screens on mobile devices.

The company’s online manager Michiel Rademakers explained :

We’re one of the oldest social gaming companies in the world.

The “Threat” of Mobile Social Gaming

The perceived “threat” that mobile gaming on tablets and smartphones presents to traditional board games was recognised early on and turned into an opportunity by Royal Jumbo.

Recently the company released its iPawn range of games, combining physical board game pieces with a free iPad app.

Rademakers explains the idea behind it: “We came up with the concept of iPawn, the combination of physical pieces with digital game board of the iPad and that became a huge success, and the main reason for the success was the social interaction, doing what we were already use to, bringing people together around the table.”

Interestingly, the company didn’t have to invent anything new; it just had to partner with a local, digital game developer to take the new technology and apply it to what was their core business anyhow. They did what they do best using new technology to do so.

Luckily, Apple ended up approving the concept and the game went live in the App store and, lo and behold, the company is thriving.

The eight iPawn games (including air hockey,_ Ludo_ and Peppa Pig) have sold over 300,000 sets, and the apps have been downloaded over a million times, bringing in good revenue for the company.

A Dinosaur No More

Suddenly Royal Jumbo is not a has-been, dinosaur company, out of its depth in a brave new world of mobile social gaming.

Rademakers says:

It was a boost for our image, from being a grandmother, great grandmother company suddenly we’re very innovative, and companies were approaching us for all kinds of projects.

The company is currently working on updating family card games and plans to continue to cement its place in the digital gaming world. It joins other board game companies like Fisher Price, which have successfully made the difficult and, at times, turbulent transition into social gaming.