NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- They may not be the most popular toys this holiday season -- little boys are asking Santa for LEGO toys, while little girls want Frozen dolls -- but board games are still in demand.
Compared to 2013, Amazon's (AMZN) board games sales are up 30% year-to-date. Hasbro (HAS) , which produces games including both Monopoly and Scrabble, says revenues are up 2% in the third quarter of 2014 to $395.2 million.
Even with new and cooler toys being introduced year in and year out, old-fashioned board games are not going away, says Jim Silver, CEO of toy industry site TTPM. Monopoly and Scrabble, which have been around since the 1930s, remain prominently displayed in the games aisles of major toy retailers.
"These games are so special in that they are able to gather the whole family or a group of friends around one table, exchanging laughs and physically interacting with each other," says Silver. "The Sony (SNE) PlayStation, Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox and Apple (AAPL) iPad can't really give children and adults that same experience."
Aside from being gender neutral, board games are unique in that they offer the same level of enjoyment to both children and adults.
"My little girl loves playing with her doll but I could never have as much fun as she's having. With board games, we can compete and have fun at the same time," Silver said.
This year, Monopoly and Scrabble are introducing new features to keep people excited about the games.
Hasbro has launched the My Monopoly app, which allows players to customize property spaces, game tokens, Chance Cards and Community Chest Cards to include their favorite people, places and things. Using the app (or the My Monopoly site), users can gather photos, print them out on personalized game stickers and stick them onto the game pieces.
Scrabble, on the other hand, has added a new electronic scoring tool. Instead of keeping a printed scorecard, players just dial-in their scores on a handheld unit. It includes a timer option and a highest-word-score feature that lets players know when the highest scoring word has been reached.
"They certainly know how to innovate and they've been utilizing social media to get their customers involved in making product enhancements," says James Cerruti, head of research and strategy at Tenet Partners, a brand innovation and marketing consultancy.
Last year, Hasbro conducted a "Save Your Token" campaign on Facebook (FB) , where fans from 185 countries voted the Cat as the newest Monopoly token, replacing the iron. The new token was included in the Monopoly game released in mid-2013.
This year, Hasbro crowdsourced new "house rules" for Monopoly, which will be included as optional rules in all Monopoly games starting in 2015. A debate was held on the Monopoly Facebook page from March to April and called on the brand's more than 11.5 million global Facebook fans to discuss 10 "house rules," including one that said mom can always get out of jail free.
Early this year, Hasbro also asked Scrabble fans to pick the newest word -- geocache -- through a Facebook vote. This marks the dictionary's first major update in nearly a decade and the first time the dictionary has ever included a word that was voted on by fans.
"Game board makers like Hasbro have learned from the experiences of other forms of media like newspapers and books," says Cerruti. "They realize that if they don't become active on social media, get on with digital apps and be able to offer varieties of play in other platforms, they will become obsolete."
Digital versions of Monopoly and Scrabble are available through many platforms such as mobile, console and online through collaborations with licensees with Ubisoft (UBSFY) and Electronic Arts (EA) , among others.
The Hasbro Game Channel from Ubisoft is a destination for family game entertainment on consoles. It features Monopoly and other Hasbro games such as Risk and Trivial Pursuit. Mobile games from Electronic Arts include Classic Monopoly and Monopoly Slots. Scrabble for Facebook, iOS and Android is also hugely popular.
Despite the evolution of Monopoly and Scrabble and their availability on various high-tech platforms and channels, Silver says the old-fashioned board games are here to stay.
"There's more to Monopoly and Scrabble than just cardboards and plastic pieces or tokens," says toy expert Silver. "These games are selling the idea of family time, togetherness and social interaction. Parents are more than willing to pay a small price to keep these values alive."
-- Written by Marilen Cawad in New York
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