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The BBC's Kevin Gearey reports
"It's been a passport to a fantasy world played out on sitting room carpets and kitchen tables"
 real 28k

Friday, 21 January, 2000, 15:44 GMT
Checkmate for board games?

game Facing the future: Computers forced out Subbuteo

Click here to read your favourite Subbuteo memories.

It appears to be checkmate for board games as computers take over.

This week Hasbro announced it was giving Subbuteo the red card, blaming its demise on computer games.

The US games giant has already introduced electronic versions of family favourites such as Monopoly.

And in perhaps the most telling move of all, the world Mind Sports games in London later this year will have a computer section for the first time.

In the four years since it began, Mind Sports has been confined to around 30 board games of strategy and skill such as chess, backgammon and bridge.

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And now it is opening its doors to the likes of Sony and Sega.

But Demis Hassabis, Mind Sports overall champion for the last two years, said board and computer games would continue to exist side by side.

Mr Hassabis, 23, who became a Chess Master at 12 and now runs a multi-million pound computer games firm, Elixir Studios, says: "I think it's a publicity stunt by Hasbro to blame the demise of Subbuteo on computer games.

"Board games like Monopoly and Risk are as popular as ever.

"The games industry as a whole is just becoming much bigger."

He pointed out that games were now becoming a feature of adult life.

The explosion in computer games had gone hand in hand with an increase in the skills demanded by games, meaning they appealed to adults and well as children.

"It's not something you give up at the age of 20 any more," he says.

Paul Rose, editor of Teletext's Digitiser gaming column: "In some respects it is very sad that a game like Subbuteo has not stood the test of time.

"There is something nice about sitting down with a board game and physically touching the pieces, rather than pressing a few buttons.

"But I don't think board games will ever disappear because people like that face to face contact that you have.

"You can reconstruct board games on computers with virtual dice, but it is not the same as sitting opposite someone."

There is something nice about sitting down with a board game and physically touching the pieces, rather than pressing a few buttons
Paul Rose
He cites Scalextric as an example. Despite the huge array of computer racing games, there was still something attractive to people about the tangible objects.

"Part of the game is setting it up, touching the cars. It's the physical side which is part of the fun."

Gerry Masters of the British Association of Toy Retailers says the problems being experienced by Subbuteo were specific to that product.

"Subbuteo was at the height of its popularity when the teams used to come in the little club kits, but that was during the days when clubs used to keep the same strip for a couple of seasons.

"Now they seem to change them every five seconds. If you had to pay a popular club like Manchester United every time they changed their strip it would become a very expensive game indeed."

He says people will never turn their backs on the likes of Monopoly, Scrabble or the latest bestseller, a board game version of the hit TV quiz Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

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"While computer games have increased in popularity, games like Monopoly, Cluedo and Kerplunk really serve an entirely different purpose," he says.

"Board games still account for 12% of the toy market and playing them is a very communal experience.

"These days you can play Monopoly on a computer but I think you will always get people wanting to sit round a table and play the traditional version of the game."

Mr Masters claims the British could learn a few things from their continental counterparts when it comes to the games people play.

"In Europe people play board games all year round whereas in this country we tend to get them out once a year at Christmas.

"We are also very conservative and tend to play board games that we are all familiar with.

"Being as we only seem to play games once a year we don't want to spend all afternoon trying to learn the rules."

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See also:
21 Jan 00 |  UK
Subbuteo gets the red card
21 Jan 00 |  UK
Your Subbuteo match of the day
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