The development of Asmodee from a small French games company primarily known for clever little kids game like Dobble and Jungle Speed, into an industrial conglomerate has been covered extensively here. Over the last decade or so, they have acquired Days of Wonder, Fantasy Flight Games, Z-man Games, Mayfair and Lookout Spiele amongst others. They have also leveraged control of the distribution network through the purchase of Esdevium (UK), Heidelberger Spieleverlag (Germany), Hodin (Belgium), Asterion Press (Italy), Millennium (Spain), FRED Distribution (USA) and agreements with Rebel (Poland), and Alliance Game Distributors (USA). These acquisitions tend to come in flurries presumably as funds are made available and it seems they are in the middle of another one now.
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In March last year, Asmodee signed a deal with CMON Ltd., to exclusively distribute the publisher’s board and tabletop games in North America. Distribution agreements happen all the time because they help distribute costs between companies as well as distribute games to gamers all over the world. What makes this agreement slightly more unusual is that CMON are a US company that have been successfully distributing their product across the USA. Where Asmodee are concerned, a distribution agreement announcement is usually followed by more announcements, and this was no exception. Over the Summer, Asmodee announced a similar distribution agreement with the Swiss publishing house, Helvetiq, and acquired the French-language boardgame site, Tric Trac.
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For eighteen years from 2000, Tric Trac was an independent enterprise with some 40,000 members directed by Monsieur Phal (aka Philippe Maurin). In 2018, Flat Prod SARL (the parent company), sold Tric Trac to Plan B Games, a new company that grew out of the fallout of Asmodee’s acquisition of F2Z/Filosofia/Z-Man Games etc., in 2016, and won the Spiel de Jahres Award with Azul. Tric Trac has been more commercial than the popular US-based, English-language website BoardGameGeek, which has been running for a similar length of time. However, there have long been suspicions of that Asmodee have received special treatment from Tric Trac, suspicions fueled by the fact that the parent company Flat Prod SARL was formed by Philippe Maurin and the company Plume Finance, which is wholly owned by Marc Nunès, original CEO of Asmodee. However, with Asmodee being such an important part of the French boardgame industry, it is perhaps unsurprising that their games take a lot of space on French website dedicated to boardgames.
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With France’s foremost website in the hands of such a dominant force, there are concerns about a lack of critical objectivity and that Tric Trac could ultimately become a promotion channel for Asmodee. It may be that with the retirement of it’s founder, Asmodee bought Tric Trac to ensure its survival and make sure the source of French-language boardgame media remains available and there is no sinister motive. They have promised the team editorial freedom, but it is highly likely that Asmodee are the ones benefiting the most from the site anyhow, simply because they’re the biggest player in the market, especially given their history as a French company. Since then, however, Asmodee have signed another distribution agreement, this time with Funforge, to distribute the French publisher’s titles in the U.S., and today they announced the acquisition of the Belgian publisher, Repos Production. Repos are best known for games like 7 Wonders, Ghost Stories, Concept, Ca$h ‘n Guns and this year’s Spiel des Jahres winner, Just One. Sometimes it seems like every successful company is a target and soon Asmodee will have a strangle-hold on the modern boardgame market. Some people say they already have.
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