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This hot holiday toy trend is very low tech: Why game sales are soaring 20% this year

Hatchimals aren't the only hot holiday toy this year. More and more shoppers are reaching for games in the toy aisle.

Fueled by interest in games like Hasbro's Speak Out and Pie Face Showdown as well as more adult games, including X-rated versions of longstanding favorites — think Trivial Pursuit and Taboo — the game segment has seen sales soar 20 percent this year, according to the NPD Group.

The segment, which includes card games, board games, puzzles, dice and strategy games, caters to toddlers, teens and adults and has been gaining speed in recent years. In 2015, game sales rose 14 percent from the prior year, when sales climbed 6 percent year over year, Juli Lennett, an NPD Group toys industry analyst, told CNBC.

"The games market is not one size fits all," said Jim Silver, CEO of TTPM, an online toy review site. "The category is most successful when it appeals to all the different demographics."

In fact, much of the strength in surging game sales is coming from those that target adults, with sales in the adult party game segment jumping 138 percent this year through November from the same period last year.


Silver attributes the segment's strength to the success of Cards Against Humanity.

"Cards Against Humanity is why you see Trivial Pursuit X, 5 Second Rule Uncensored and Midnight Taboo," he said.

The self-dubbed "party game for horrible people" started as a $4,000 Kickstarter campaign — it ultimately raised about $15,500 — and has since developed into a lucrative empire for a group of eight grade-school friends now in their late 20s and early 30s.

The appeal of these adult games lies in their edgy and risque content, said Silver.

The adult game category is by no means the only one seeing growth. Family strategy games, like Uno, are up 56 percent this year and brainteasers such as the Rubik's Cube, are up 40 percent.

Sales of children's games rose 27 percent this year, fueled by successful new games like Pie Face and Pie Face Showdown.

"The original Pie Face game is still the top-selling game," Lennett said, "followed by Speak Out and Pie Face Showdown."

A runaway hit last year for both kids and adults, Hasbro's Pie Face was awarded game of the year in 2016 by the Toy Industry Association.

This holiday season, Hasbro released a sequel, Pie Face Showdown, that pits players against each other. The players must press a button on the side of the toy as fast as they can to move the pie thrower toward the other player. The one that gets pied in the face loses.

Pie Face Showdown helped boost Hasbro's games division's sales 13 percent in the third quarter, and the game is among the year's top 10 sellers, according to NPD.

Games with 'shareable' content

The interactive and silly game has helped fuel a new type of social media–friendly gaming as players share their videos and photos online.

"You have games like Speak Out, even more so Pie Face, that appeal to what I call the YouTube Generation," Silver said. "You play Pie Face and you video it, other people watch it and will laugh and will encourage others to buy."

Speak Out, designed for ages 16 and up, asks players to say funny phrases while wearing a mouthpiece. Their partner must guess the phrase before the timer runs out.

Speak Out has spurred hundreds of online videos of people testing it out.

"The trend in games is definitely one to watch, and it will continue to flourish as families look for more together time," Lennett said.