A Brief History of the Board Game Catan | Luke Visser, Chappaqua
In the 80s, Klaus Teuber, a dental technician from Darmstadt, Germany, started designing board games in the workshop of his basement. He built them as an escape from his job. Teuber was unhappy with the many problems of his profession and the company. He created ‘The Settlers of Catan’ board game. Players are in competition to build the most successful colony on the fictional island of Catan.
The game was published in 1995 as ‘Die Siedler von Catan,’ in Germany. It sold over 18 million copies worldwide. In 1996, it was available in the U.S. Last year Mayfair Games, its English-language publisher, reported sales of over 750 thousand Catan-related products. Chains, such as Barnes & Noble, Walmart, and Target, carry the game and offshoot products like Star Trek Catan, Catan Junior, and Catan cards.
With the special editions, expansions, and spin-offs, there are approximately 80 varieties of Catan. Teuber had a hand in creating all of them, including electronic versions. He remains somewhat baffled by the game’s popularity. There was no expectation of its success. Teuber is among the few people who make their living from games.
Teuber left the dental lab when he saw it was possible to support his family. Teuber and Claudia, his wife, incorporated Catan GmbH in 2002. It became a family business. His sons, Benjamin and Guido, are managing directors. Benjamin helps with game development and controls the international side of the business.
Guido’s focus is on the English-speaking market. His actress daughter is an unofficial game tester. Claudia loves the game as much as her husband. She tests new games and does the booking. Die Siedler von Catan is available in more than 30 languages.
Catan licenses the prototype and idea to publishers, who produce and market the game. Catan GmbH receives approximately ten percent in royalties. Catan and Mayfair grew together. Their fortunes intertwine. Catan products are a large portion of Mayfair’s revenue. Catan GmbH is a Mayfair stockholder.
Initially, all material for the game came from Europe. As the demand took off, manufacturers needed more wood to keep up. More resources became available with the expansion of American companies. The assembly line in Illinois uses dice tooled in Denmark, intricate wood pieces from Germany, other wood parts from Ohio, cards from Dallas, boxes from Illinois, cardboard from Indiana, and plastic components from Wisconsin. The product is an international affair.