Image credit: Adam and Hal Richman
The dichotomy of his situation isn’t lost on Adam Richman, Strat-O-Matic’s president. While Richman calls the current pandemic a “horrendous time for the country,” he says the fact that the research-based baseball board game and digital game is having its best year ever is certainly a “strange” feeling.
The rise of Strat-O-Matic—or maybe it is the resurgence of it—isn’t tied only to the loss of the start of the 2020 major league season. The company, which started as a board game in 1961 by using statistics to allow consumers to simulate games, had its best year ever in 2019. But 2020 is shaping up to blow by 2019, already with new customers buying the board game version, the Windows-based version or joining a Baseball 365 fantasy league increasing between 50 and 75 percent from last year.
“Our customer response has been tremendous,” Richman says. “People are looking for connection and to be comforted by things they love, and people love sports and are looking for other ways to connect with those sports. Strat-O-Matic has always been about connecting generations.”
Along with the company’s games, Strat-O-Matic is running a full simulation of the 2020 MLB season, simulating every game that was originally on the schedule. “The simulation has been a tremendous way to connect with people daily,” Richman says.
Strat-O-Matic was started by Adam Richman’s father, Hal Richman, as a board-game company. While board games are still and will always be a crucial part of the company, Adam Richman says, the company is now in its 32nd year of a Windows-based version. They also have an online game platform that is done in fantasy style, called Baseball 365, that allows groups to form their own Strat-O-Matic leagues.
The decision to run a full-season simulation is something within the Strat-O-Matic history, having offered playoff simulations aplenty in the past. And it gives the company a chance to connect not just with its current consumers, but also with the entire baseball community.
Typically, when a season finishes, the company creates a data set for every player through propriety algorithms and research methodologies to express it via card sets for board games and digital sets of player profiles. The simulation, though, allows the company to become prospective in the content it creates and simulate things have haven’t happened yet, using last year’s data as the baseline. The company has updated, as part of its Baseball 365 platform, a mix of projections with season stats.
“When the season was delayed, it was a no-brainer to run every day for the 2020 season,” says John Garcia, Strat-O-Matic research director. “It has done very well so far. It has just been a great way to visualize baseball or have some kind of baseball in our lives.”
Do players always agree with their Strat-O-Matic rating? Of course not, Garcia says, with stories of players lobbying for better ratings including Doug Glanville about 20 years ago even sending in statistics and supporting evidence to improve his fielding rating. Hal Richman didn’t budge.
Adam Richman said that they are seeing “astronomical growth” for every platform, with no one platform charging ahead of the others. Part of the draw of Strat-O-Matic comes from its ties to the game, to stats and to history. “At its core, we are really a reach institution,” Adam Richman says. “We have the richest game library anywhere.”
Players can use the Strat-O-Matic stats from any year going back to the late 1800s. The company also has a mix of special edition sets, such as the Hall of Fame or Negro Leagues sets. Adam Richman says that with this year being the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues they have partnered with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City to donate 10 percent of Negro Leagues product sales to support the museum.
Adam Richman says he’s also hearing from customers who are using the Strat-O-Matic board game as an educational tool. In this time of distance learning for students, often tied to screens, the board game is an opportunity to learn math, statistics and more in a fun way. And for those families wanting to look back into history, whether through sets player cards from decades past or with the Negro Leagues, that can add a new educational wrinkle to the game.
“For me,” says Adam Richman, who has worked at the company in an official capacity for nine years, “it has brought a tremendous amount of joy to see and take this amazing community and amazing product my father built and really take it in different directions and grow in different ways to take advantage of new technology platforms and ways people connect through sports data.”
Tim Newcomb covers gear and business for Baseball America. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.