CORRECTION: Board Game "Settlers of Catan" Was Renamed In Part Because "Settlers" Offended Some People

Fact Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

CORRECTION: Board Game "Settlers of Catan" Was Renamed In Part Because "Settlers" Offended Some People

Was the board game "Settlers of Catan" renamed just to "Catan" because the word "settlers" offended certain people? Several reports in Dutch and Belgian newspapers claimed this was the main reason on April 4, 2018 quoting a spokesperson for 999 Games, the company distributing the game.

Correction: In an earlier version of the headline above this article we said this was not the "main" reason and that the company said it was done for entirely different reasons. However given the latest statements by the company spokesperson we believe it is now more correct to say it was "part" of the reason so we have updated the wording of our title and our image caption accordingly.

The name change of the game already happened as early as 2015 according to this article on game review site Polygon:

The Settlers of Catan has a new name, new look for 5th edition

Klaus Teuber's famous board game The Settlers of Catan has a new look and a new name for its fifth edition. A global rebranding has shortened the title to Catan, and this newest edition is on sale now. Polygon's had some time to peruse the contents, and this edition both looks and plays great.

But media reports about the supposed reason for the change have only now emerged in Belgian and Dutch newspapers. An exaple of the story is an article published on April 4, 2018 in Het Nieuwsblad titled "'Kolonisten' van Catan? Dat mag niet meer" (translation: "Settlers of Catan? Not allowed any more") wich we archived here and which opened:

Games producer 999 Games has - quietly - changed the name of one of their most popular games: 'Settlers of Catan' is no more, from now on you just play 'Catan'.

...

Complaints

The games producer says they have been receiving complaints about the name of game for years. "We would allegedly be going back to the white roots and were getting reminders about the Dutch colonial history. We were even accused of supporting the construction of Jewish settlements on the West Bank of the Jordan river", according to Bert Calis, 999 Games spokesperson. The company wanted to get rid of that negative connotation, which was why the name of the game was quitely changed to 'Catan', without 'settlers'.

Lead Stories contacted 999 Games, the distributor of the game, and they issued following press release today denying this was the main reason for the name change (translated version):

On April 4th 2018 (newspaper) AD published an article about the name change of the board game "The Settlers of Catan". The story has been subsequently picked up by various media outlets. The new name has been changed to Catan in 2014 by the way.

It is indeed true we received a few remarks in the past about the title "The Settlers of ...". Because we want to make fun games for everyone we always take criticism seriously. However the name Catan has been adopted for entirely different reasons. That is why the AD article in question is totally not relevant.

Being one of the best selling board games in the past years Catan has grown into a world wide brand name that covers dozens of items. To be able to expand and protect the brand internationally the need grew for a internationally unified brand name for the main publisher and author. This name became "Catan" and it has been compulsorily applied worldwide since 2014.

The discussion the AD brings into the world is unnecessary pot-stirring as far as we are concerned. The connection to our colonial past is unfounded and was never applicable.

So the company has officially denied that the complaints about the name were the main reason for the change. We asked 999 Games for comment on these quotes from their spokesperson in the AD article (archived here) because they do seem to suggest the complaints were also a factor in the decision:

,,That term (ed. "Settlers") has become so loaded in the past ten years we didn't want to use it for our games anymore", says spokesperson Bert Calis of 999 Games..

,,The word 'Settlers' leaves a nasty aftertaste. We wanted to get rid of that."

We will update this article if we receive a response.

We also spoke with Peter Winterman of the AD, the journalist who wrote the original article. He stands by the quotes and told us he had been at a familiy gathering recently when he noticed the name change when somebody brought out the board game. He later contacted the spokesperson for the game company and got the quotes he printed in his article. He also noted that he was told the name change discussion started in 2012, well before the brand name decision mentioned in this morning's press release.

UPDATE: The company spokesperson clarified to the AD the complaints about the word "Settlers" were actually a real factor in the decision:

Spokesperson Bert Calis let us know in a clarification over the phone that the AD article is not incorrect but that he provided "incomplete" information to the newspaper yesterday. The 'negative connotation' of the word 'settlers' and the complaints about that were in fact reasons to change the name of the game.

,,But apparently there was another reason I didn't know about yesterday'', he says now. ,,We wanted to add that context with this press release.''

Original Dutch version of the Nieuwsblad article intro:

Spelfabrikant 999 Games heeft - in alle stilte - de naam van een van hun meest succesvolle spellen veranderd: 'Kolonisten van Catan' is niet meer, voortaan speel je gewoon 'Catan'.

...

Klachten

De spellenfabrikant zegt al jaren klachten te krijgen over de naam van het spel. "We zouden teruggaan naar de blanke roots en werden gewezen op het Nederlandse koloniale verleden. We zouden zelfs steun geven aan de bouw van Joodse nederzettingen op de Westelijke Jordaanoever", klinkt het bij Bert Calis, een woordvoerder van 999 Games. Het bedrijf wou af van die negatieve bijklank, daarom werd de naam van het spel in alle stilte gewijzigd naar 'Catan', zonder 'kolonisten' dus.

Original Dutch version of the press release:

De discussie die het AD in de wereld brengt is wat ons betreft onnodige stemmingmakerij. Het verband met ons koloniaal verleden is ongegrond en nooit van toepassing geweest.

Op 04 april jongstleden heeft het AD een artikel rond de naamswijziging van het bordspel "De Kolonisten van Catan" gepubliceerd. Het verhaal is vervolgens door verschillende media overgenomen. De nieuwe naam is overigens al in 2014 gewijzigd in Catan.

Het is inderdaad waar dat we in het verleden een paar aanmerkingen over de titel "De Kolonisten van ..." hebben gekregen. Omdat we graag voor iedereen leuke spellen willen maken, nemen we aanmerkingen altijd serieus. De naam Catan is echter om een heel andere reden aangenomen. Derhalve is het genoemde artikel in het AD totaal niet relevant.

Catan is als één van de best verkochte bordspellen van de afgelopen jaren wereldwijd uitgegroeid tot een merknaam, waaronder tientallen artikelen vallen. Om het merk internationaal te kunnen uitbouwen en beschermen ontstond er bij de hoofduitgever en auteur behoefte aan een internationaal uniforme merknaam. Deze naam is "Catan" geworden en sinds 2014 wereldwijd verplicht toegepast.

De discussie die het AD in de wereld brengt is wat ons betreft onnodige stemmingmakerij. Het verband met ons koloniaal verleden is ongegrond en nooit van toepassing geweest.

Original Dutch AD quotes:

,,Die term is sinds een jaar of tien zó beladen geworden, dat we het niet meer willen gebruiken voor onze spellen", zegt woordvoerder Bert Calis van 999 Games.

,,Dat we met deze naamgeving teruggingen naar de oude, blanke roots. Dat soort ongein. We werden gewezen op de negatieve aspecten van het Nederlandse koloniale verleden. Het woordje 'kolonisten' heeft een nare bijsmaak. Daar wilden we van af."

Original Dutch clarification:

Woordvoerder Bert Calis laat in een telefonische toelichting weten dat het artikel in het AD niet onjuist is, maar dat hij de krant gisteren 'onvolledig' heeft geïnformeerd. De 'negatieve connotatie' van het woord 'kolonisten' en de klachten daarover waren wel degelijk redenen om de naam van het spel te veranderen.

,,Maar blijkbaar was er nog een reden waar ik gisteren nog niet van wist'', zegt hij nu. ,,Die context willen we met dit persbericht meegeven.''

Updates:

  • 2018-04-04T12:42:03Z 2018-04-04T12:42:03Z
    Title of the article and image caption updated because of new statements by the company.
  • 2018-04-04T11:24:24Z 2018-04-04T11:24:24Z
    Interestingly enough, a 2015 Russian edition of the game still seems to be using the term "Колонизаторы" which Google translates as "Colonizers".
  • 2018-04-04T11:06:38Z 2018-04-04T11:06:38Z
    Added Peter Winterman statement.

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  Maarten Schenk

Lead Stories co-founder Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

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