Only a decade ago ‘experts’ were predicting the death of the tabletop games industry, with all but a few diehards expected to go completely digital due the increasing complexity and playability of digital offerings. In fact, the digital games industry exponentially increased the number of gamers in the world and a significant proportion of those discovered the tabletop hobbies.
More ‘experts’ thought that the market would shrink with most gamers only buying from large, well-established games companies who could provide the ‘quality’ of product they wanted. Especially in terms of the artwork, whose standard had grown year on year in the digital industry.
Well, despite all of those predictions, we are in the throes of a revolution in the tabletop gaming industry. Never before have so many gamers had access to such a wide range of good games, many of which are now being produced by amateurs*, not games companies. The foundations of this revolution include:
- Affordable short run printing and print on demand,
- Digital figure sculpting,
- 3D printing,
- Marketing through social media, and
Now anyone with a good idea and sufficient getup and go can now develop and release a game. Quite a few games will die – but that is natural selection. The remainder are beginning to give the big game companies a run for their money.
Also, gaming is no longer the exclusive preserve of the English-speaking companies. Led by Europe, hundreds of games of all types are being produced in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Polish and a dozen other languages, by writers and artists with a depth of imagination and skill that has surprised many British and American firms.
From many conversations I have had with gamers, online and at shows, I have seen a slow turnaround in attitudes. For years, many players depended upon the big names in gaming such as Wizards and Games Workshop to provide their games. Now gamers are looking around and sampling the professionally produced offerings of smaller companies and even amateurs*. The market is both expanding and fragmenting.
* Note by the term ‘amateur’ I do not mean poor quality. I mean individuals and small groups of gamers with no prior games company or publishing experience, who have taken advantage of the revolutionary technologies listed above and are producing excellent games.
So where do we go from here? With the market expanding globally, I feel that there is room both for the professional games companies and the noisy upstarts. The current state of the industry is healthy and we are being treated to a silver age.