Have Board Games Reached Their Peak? Part Three: The Future Is Bright

In Part One of this series, I discussed how the current board game industry is mirroring the comic book industry in the 90s. In Part Two, I discussed how the producers and consumers of board games can contribute to the hobby’s longevity by focusing on quality. In this final installment, I make a few predictions on the hobby’s future…

So if we are indeed at “peak gaming”, (underline IF) what should we expect? Here are my educated guesses:

First of all, the hobby and the industry that supports it will be fine. Not every comic book company survived the 90s market collapse, but enough big and small publishers did to keep the hobby going until new major players like IDW publishing arrived. The same thing will happen in board gaming.  There will be some publisher consolidation (we’re already seeing that with Asmodee purchasing Days of Wonder), some small and self-publishers will disappear, and some large publishers will keep trucking along as strong as they ever were.

I imagine that Kickstarter will continue to be a mixed bag of success and failure, but I suspect the industry will take more notice of the independent successes. To use a baseball analogy, I anticipate larger publishers will more aggressively use Kickstarter as their farm system.  Once new talent proves themselves through a promising product, they’ll be offered a publishing deal to join the big leagues. Like licensing games from other countries, crowd funded successes will be another way the large publishers can supplement their in-house developed properties, maintain quality, and promote artistic diversity in the hobby.

Speaking of artistic diversity, there’s a new style of game that has arrived and I predict it will impact the hobby as strongly as deck builders and collectible card games did in the past.  Hybrid games that utilize smart phones or tablet computers will be the next big thing. I’m not talking about apps that support traditional games like scoring apps for 7Wonders or deck randomizers for Dominion. I’m talking about fully integrating tablet computers into the game experience. Fantasy Flight’s Mansions of Madness Second Edition has already blazed that trail and I predict many will follow it. It most likely won’t help lower the price of the games, but the ability to set the mood through a soundtrack, atmospheric sound effects and random events will add value and provide new and exciting tools for game designers to use.  It’s the gameplay that Clue: Secrets and Spies promised in the early 2000s with live texting during gameplay. Hasbro couldn’t work out the bugs then, so maybe it’s time to revisit the idea with randomized messages generated via a phone app.  This could be the start of some amazing multimedia game experiences!

Long live board games!