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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Yet Another Crystal Ball

Here we are, one week after the infamous "Podcast" episode. I'm not going to address that at all (other than the occasional clever remark) unless we set up a listserve or something. It would take me a month to address every issue that the Three Amigos brought up, and something tells me that I'd be defending myself for a very long time. So, no more of that, at least from me. For the record, I am somewhat gobsmacked that this issue got picked up by other blogs, and someone even called me a luminary! Obviously, neither of us get out much. ;-)

Sorry to post a day late, but I've really had to think about this week's question. And I came up with it in the first place!

Part of prediction is to look back in the past and see what changes have occurred over a similar period, then extrapolate accordingly. In 1996 [Note: Dates are approximate for my purposes, so don't feel like you need to comment that such and such a game came out on Dec 33rd of 1995, 'kay?], Euro games were just starting to enter the US gamersphere. GMT ruled the wargame market (or were at least on their way there), even with AH still a going concern. The Internet was taking off, although the web was still just getting started (and online stores were scarce). Card-driven wargames were still in their infancy, with the titles limited to Hannibal and We the People. There was no ACTS, so anything involving hidden elements had to be refereed. I can tell you from experience that refereeing a pbem game is definitely a labor of love, although it does have it's rewards (such as managing to turn over an entire pbem game of History of the World in two months). Pbem was in use, but the graphics were non-existent. There were certainly no play by web games.

I'm going to go with a few assumptions about the next ten years as well. No environmental collapse, commercial activity continues relatively intact despite a dwindling oil supply, the US not under martial law, etc. [Note: This is not an invitation to bitch about my liberal *ss, here, this is just a basic assumption that things will continue more or less as they have for the past ten years without affecting basic infrastructure].

I will also assume that computer and information technology continues to get more portable, more interconnected, and more unobtrusive. We will have instant access to the internet in every populated portion of the US/Canada at the very least.

So, given the above, here are my thoughts about the future of boardgaming:

* Wargaming will become even more of a niche hobby than it currently is. New games will continue to be published, but most will be either DTP or intended to be played on ones Personal Computing/Communication Device (PCCD). Diehards like me who enjoy pushing cardboard around will be able to print up our own copies, but we will be in the minority. paper will have become so expensive that printing out a DTP game will be equivalent to purchasing a published game today. Because the computer will handle most of the bookkeeping, gamers will be able to learn games much faster, and it will possible to finally play all three Barbarossa: Army Group games simultaneously to completion, even if it takes five years. Even with the shorter learning curve, the hobby will continue to slowly die out because of the crumbling educational system in the US.

* The "eurogame" market will crash sometime in the next ten years. I personally believe that we are pretty close to that point now. Using the American film industry as an example (say buhbye to movie theatres as well), there will be such a low qualtiy to quantity ratio that people will simply stop buying/collecting and play what they have. I think this will happen sooner than later. Like wargames, boardgames will evolve into video games with some brains that we play over networks rather than at gatherings (although those will still happen to some extent). They will still be a minor niche in the market, much like role-playing video games are today, mostly because there won't be enough T&A and/or blood. However, I do see some growth in this market, as these games require no background in a historical subject to be entertaining.

* Before the crash (and contributing to it) will be a flood of digitally-distributed games put out by pretty much anyone with even a dumb idea. Sort of like blogs now. This will contribute to the crash in the US, if not everywhere. On the plus side, no one will complain that they are running out of places to hide games from their spouses as all they need is a bigger hard drive.

* As Chinese and South Asian populations become more affluent, more designers and players will emerge in those countries. If you think translating German is difficult, try Sanskrit! True innovation will take place in these cultures, largely because of their different worldviews - The Chinese, for example, will be very good at collaborative games, while the Indians will prefer games that focus on historical/mythological themes.

* Games will increasingly fill niche markets. For example, Christians currently have a few religion-oriented titles available such as Settlers of Canaan, but will have dozens if not hundreds of games to choose from because of distribution via the Internet (and the subsequent reduction in costs, problems with finding publishers, etc). Most of these titles will be derivatives of titles available now, but with niche-specific themes pasted on.

* Games with plastic bits will disappear because of dwindling petroleum supplies. [Note: I'm pretty sure that oil plays a big part in plastics production, but this is something I'm not completely sure of]. Most of the games that today have plastic pieces, even the really crappy ones, will fetch a premium from all the geriatrics who mocked them back in the 'oughts. Like me.

* Traditional card games like Bridge will make a huge comeback, mostly because there will be lots of card decks laying around. However, Poker will have been outlawed as a form of gambling, and all games will take place in clandestine locations. You will be able to watch Bridge tournaments on television (or on the 'net).

* Podcasts, blogs, and the internet in general will be monitored by the federal authorities (OK, this is dystopian, but you know it's coming). There will be a tax on bloggers and podcasters, and they will for all intensive purposes become Big Media outlets. However, there will be a few hardy souls putting out pirate 'casts (known as ArghCasts) in a vain attempt to stick it to the Man. All of these people will be Americans living in Korea. ;-) There will be no content for gamers.

* I won't cover CCGs, RPGs, MMORPGs, or minis, as I need to leave something for the other writers on this blog to cover!

As you can see, the biggest changes will be brought about by changes in the distribution/production channels. I use the changes in music distribution as a model, where the big CD store is eventually replaced by on-line distribution. Some of my predictions are a bit on the light side, but the increasing commercialization of the Internet combined with increasing transportation costs will drive the digitalization of gaming in the future. And to think this isn't the dystopian view!

Next week I will attempt to offend the entire Buddhist world community. ;-)


  • At 3:34 PM, Blogger Jon said…

    Wow, the only thing worse than that answer was the question!

    I am kidding. I do like reading your take on games, especially your session reports.

  • At 4:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    >> For example, Christians currently have a few religion-oriented titles available such as Settlers of Canaan, but will have dozens if not hundreds of games to choose from because of distribution via the Internet (and the subsequent reduction in costs, problems with finding publishers, etc).

    Always going on and on about Christianity...

    Sorry, I couldn't help myself. ;-)

  • At 3:58 PM, Blogger Dug said…

    Yeah, I thought of the Christian angle when I wrote that, but it's the most obvious example. I think any niche that wanted to exploit games would look to the current crop for inspiration, hence "Carcassone Meets Canaan".

    I have this feeling I'm going to take a lot of ribbing over the next couple of months. Good thing I have a sense of humor about this sort of thing! ;-)


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