Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne gives us his year-end perspective on the games biz.

It is the time of the year when people take stock of where they have been and where they are going, generally by making lists.  Since I almost always willingly embrace trends, here, in no particular order, are my top five events in the gaming industry for 2014:

Rise of the Munchkin License--Games licensing properties from other areas of pop culture is nothing new.  Avalon Hill did it with Starship Troopers back in 1976 and TSR produced the Marvel Super Heroes RPG in 1984.  Various companies have produced other licensed products with varying degrees of success over the decades (WEG's Necroscope comes to mind on the lower end of success, the Buffy RPG from Eden Studios on the higher), but those licenses have all come from outside the gaming industry.  This year, we saw Steve Jackson Games' Munchkin licensed for not one but two different games and a comic coming out in 2015.  To my knowledge, this marks the first time one gaming company has licensed another for use in its games.

Shortages of Hot Products--As mentioned in earlier columns, hot products such as DiceMasters and the Adventure Time Card Game proved incredibly hard to restock quickly after their initial release.  It took months for Alliance (the only source for either to the hobby game industry) to get them back in stock.  I have no idea how much we lost in sales or potential players as a result of the ongoing shortage.  At least both products did get back into distribution prior to the holiday selling season.  A full quarter has passed since we received a restock of the base ships for FFG's X-Wing Miniatures game with none of the most popular ships (Millennium Falcon, anyone?) available.

Start of TableTop Season 3--Though most stores are not seeing the "Wheaton Effect" as strongly as they did during Season 1 of TableTop, there is no denying the ongoing popularity of the series, given that Wheaton & Co. successfully raised over $1.4 million from fans wanting to see a third season of the webseries.  It appears that the new season of TableTop still helps drive sales as Tokaido, the first game played, has proven almost impossible to find in distribution since the show aired.

Shaving of Discounts--Also as mentioned in an earlier column, manufacturers of popular products have reduced the discount they offer to distribution and retailers while holding the MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price) firm.  Companies such as Days of Wonder, WizKids and Games Workshop have given short discounts for years now, though GW does raise prices, which partially compensates for the lower discount.  However, the announcements by FFG that its Imperial Assault game will sell through distribution at a 42-43% discount and by Wizards of the Coast that Magic: The Gathering product will start selling at a 2% slimmer discount with no increase in MSRP makes it that much harder for distribution and retailers to do their jobs.

Launch of 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons--The staggered release of 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, after what seemed like a decade of playtesting, has revitalized the RPG segment of the market or sucked all the air out of it, depending on your point of view.  Stores reported selling 60 copies of the Players Handbook within 24 hours and still see steady sales of it, the Starter Set, Monster Manual and Dungeon Master's Guide months later.  Much like with 3rd and 4th Edition D&D, people who had quit RPGs or wanted to introduce their kids to the hobby came back into the store to snag a copy.  To someone outside the hobby game field, RPG still means Dungeons & Dragons.

And just because I can, a 6th event:

DiceMasters--Even though the launch of this product was plagued with out of stocks, (see above), offering customers a addictively collectable product for under a buck was a stroke of brilliance and put lots of money in retailer's coffers, when we could get it.  Customers readily bought handfuls or even boxfuls of DiceMasters because you could get four packs of it for the price of a single pack of Magic or Yu-Gi-Oh! and, hey, the game was fun.  Though the buzz wore down, we still moved lots of these little packs as stocking stuffers during the Christmas selling season.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of