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 offers three predictions for 2017.

This week, I’m delivering the promised three predictions for 2017

1.  Wizards of the Coast Outsources Magic: The Gathering Judging.  In case you missed it, Wizards of the Coast got sued last year by several of its higher level Magic judges, the ones that judge regularly at its Pro Tour and Grand Prix events.  The lawsuit claims that, since the expectations WOTC had of them were closer to the legal definition of an employee than the legal definition of a volunteer, judges for WOTC at Magic events should be paid wages, receive breaks and have scheduled work periods (see "Are ‘Magic’ Judges Employees?").  As of this weekend, the two sides had not reached a settlement.

Then, only a month or so ago, WOTC outsourced its volunteers for Adventurers League to the brand spanking new Herald’s Guild, which sprang from nowhere, fully formed like Venus from the seafoam (see "D&D Eliminates Its ‘D&D’ Organized Play Volunteers").  Likely, this was done for two reasons:  1) As a test to see how easy it would be to outsource judges to an "independent" not-for-profit organization, and 2) as a proactive action before any of the judges in the D&D OP program started pushing for compensation and treatment as employees.  Due to the ease with which the transfer of judges and operations to the Herald’s Guild happened, I expect to see a similar not-for-profit organization set up for Magic judges this year.

2.  Asmodee Owns Everyone (Almost).  The games Asmodee owns or for which they have distribution rights give them a pretty hefty chunk of the board game market.  A quick look at our sales showed titles under the Asmodee umbrella, along with WOTC titles and Cards Against Humanity, accounted for a good 60% of our board game sales this past holiday season.  That’s a lot of SKUs concentrated in only three company portfolios.  CAH and WOTC have shown little interest in acquiring games from other companies (In fact, WOTC has moved in the opposite direction, licensing the Magic: The Gathering and D&D brands out to other companies for ancillary products), but Asmodee has over a dozen companies, by my count, under its corporate umbrella and I fully expect to hear of more either getting acquired by Asmodee or entering into working partnerships with the company, especially those smaller board game companies that position themselves more as design houses, preferring to spend their time designing quality games and leaving the operations and distribution aspects to Asmodee to handle.

3.  More Brick and Mortar Stores Shutter.  In the last half of 2016, I heard of between 40 to  60 game stores closing their doors, with more announcing their closures since the first of the year, one less than 15 miles from my location.  Most of those closing relied on what I call the "event store" model, stocking primarily trading card games and card supplies, with the majority of the floor space occupied by gaming tables.  Although TCG sales remain strong, according to the various companies producing them, a number of stores have reported softening sales of recent Magic sets over the past year or so.  Given the number of stores that rely on Magic for the majority of their sales, of the roughly 2000 game stores in the country, I expect to see about 10% of them close, unless we see a set of Magic that sells based on the strength of the cards in the set, rather than the hope of pulling a Masterpiece card.

Those are three of my predictions for this year.  I, and ICv2, would be interested in hearing what you predict will happen.

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