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 up three predictions for the decade to come.

Although there is some debate as to whether or not the current decade ends this week or a year from now, it still seems appropriate this week to make a few predictions over the next 10 years.

  1. More disruption in trade and imports.  This will prove to affect a lot of board game publishers, especially those launching new games via the Kickstarter channel.  Since most of them use China for sourcing the manufacture of their launched games, disruptions in the channel will greatly affect their logistics and pricing.  The industry dodged a pricing bullet with the delay by the administration of a tariff on board gaming (and other related products) imported from China but neither nation has signed off on even the touted Phase One of an agreement.  The president has said he is in no rush to sign off on an agreement and we could see a delay in one until after the 2020 election.  More concerning than that though, at least to a lot of experts, is the neutering of the WTO trade courts by America’s decision to block the appointment of judges to the court, not only under the Trump administration but also, the Obama and Bush ones.  This deprives the court of a quorum, forestalling it from making rulings on trade disputes.  Thanks to the court serving as an impartial referee (although the U.S. argues otherwise and has made its displeasure known by blocking judge appointments), the last 50+ years have seen tremendous growth in international trade, aided by the arbitration of the court, reducing instances of trade wars and allowing multilateral agreements to flourish.  With the projected demise of the court in the next few years, I would expect to see a return to greater reliance on bilateral agreements and more instances of stronger economies imposing agreements on weaker ones.
  2. Wizards of the Coast Cancels the Transformers TCG (and Launches Another One).  This won’t have a major impact on the industry and, although the Transformers TCG proved very popular on launch in the latter part of 2018 (Google Trends shows a huge spike in searches for the topic in September 2018), like all of WotC’s TCG releases, Pokemon excepted, interest in the game slacked (remember C-23 and Hecatomb?) within a year and while the game still has collectors and players (the Highlander and Warlord TCGs both have active online communities, for example), I doubt we will see more than one additional release through distribution.  However, given WotC’s track record, I would expect its development arm to launch another very well designed TCG with three to five years after the demise of the Transformers game.
  3. Continued Growth of Internet Sales and Brick and Mortar Response.  When I questioned my marketing students this past semester as to what percentage of retail sales currently occurred online, their guesses ranged from 25% to 70%.  The actual figure, as of 2018, was 11% but it ticked up sharply this year, reaching 14%, with online holiday sales seeing an increase of some 58% on the Saturday before Christmas over the same day 2018.  Concurrent with, or in response to, this I expect to see even more stores moving to the "retail-tainment" model (see "Rolling for Initiative--Are Sales People (and Stores) Passé?"), not only selling games but offering more events beyond the card tournaments that are a fixture now.  More stores will incorporate parties and food service into their model, even offering alcohol sales and consumption when local laws allow.

Looking at these predictions, they are not really too positive, are they?  I'll have some more positive predictions for next week’s column.

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