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 looks at recent changes in the games industry, and offers up two changes that he foresees in the coming year and beyond.

Consider the following.  In the past it took decades if not centuries for humans to widely adopt technological change (the printing press, telegraph, automobile, etc).  Today, however, that change can spread in a few decades or less.  The  smartphone is less than two decades old and, according to BankMyCell, already over 80% of the population has one. Similarly, according to DataReportal, social media, also less than two decades old, is now utilized by over 57% of the world’s population.  Countries and private organizations are installing renewable energy sources at a blistering rate.  Polio vaccine took two decades to develop, we managed to create several for COVID-19 in under less than a year.

Essentially, change is coming at us faster and faster.  What took decades before can now change in a few years.  In the games industry, we have seen a massive ramp-up in online board and RPG play and watching other people play RPGs; card and board games have become viable means of entertainment; and those selfsame people appearing on the streaming platforms can move sales with just a mention of the game. Witness the effect on games sales of just a mere mention of the Skull card game on TikTok (see "Three Trends that Will Likely Continue").

Only a couple of years ago, only a few games even considered buying and using metal dice in a game, now our store sells two to three sets a week at a price I would never have thought anyone would pay for a set of dice.  Our store has at least three Chinese manufacturers contacting us directly want us to place orders for metal dice with them.  Ten years ago, there was no way I could feasibly justify purchasing metal dice in quantities to make the buy profitable.  Today it is quite feasible.

Similarly, dice towers and dice trays both have been available for years, but the demand has only increased in the last few years because a greater number of people see them in use on various RPG play streaming shows.  That demand has increased to the level that made stocking them a good idea, and there are now a dozen or more manufacturers offering both in assorted designs.

So what changes can we expect to see over the next few years? Here are couple of things I think will come about:

Nearshoring to Mexico.  Although not feasible in the immediate future, i.e. next year, I expect to see some board game production companies open up factories in Mexico over the next five years and under the USMCA, companies will see significant tax and cost advantages compared to importing from China.  In addition, a much shorter supply chain will shorten the turnaround time.  The quicker the U.S. market can get a product, the quicker it can sell, and the quicker channels will need to restock.  A shorter supply chain speeds the turnaround process dramatically.

More Kickstarted TCGs.  The success of Flesh and Blood (see "Next 'Flesh and Blood' Set") and MetaZoo have put dollar signs in the eyes of other creators.  We have gotten solicitations from several companies launching their own TCGs with funding secured through Kickstarter, and I expect to see a glut of these hitting the market over the next few years. Unfortunately for most of them, the "Ladders in the Mind" concept says that most markets have room for a #1 and a #2 with all other competitors battling it out for third place.  Currently, we have three battling it out for the top spot: Pokemon, Magic: The Gathering, and Yu-Gi-Oh! with no indication of any of the three fading away to give space to an upstart.  I expect some to gain attention for several months or a year or two and then fade away, much like the The Crow TCG (you did know there was a Crow TCG, right?).

What other changes do you foresee coming? Email

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