Tabletopocalypse Now

Had a conversation with a friend the other day, sparked by my recent comments about the negativity of tabletop gamers, the shrinking market, etc. A few thoughts crystalized out of that conversation, and I thought that I’d take the time to put them down for others to comment upon.

There’s a lot of denial among gamers that their hobby is shrinking — a combination of anecdotal evidence (“There are plenty of gamers around here.”) and One-True-Way purity (“My hobby will NEVER die!”). Mixed into this is the always-charming assertion that the industry may be shrinking, but that “the hobby doesn’t need the industry.” (Never mind asking such geniuses to ponder where new players will come from without product on store shelves drawing their attention — or when was the last time they met a player-piano enthusiast, another form of entertainment that no longer has an industry producing material for it…)

It’s not a matter of debate though. Anyone who has paid attention over the past two decades has seen the undeniable shrinking. There are far fewer dedicated speciality stores any more (current estimates place total numbers in the US at somewhere in the low-to-mid 2000s, according to ICV2, Diamond/Alliance distributors, and others). Fewer stores means fewer orders, as well as fewer social centers for the tabletop gaming community. Sales numbers are massively down from the 90s, much less the numbers seen during the ‘d20 explosion’ of the early 2000s.
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