Scott Thorne of ICv2 pointed out that several major game companies are trending away from supporting tabletop games into the more lucrative board gaming industry, including Gale Force Nine, Alderac Entertainment Games, Steve Jackson Games, and Privateer Press. Gale Force Nine, for example, started out in one industry according to BoardGameGeek:
Gale Force Nine, LLC. (GF9) is a game manufacturing company that was started in 1998 specializing in the design and distribution of laser cut components and scaled models for the miniatures gaming industry. GF9 has grown into the premier gaming accessory company producing counters, markers, tokens, templates, and terrain for use with the most popular miniature and role-playing games in the world. GF9 is located in Earlysville, Virginia. Gale Force Nine is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Battlefront Group.
GF9 entered the board game industry in full force with Firefly, said Scott:
One of the runaway hits from last Gen Con, Gale Force 9's Firefly boardgame, finally made it into distribution. Firefly, which sold hundreds of copies within tens of minutes to eager customers has done quite well since it hit store shelves and represents trend number one: a company that gets started in another area of the gaming industry moves into boardgames.
Alderac Entertainment Games (AEG) is another example:
Alderac Entertainment Group, or AEG, is a publisher of role-playing game, board game, and collectible card game products. AEG was formed by Jolly Blackburn in 1993 and is based in the city of Ontario, California. Prior to getting into their current markets, AEG was involved in hobby gaming magazines, with their first product the magazine Shadis (winner of the 1994, 1995, and 1996 Origins Awards for Best Professional Gaming Magazine).
Board games now account for the majority of AEG's releases, with 10 releases alone in 2009.
Steve Jackson Games has always been open about what sells and what doesn't, and the highly adaptable game company has trended away from printing role-playing games entirely. Back in 2007, board games were a fifth priority after the Generic Universal Roleplaying System (GURPS). By 2012, GURPS was relegated solely to PDFs. Instead, dice games, card games, and "toylike" games became a priority. In 2013, Kickstarters supporting the board game releases of Ogre and Car Wars were top priority.
Privateer Press is the exception. They started out as a miniature game company, released a role-playing game that takes place in the same setting, and have since released the ENnie-nominated role-playing game in print as a new company. Still, Privateer Press' focus was never role-playing games to begin with.
Mongoose Publishing's Matt Sprange summed up what happened in 2012:
The current RPG market is miserable. There really is no other word for it. I was talking to the owner of a certain well known RPG company just a little while ago, and he mentioned that he had sold a few hundred of his latest release. We agreed it was a good total in this day and age for the average RPG product (not saying his book was average but… oh, you get the point!). Then he dropped the bombshell; he had reliable information that his book had outsold the latest supplement of a very well known, not to mention market-leading, game. If the top tier games are selling at these levels, then something is seriously wonky in the market…On the other hand, RPG sales among PDFs, spearheaded by DrivethruRPG.com, are fairly booming. Which, of course, brings us to the inevitable question; is digital taking over?
According to Thorne, the answer is "yes." It appears game publishers are shifting their print models to digital and focusing their efforts primarily on board and miniature games that cannot be easily replicated digitally. At least, until 3D printing takes off.
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