Tabletop games' future is digital

Tabletop games' future is digital ...

The year 2032 is approaching, and the tabletop world is composed of more ones and zeroes than cardboard and plastic. Digital versions of games have officially surpassed physical games as the predominant method of play. Commercial AR and VR displays have become inexpensive enough to be a common spot in many houses, allowing small studios to prosper.

What makes online gaming so appealing to players? If you have ever played a game in person before, you understand the joy and pleasure that come with it. On the other hand, setting up a program or mod is much more enjoyable and less difficult.

The greatest benefit is the ease with which digital options work. Distance no longer becomes a barrier, and in some instances timing becomes a non-issue as well, as you can play over a longer period of time as you desire. Or play a game of Secret Hitler at 2 a.m. because you cant sleep.

Even today in 2022, the idea of using a program to recreate the sensation of playing tabletop games with your friends is new. BattleTech, an open-source fan-made game, has grown into an important part of Steams' online gaming platform, as well as Board Game Arena and D&D Beyond.

When the COVID-19 epidemic struck, many people chose the latter, with Tabletop Simulator seeing increases of about 150% in its player base in April 2020 over the previous month, according to Steam Charts. More than 7,000 new players joined the digital tableside.

As we approach the end of 2022, game shop tournaments, in-person events, and local groups have begun again, yet many players continue to play on their computers. The increase in user counts since the pandemic started has declined, but the numbers continue to rise, surpassing those seen in December 2019.

When shutdowns began, many fan communities were in a good position to enter the digital realm, with established tools and services on their side from the start. However, some larger publishers and companies were caught unprepared for the sudden necessity of a digital option for their games.

The strategy from Augusts Wizards Presents confirmed that D&D Beyond will be a pivotal piece in the digital and interconnected future that Wizards has planned for Dungeons & Dragons and One D&D. Wizards has officially recognized that the game's future will not be limited to the physical.

Wizards is the first game publisher to recognize the power and breadth of the digital space. In 2021, Asmodee, one of the most well-known board game publishers (Catan, Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne), acquired the browser-based Board Game Arena. This enabled the distribution of some of the most popular board games of the recent era to an expanding community of players.

Along with all of this, the development of these games is becoming more dependent on the digital medium. "The days of printing prototypes over and over to test iterations are gone," says Nate Chatellier, co-designer of the dice-battling board game Dice Throne. We now have a large QA team on Discord, and we do 99% of our testing on Tabletop Simulator. It's faster, cheaper, and more convenient."

According to Breeze Grigas, the creator of the mecha strategy board game AEGIS, the shift to digital will also broaden and develop the side of tabletop that focuses on re-creating games from big corporations for digital platforms. These will often be developed in-house by larger teams that are paid full-time.

Arcade1Up's Infinity Game Table is a family computer that combines traditional coffee tables and tablet computers to create a truly immersive gaming experience. Teburu, the self-proclaimed first smart board game, may fulfill its purpose at the end of the campaign, as well as its development kit for game designers and enthusiasts.

Physical books have managed to survive through the inventions of radio, television, and, most recently, the e-reader, and are still produced. Despite the dramatic shift in recent decades to internet downloads and streaming services, who is to argue that tabletop will not survive and thrive as well?

If everything stays on track, tabletop games will have a far greater and deeper connection to the digital space in the next decade. Seeing how the tabletop industry has continued to expand alongside AR and VR, these next ten years are exciting. Yet humans will always need time to interact face to face. That is the reason why tabletop games exist.