In the past few years the hobby has gone through a number of changes.
Some games/formats have gone.
WoWTCG is probably the most notable although to be fair this had been coming for a while.
Some games/formats have shrunk and awaiting some sort of relaunch.
There’s a perception in some parts of the hobby media that RPGs have shrunk in the past few years. I’m not convinced of this and believe that the RPG market is actually as strong as it has been for a number of years. The perception of the shrinkage I believe is more down the an overall growth of the hobby and the percentage made up by RPGs has shrunk.
There’s also a mixed expectation around what the release of the next version of D&D will do for the RPG slice of the market. I expect it will result in an initial spike of the overall RPG market but whether it will be anything more than that is unclear.
Some games/formats have gone from strength to strength.
Outside of RPGs the other formats that comprise the hobby have grown market share, not least of all being Board & Card Games. I have nothing other than circumstantial “evidence” to support this but I believe that the primary reasons a show like Tabletop has been so successful and that events such as GenCon in the US and indeed the UK Games Expo in the UK have continued to grow year on year is because of the overall growth of the hobby but specifically through the growth of the Board & Cards games formats.
It’s also worth saying again that the continual growth of Magic: The Gathering is another sign that the hobby as a whole is growing in exposure across the world.
Wargames I don’t have enough information to go on but I don’t see any signs of their market share shrinking and with the overall market growing it suggests that they are growing with it. The powerhouse that is Games Workshop continues to grow it’s market overall and there are plenty of new games in the market thanks to Kickstarter (Mantic’s range in-particular).
But what’s missing? What’s the next evolution of the hobby?
If I knew that I’d be doing it. I believe though that the next evolution is not in the development of the games we play or in how we play them but more in who is playing them. The hobby market will grow and the games made will grow to support that market. Whether the style or format of those games changes in any real way I would doubt it as ultimately the hobby is “tabletop games” and within the boundaries of that phrase there’s really not a lot of scope for evolution other than in the development of the products that are played on tabletops and the people who are playing them.
Is there a bubble about to burst though?
Maybe… A number of retailers, particularly in the USA, are expecting the CCG (read Magic) bubble to burst at some point but at the same time are continuing their push for growth in CCGs and in particular the Board & Card game sectors.
If nothing else it’s going to be interesting to watch.