The industry in 2022: predictions

By Mike Tresca at En World. Five items…

The 5.5 Edition Shuffle Begins​

The announcement of a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons by the 50th anniversary of D&D in 2024 wasn’t necessarily a surprise, but a half-edition may not have been what everyone expected. Promises that everything will be backwards compatible (a promise similar to 5E’s) will rely primarily on how transparent Wizards of the Coast is with those changes. So far, those changes have been signaled early on. There will come a turning point where signaling compatibility with the upcoming edition will matter to consumers. It’s a long way off for most gamers, but not too soon for publishers, especially those with print products planned in the latter half of the year. Expect to see more of them begin showing their hand by indicating 5.5E compatibility this year.

D&D’s Digital Dominance Expands​

We’ve discussed in depth how Wizards struggled to develop a coherent digital strategy until finally just outsourcing the whole business to third parties. But there’s a new CEO in town, and Chris Cocks’ background in digital seems rooted in plans for the future of both D&D and Magic. Cocks led the creation of a Digital Games Studio and a revamped technology team, coupled with the curious rumblings of WOTC’s plans for a virtual tabletop and the registration of the digital-focused trademark of “Atomic Arcade” adds up to all of the company’s digital plans for D&D and Magic coming in house.

Unions Will Accelerate​

The ingredients that create unions (suppressed wages, economic uncertainty, industry abuse, high-risk jobs) have been percolating for some time now, but the pandemic seems to have finally pushed employees to action. The most emblematic in the industry is Paizo’s new union, but it seems unlikely unionization will be merely confined to that one company. Hasbro already has a union, but it’s not clear if there is representation in Wizards of the Coast. Other large companies in hobby markets may well have their own unions soon.

We’ll Learn to Live with the Pandemic​

In-person gaming is particularly vulnerable to pandemics: talking, laughing, and being in close-proximity are all considered “high-risk activities” that can potentially spread a virus. To a certain extent, online gaming blunted the damage, but that left in-person events like conventions in a tough spot. Slowly but surely, conventions are adapting. We’ll probably see more of this, with digital/in-person hybrid events, testing and vaccine requirements, and attendance limits on future conventions. One thing is becoming apparent: it’s no longer possible to simply delay long enough until the “pandemic is over.”

The Supply Chain Will Eventually Unclog​

As I recently discovered when I ordered a prop helmet for my son’s costume a month-and-a-half before Halloween that still hasn’t arrived, the world is currently experiencing supply chain issues. These disruptions have impacted many tabletop gaming companies, particularly during the holiday season. This is bad, bad enough to sink Dust Studios, and there will surely be more. Worse, supply chain problems will continue well into 2022. It should get better by the end of the year, but by then frustrated customers may have changed their buying habits and impulse buys will be a thing of the past.