Hard Times on the Tabletop

The tabletop games industry seems to be contracting again. The last couple weeks have seen more layoffs from Upper Deck, the closing of Tenacious Games, and the ending of games at Press Pass. This put a number of good, talented friends out of work, including Ed Bolme, Sean K. Reynolds, and Hyrum Savage. (If you can hire them, do.)

Traditionally, the tabletop industry does well when the economy starts to tank. Games make for good value for your entertainment dollar, since you can break them out and play them over and over again. Good games not only do not grow stale from repeated use (like, say, films, music, television, books, etc.), they actually get better.

These recent problems seem, then, to show that either the conventional wisdom (there’s a pun or two in there somewhere) is wrong or that (despite much evidence to the contrary) the economy is doing fine. Of course, neither of those things is true.

That old chestnut describes older games: board games, card games, even roleplaying games or miniatures games. The companies having trouble are engaged in the mass market and are selling collectible games, which don’t provide nearly the same bang for the buck and can cost collectors several times the price of a traditional game in the course of their playing cycle.

It’s times like these that make me happy to be a freelancer. It’s true I have to go out and find my own gigs—and then collect payment on them too—but I’m my own boss, and chances that I will fire myself are vanishingly small. As job security evaporates, charting your own destiny seems less like a risk and more like smart money.

Anyhow, best of luck to my friends who find themselves looking for work. If I can do anything for any of you, be sure to let me know.