Illustrations: Lianne Hazendonk for Polygon
In 2011, during the 8th season of Dragons’ Den, the Canadian television show that gave rise to Shark Tank, Kevin O’Leary did something remarkable. Instead of investing in Daytrader, the board game he got pitched a few seasons earlier, he set it on fire, saying he was doing its creator a favor. Board games were simply a waste of time and talent, he said, and the world is better off without them. Today, everyone knows just how wrong Mr. Wonderful was, and continues to be, about one of the most interesting corners of pop culture.
The popularity of tabletop gaming has exploded over the last decade. For proof, just look at the board game aisle of your local big box retailer. Mainstays like Monopoly and The Game of Life are still there, of course, but so too are dozens and dozens of titles that simply didn’t exist a decade ago. We now know that Wizards of the Coast brings in the lion’s share of Hasbro’s profits through sales of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, which contribute to more than one billion dollars in annual sales for their business unit. Meanwhile, tabletop games bring in more than one third of Kickstarter’s total revenue from crowdfunding annually. And yes, even venture capitalists and investors like O’Leary are pouring money into the space, hoping to jumpstart the next generation of transmedia hits.
But the future of tabletop gaming isn’t in the hands of speculators or disgruntled celebrity investors. It’s in the hands of an incredible cohort of talented artists and designers — and the fans who make up one of the most welcoming communities in modern gaming.
All this week we are celebrating the future of tabletop gaming, focusing on the topics and the creators that will power it through the next decade of success. Even if you’ve never rolled a 20-sided die in anger, there’s something here for you to learn about and maybe fall in love with. Welcome to Polygon’s future of tabletop week. Have a seat.