The Digital Future of Tabletop Games

Dungeons & Dragons, the granddaddy of all role-playing games, has never been more popular than it is today.

D&D’s growth is illustrative of a larger trend. Tabletop games—a quintessentially analog experience that encompasses board games, card games, and parlor games—are being dramatically improved by digital tools. While the first attempts at modernizing tabletop games sought to merely replicate games in the digital realm, the next generation of games goes a step further, integrating tools such as live-streaming, user generated content (UGC), audio products, and community platforms. This digital transformation is reinventing the way we learn, play, and connect with one another over tabletop games.

As a result, modern tabletop games have the potential to be bigger than ever before. Board games are resurgent—the overall market reached $12 billion in 2018 and is growing at a 9 percent compound annual growth rate. Parlor games such as Werewolf and Mafia, in which players act and deceive each other, have grown into global hits. China’s Werewolf Kill app reached over 70 million users within a year of launch. Even one of the oldest tabletop games, chess, is making a mighty comeback: 605 million people around the world play today, and traffic to the official website roughly doubled in the first half of the year to 94 million monthly visitors.

The next generation of tabletop games will diverge from tradition in four key ways: livestreaming, user-generated content, audio-first experiences, and online community platforms.

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