THIS year looks set to be another exciting time with so much lined up across all fronts. From major sporting events (I’m looking forward to the UEFA Euro 2012 football spectacle more than anything else) to the usual plethora of new things to buy, I’m awfully pumped to go through this doomsday-less year!

Here are this year’s predicted top trends and happenings in the gaming scene.

Go forth and spread

Social media has changed us so much that I think few even realise how our “world” looked and felt like before we had Facebook, Twitter, iPhone, BlackBerry and the Android.

There’s an incredible sense of “hyperconnectivity” now, which has changed our interactions for better (or worse).

Businesses and corporations were quick to take advantage of this, as everyone fought to entrench themselves in virtual worlds by creating branded communities.

Naturally, game shops in Malaysia took the same route, by seeding and growing their own online communities. Facebook seems to be the weapon of choice so far, as shops seek to ride on its runaway popularity.

This brings me to my first prediction: With rising competition, costs and the general need to be more efficient in running their physical stores, local game and hobby stores will continue to rely on more digital tools to enhance their respective businesses.

That said, both the physical and the digital presence will be symbiotic – think of them as being reliant on one another – but communities will need to grow in tandem with society’s shifting habits. With time continuing to “lessen” as we grow more digitally connected, being active online will become a huge asset for businesses to help them alert people on their latest products and upcoming events, as well as serve as sounding boards and feedback avenues.

I still don’t see shops taking the online shopping route yet, as the effort in maintaining such systems are too high (especially when you factor in the low turnover of gaming products), but everyone will continue to offer deals and special promotions to their followers.

Lack of loyalty

In my 17 years of collecting and playing trading card games (TCGs) and boardgames, I am glad to take note of one positive trend: Games are finally becoming simpler to play (again).

You might have your own take on this, but from the streamlining of Magic: The Gathering rules in the earlier 2000s, to the steady popularity of European boardgames such as the Catan series, I would like to go on record to say that the era of complicated games with 100-page (or more) instruction manuals are dead and buried.

This year ought to see more dumbing down of games in general, as game companies continue to try and make products that will better match the shifting consumer behaviour. Yes, I’m taking the whole, there’s-less-time-to-do-stuff argument once again. Who has the time to play a 10-hour boardgame nowadays anyway?

Magic is now simpler and cleaner than ever. Fantasy Flight Games used to make plenty of complicated games, but their steady stream of Living Card Games (LCGs) and standalone card games (Blood Bowl Team Manager) have rulebooks that would seem tame by 1995 standards.

And the “gamification” of other collectibles, such as LEGO, will continue, further contributing to this trend. More importantly, I see them as easy entry points for potential gamers that might just want to sink their teeth into meatier stuff, once they’ve gotten past the Minotaurs and Ramses’ Pyramids of the world.

Yes, this year’s Star Wars: Battle of Hoth LEGO set-cum-game and its brethren ought to do pretty well!

LEGO Star Wars Battle of Hoth

With steady increase in a variety of distractions, game companies have more or less accepted that gamers will no longer be loyal to any particular brand or product line. The varied and “quick fix” nature of a lot of boardgames are a classic example in this – there is never a better time play a variety of games than now. LCGs are another perfect embodiment of gaming today: Jump in anytime you like, via fixed sets, and spend much less money than you would normally invest on any TCG.

Licensing make-or-break

Frankly, the number of licensed games I’m seeing now actually makes me wonder about their long term viability. I’m zooming back to the late 1990s and the early 2000s, when game titles came and went, as game publishers back then attempted to milk many a valuable franchise.

This year, Star Wars returns to its card game and collectible pre-painted miniature form, as Fantasy Flight Games launches them to add on what looks set to be a very comprehensive list of franchised games. They already have the Game Of Thrones, Warhammer Fantasy and Lord Of The Rings LCGs, as well as standalone Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40K card and boardgames.
The upcoming Avengers HeroClix collectible minis game will also coincide with the release of the movie of the same name.

Don’t forget that Bandai just recently entered the market with its Resident Evil and Star Trek Deck Building games (kind of like LCGs). Well, you get the picture.
This year is pretty much make-or-break for all the new and old franchise game titles. Companies need to pay royalty fees to make them, and one can only guess how much some of these franchises are worth.

Star Trek Deck Building Game

There’s more gaming for us all, but how well will these games do? Will the gaming business prosper on as people flock to consume everything that the game companies are throwing at us? Or will there be another mini-correction waiting around the corner, consuming the weaker titles along the way?
Either way, us gamers look set to be pampered more and more, as more new releases hit us. Ride on!

q Yih Yang must have the new Blood Bowl teams ready for the Chinese New Year holidays! E-mail the esoteric gaming nut at if you have comments, questions, hot gaming news and tips, and trading lists and deck ideas, for both Magic and World of Warcraft. Check out his blog at, and follow him on Twitter at!/arcturus_mengsk.

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