Second Sight: Comments from the Editor

This article originally appeared in Pyramid #10

1994 In Review

OK, OK, so it's a little predictable . . . but I can't come up with a brilliant idea every issue, you know? Anyway, it's the last issue of 1994, and a perfectly logical time to look back at the year. I mean, Time does it; Newsweek does it; even Rolling Stone does it. So why not us? So here, in no particular order, are the Top Gaming Trends of 1994:

Trading card games are here to stay. Duh. What a no-brainer. But this time last year, that wasn't a sure bet. Magic: The Gathering had taken off, sure, but no one knew if it was a flash-in-the-pan fad, the beginning of a whole new type of adventure game, or somewhere in between. The folks at Wizards of the Coast have said all along that Richard Garfield has invented a whole new kind of game, much in the same way that Gary Gygax and friends invented a whole new kind of game with the first roleplaying game in 1973, and it turns out they may have been right. It's not just the success of Magic, or all four supplements out so far (with more on the way), but the way the entire genre has been embraced by the fans. Jyhad was an instant hit. Pre-orders for On The Edge made Atlas Games, for that one month, one of the top-grossing companies in the field. Illuminati: New World Order is already one of SJ Games' most successful games ever -- and it hasn't even shipped yet. There are Spellfire collectors every bit as rabid as the dreaded "Mr. Suitcase" Magic players they talk about in the back offices of Wizards of the Coast.

Another sure sign of the legitimacy of trading card games is the rapid appearance of support products -- the little red stones for keeping track of blood points, the software for tracking your card collection, the magazines answering rules questions and quoting collectible prices, the mats for laying your cards out on, even the little figure on the disc that tells you how many life points you have left -- they're all out there, making money. No, this thing is with us for the long run.

Computers are moving into roleplaying. No, not computer roleplaying games; I mean computer play aids for pen-and-paper RPGs. It probably only took a couple of months after D&D first came out before somebody wrote a program for their time-shared mainframe at college to generate random monsters, treasures and magic items. But the latest generation of programs are really sophisticated. They can draw your maps; they can draw your characters; they can pre-generate an entire city's worth of encounters; they can seed an entire galaxy with inhabited planets. We've reviewed a couple of them in "Pyramid Picks," and even more are joining the fray. It won't be long before a GM's laptop computer is as important as his rulebooks and dice.

Miniatures are struggling to recapture their momentum. It's been a tough year for some miniature companies. After spending 1993 sorting through the New York state ban on lead figures, its subsequent reversal and the decision to switch away from lead alloys en masse, 1994 figured to be a year of realignment. The manufacturers cite two factors: the price increases caused by the move away from a lead alloy were just too much for the market to bear, and the explosion of trading card games took a lot of available cash out of the mix.

The first reason seems logical. Grenadier and Ral Partha recently announced price rollbacks; and Games Workshop, who reduced the number of figures per pack, allowing them to actually cut per pack prices while everyone else was raising theirs, came out with a much larger share of the U.S. market. The second reason strikes me as a little bit of scapegoating, though there is no doubt a grain or two of truth to it. But adventure gaming is not a zero-sum industry; many of the dollars Magic and the other trading card games took in did not come at the expense of other adventure gaming purchases not made, but from outside the industry -- new money, as it were. Can miniatures regain their momentum? The price cuts are a good start, but we'll have to wait and see.

Let me wrap this up by wishing all our readers and contributors a happy holiday season. See you all in 1995!

-- Scott D. Haring

Article publication date: December 1, 1994

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