The board game industry is booming and now, as others before me have noted, it’s suffering from what is pretty much the definition of a first-world problem: there are simply too many good games coming out. Renegade Games alone has been releasing games at what is, frankly, an astounding rate. In 2017 alone they released Ex Libris, Clank! In! Space!, and Raiders of the North Sea, among many smaller titles. This breakneck pace ensured that they’d have some major new titles ready to show at Gen Con, but even after it ended they kept pumping out more and more games.
Wyatt and I interviewed a representative from Renegade Games while we were at PAX, and we learned that this breakneck release rate is not just a result of creative people with a strong workforce behind them, but is a major part of their marketing strategy. A constant flow of new games, especially with major releases like Ex Libris or Clank! In! Space! among them, keeps their name in the headlines and keeps customers and con-goers coming to their booth.
They also had a stuffed doge on display. They certainly know their audience.
However, Renegade had more than new games to make sure they stood out at PAX Unplugged. Their name was quite literally everywhere. They had provided the free lanyards for the event, so each and every one had Renegade Studios printed on it. On top of that, they had one of the largest booths at PAX Unplugged and had it situated so that it was front and center for people entering the expo hall.
I certainly don’t fault Renegade Games for having an aggressive (and effective) business strategy. They make great games and they deserve the success that they’re currently enjoying - in fact, you can expect reviews of several of Renegade’s board games in the coming weeks. However, it is unfortunate that this is what’s required to stand out at a board gaming convention these days. With so many great companies and games competing for people’s attention the market is flooded, and it’s become very difficult for smaller or indie developers to shine. It’s an unfortunate truth of a growing industry.
KAPOW!, a superhero themed dice-building game, was just one such game that didn’t have much of a chance to stand out.
Comparing Renegade’s impressive showing to some of the people who were just demoing their games in the free play area - even ones I really enjoyed such as KAPOW! and Gunsword - made it clear just how hard it is for newer and smaller companies to break through the all the noise.
The real takeaway here is to keep your eyes open.
The next time you’re at a gaming convention, please look around for some of the hidden gems. See if indie developers are showing off in the free play area, or if the convention has something like PAX Unplugged’s Alpha Build room. There’s nothing wrong with investing some of your precious time into checking the larger stuff (again, deservedly well-earned), but you never know what you might find elsewhere. And your support could mean the world to an up-and-coming developer.
Life is short; play good games, wherever you find them.