What Kind of Year Has It Been? – 2022 Edition
What kind of year has it been? It’s that time of year when many sites are looking back at the year that was, telling us about their favourite games, their gaming highlights, and maybe looking forward to 2023.
I’m going to do some of that eventually but for no I will be pulling back the curtain on the stats that run the website, where we stand financially, giving a news summary of the year that was, and think about where the site and podcast are now and where I want to take them over the course of 2023.
Of course we can’t talk about content creation without looking at the numbers and what they mean. That second part is the most important thing, but let’s look at the raw data first.
Well it eventually happened. After the highs of the last couple of years with my Arkham articles bringing a lot of folk to the site I have seen a large drop off in visitors. According to WordPress my stats for the last two years look like this:
2021 – 63565 views, 37174 visitors, 64 posts published
2022 – 36646 views, 21536 visitors, 85 posts published
That is a drop off of about 43% in both visitors and the number of views on the site despite there being more posts published on the site.
Despite the drop off in numbers the Arkham guides continued to be the largest pull to the site. Surprisingly the review I wrote of Scum and Villainy was my biggest draw after those 3 guides. Following that the Arkham universe continued to be the biggest draw to the site as my review of Eldritch Horror and 3 of the core sets of Arkham Horror LCG come in at 5,6 ,7 and 10. Spirit Island is still proving popular amongst the community, and the new expansion that was on crowdfunding likely contributed to it coming in at number 8.
I was pleased to see my article ‘The Complexity of Depth’ sit in the top 10. I am never sure when writing more critique focused pieces if they will have much interest for readers, but that one seems to have gotten a good few views.
The list of top 10 articles for the year is here:
10: Path to Carcosa
The podcast has been basically flat year on year. I could go through the individual numbers and work out exact download numbers but Podbean provides a summary that will suffice for our purposes here.
2021 4.8k Downloads
2022 4.8k Downloads
Podbean notes that 2022 numbers are down 0.5% on the previous year which is statistically meaningless.
Episodes wise our On Stage with Tabletop Scotland was the most popular episode we did last year, followed closely by episode 98 for no particular reason I can discern. The rest of the top 10 is taken up by a few episodes spread out up until the start of September or so with more recent ones lagging behind. It is a little disappointing to not see more of the On Stages break the top 10 as I hoped they would have a wider appeal outside of the main cast. That may be partly down to my lack of enthusiasm for pushing episodes as hard as I could and should.
We dropped the second edition this year, a special version of the cast with ‘bloopers’ in it, for the patrons. We consulted with them before we did this and everyone was very supportive of us making the change. It means I can focus on a more polished cast and I can take some of the time saved and put it into writing. We’ve also added transcripts to our regular cast, which we hope will be a welcome accessibility addition.
I also had some help with the cast this year from Chris Anderson as part of the Tabletop Mentorship Programme. Chris runs the Board Game Workshop competition amongst other things. It was great to have someone from outside the cast give it a really good listen and point towards things we could do differently and better. As a result we have streamlined the cast even more, dropped the skits (mostly), and I’ve been trying to improve my editing skills to make it sound even better. Many thanks to Chris for all his help. I thoroughly recommend the Tabletop Mentorship Programme to you.
What does all this mean?
Those are the raw numbers, what they mean is quite another matter? You can tie yourself in knots worrying about numbers, but they can be useful if we take them with a pinch of salt. I would like to preface this with this thought. If you want to get into content creation, whatever that might be, and the only satisfaction you get from it is to see your numbers go up, I think you are going to find that a very stressful endeavour.
Arkham isn’t getting the same release schedule it has had in the past: it is not having that steady drip of releases and staying in the zeitgeist as much. I had been expecting a drop off in visits to the site of that, just maybe not such a dramatic one.
I put the large drop partly to me being a bit up and down with posting and pushing the blog. One of the unenviable truths of producing anything like a blog or podcast is that you have to do the marketing side of it as well, whatever form that takes. I have been a little less diligent about that this year and the site certainly has suffered because of it.
The podcast holds steady which is a little disappointing to be honest. I was hoping that our On Stage casts would pull more people to the main cast. That doesn’t seem to have happened as much as I would have liked, though there is an upward trend in downloads towards the end of the year that I find encouraging.
Does that mean I should stop doing the On Stage casts? No. I really enjoy doing them, it’s great to chat with interesting folk across the industry and I hope to do another 6 or so in the following year. I will also be continuing my Meeting of Minds, and I have loads of people to contact about both. Interviewing and shining my, admittedly dull, light on interesting folk in the industry is always a pleasure.
It’s good to have objectives to work towards. I think for me those will be as follows
- Posting more regularly about my work, new and old, on social media. I’m bad at promoting myself at times and I need to get better at that.
- Learn more about search and best ways to promote The Giant Brain
- Writing every day just to get back into the habit of it.
3 seems like enough I think. Setting too many objectives for yourself can get overwhelming. It would be good to set myself a target for growth as well I guess. Maybe 10% up year on year on the cast and site would be good? A nice ambition to have anyway.
I’ve been a little tardy in updating our finances of late but finally got around to it for this retrospective. Here is a link to our financial spreadsheet, which is always open to anyone to look at, anytime. I don’t believe in keeping this sort of information hidden. That benefits no-one.
This year we ended our Amazon Affiliate status. It was making me uncomfortable, despite being profitable, and I felt it was too much of an ethical compromise. We have had a pickup in our affiliate money from Metallic Dice Games which has been lovely to see.
We also have a small amount of money in our DriveThru affiliate account, $7.98. Not sure what to do with that at the moment and it is not accounted for in the financial disclosure above. Likely it will be used to buy an RPG at some point for me and I will transfer the equivalent money to the Giant Brain account when I do that. That will be listed on the finances when it happens.
I like to expose the numbers of a site my size to show you what the reality of running this kind of endeavour is like. I hope to inform, rather than boast or be disappointed by the numbers here.
I do have an ambition to secure a bit more funding for the site and will be looking out for more potential affiliates and other sources that align with my ethical standards. I’ll also be pushing Sir Meeple a bit more in any way I can as they have made some great apparel for us but we just aren’t seeing the sales I had hoped we might. Again that is done to a lack of marketing on my part, not a lack of will on theirs.
What did I buy?
I really should keep track of what I buy over a year of gaming. We are all aware of the “cult of the new” in our hobby and the pressure that comes with seeing folk far and wide jump on the latest creation of designers worldwide. For myself I don’t have a huge amount of disposable income so I have to be very selective with what I buy. I should have made a list of this as I went, but these are all the ones I can recall.
|Name||New/ Second Hand||Played/Unplayed|
|Beyond the Sun||New||Played|
|Brindlewood Bay (RPG)||New||Unplayed|
|Civ New Dawn Expansion: Terra Incognita||New||Unplayed|
|Millennium Blades||Second Hand||Unplayed|
|Vast: Crystal Caverns||Second Hand||Unplayed|
The only real new hotness I bought was Flamecraft. This was partly because I got to try before I bought and I thought it might fit well with my home group. All these were bought with my own money.
It has been another big year for the industry and we have covered a lot of changes in the world of tabletop games on Brainwaves. Some good. Some bad. Some depend on your perspective. As always with Brainwaves we try to bring you a mix of the facts as neutrally presented as possible and then our own opinions on the matter at hand. Without further ado let us look at a digest of the year.
The cast started out at the top of the year with the announcement that Asmodee had been sold to Embracer Group. Embracer Group is a huge Swedish company that has been buying up lots of computer game studios and eventually turned their attention to the world of analogue games. They went straight to the top buying the biggest tabletop games company in the world, Asmodee.
Embracer went on to shovel up the Lord of the Rings licence securing the future of those games in the companies that Asmodee owns i.e. so many companies that you and I love. Later in the year they also announced that a Saudi Arabian investment company had injected $1 billion into the company. Make of that what you will.
Asmodee seems to have been on less of a buying spree in general this year but that is probably more due to the change in circumstances as they are integrated into the Embracer group.
Of course the other big player in the Tabletop Industry is Hasbro, owners of Wizards of the Coast and by extension, Dungeons and Dragons. Like a lot of the larger tabletop companies Hasbro has had a pretty good time of it, at least where our hobby is concerned.
Dungeons and Dragons continues to dominate the tabletop RPG landscape, capturing a large proportion of the playing populace with its continued presence with top streamers and an output of books that is widely lauded.
That said, Wizards is now looking to the future of the product line and has announced that Dungeons and Dragons will become One D&D in 2025, 50 years after its initial creation by Gary Gygax. Wizards is trying to get rid of the concept of editions and seems to be hoping that One D&D will become an iterative product: never having big changes, but lots of small updates into the future. 5th edition has been so successful that it was always unlikely that any new edition would see massive sea changes. Will One D&D be the “final” edition of the game?
One of the changes that Wizards announced recently to the upcoming One D&D is the elimination of the term race from the ruleset. There has been much controversy over the years of the concept of adding mechanical bonuses to the race of characters and also the blanket idea of race x being evil or likewise. Wizards now proposes to remove race completely, replacing it with species. They hope this will remove a lot of the racist elements from the game and those who would advocate for such philosophy in their community.
However Wizards have not been immune from their own Race issues. The Spelljammer setting was released for 5th edition earlier in the year, and within its pages was a description of the race the Hadozee. The description was compared to that of the black experience in America and Wizards was forced to issue an apology and correct the mistake in future editions of the game. This mistake came after the controversy surrounding the depiction of the Vistani in the Curse of Strahd book the previous year. At the time Wizards had committed to working more with cultural consultants and it seemed that had not happened. A post in Novemeber announced a new process within the company that should hopefully stop such events in the future, but why it hadn’t been implemented back at the time of the Curse of Strahd controversy is anyone’s guess.
Towards the end of the year there was a ‘fireside’ chat with some of the folk at the top of Wizards and Hasbro. Despite its name this was basically for investors and included some reveals as to what those in charge are looking at in terms of the future of D&D and Magic. The company had been under fire for producing too much Magic over 2022, an accusation they pushed back against. They blamed shipping issues for the glut of product that stores and players are being expected to keep up with in a short time frame.
The other piece of information to emerge from that chat was that they think D&D is under monetized. As GMs buy the majority of product for a given group, the company is no doubt turning their attention to how they can get more cash out of players. Our suspicion is the digital tools that are coming for One D&D and the ones that exist now for 5th edition will feature in those plans.
Ah the gift that keeps on giving. nuTSR continued to provide much hilarity and consternation over the course of the year as they proceeded to show their whole ass.
Around the middle of the year they came to the communities attention with the playtest document for Star Frontiers, a reissue of an older game that it was entirely possible they didn’t actually have the rights to. That wasn’t the controversy though. No, instead nuTSR had decided to really capture that racism and white supremacist market by including in the book such ideas as a superior nordic style race, and an inferior ‘negro’ race as a subclass of it. The book had other examples of such philosophy.
After much sabre rattling from nuTSR over the last year or so, and an attempt to raise money to sue Wizards, Wizards had had enough and started a lawsuit against nuTSR. At the time of writing that is unresolved, but it seems unlikely that nuTSR comes out of that unscathed. Wizards is a giant company and will protect its intellectual property if it sees fit to do so. nuTSR is nuTSR.
Jamison Stone and Satine Phoenix
Talking of horrible people…
Around the middle of the year accusations started to fly about D&D power couple Jamison Stone and Satine Phoenix. These two have been regulars on the convention circuit for sometime, ran some kickstarters for their own 5th edition products, and generally made a lot of money and gained a lot of sway within the world of tabletop RPGs.
Turns out though that several folks they have worked with over the years have had a horrible time with the couple, not been paid, and generally not talked about their experiences. That all changed when a tattoo artist who had worked on the couple came forward about their experience, and the dam broke.
The couple were quickly ostracised from a lot of the companies that associated with them, Jamison stepped down briefly at the company they ran (though not for long), Satine issued a beautiful ‘not apology’ and it all got a bit quiet for a bit. I regret to inform you that they haven’t gone away. If you look at Satine’s Instagram she is in ‘redemption’ mode and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them both back on the scene in some way in 2023. Don’t let that happen.
The programme that blew up over the course of lockdown, continued to blow up at the start of the year over controversy around one of its mods suppressing LGBTQ+ chat across the platform, and then doubling down on that in the Discord.
Tabletop Simulator did issue a statement at the time saying they were going to do better and support LGBTQ+ creators through highlighting different members of the community who work on mods for the platform. They did one month of that and nothing else, best I can tell. I did reach out to them for comment on this but have heard nothing back.
The chess world was in the headlines around the world but for all the wrong reasons. At a tournament early in the year Magnus Carlsen, the world champion, resigned in a game against Hans Nielsen. This was a massive upset in the world of chess. Carlsen later implied he thought Nieman was cheating and then all the gloves were off.
Over the course of the next few months FIDE, the chess governing body, tried to get Carlsen to make his accusations more concrete and provide evidence, there was an investigation by Chess.com where they said they thought Nieman had cheated more on their platform, Nieman admitted cheating in the past on the platform, but offered to play Carlsen in the nude if that would clear the accusations, various big figures got involved on one side or the other, and still we are none the wiser as to what actually happened or what Carlsen was actually accusing him of.
Good job chess.
The world of crowdfunding has been in flux this year as Gamefound tried to get a foothold and then Backerkit arrived on the scene with its own solution.
Backerkit ran the tech behind a lot of the projects you have likely seen, but now wants to get in on the front end of Crowdfunding. Launching with a lot of big players, including a project from Cepholfair games, this company will be one to watch over 2023.
Kickstarter itself struggled with image control problems. Having announced late in 2021 that it was exploring a future that included blockchain technology, it spent the rest of the year trying to reassure customers what that meant, without ever really saying what that meant. This controversy was not helped by the announcement of New CEO Everette Taylor, who comes from a blockchain and tech background.
It seems they may lose companies if they go ahead with plans, but also a lot of publishers are so tied into the crowdfunding ecosystem they are going to find it hard to untangle themselves.
Of course the news we bring you is not all doom and gloom, though we make no apologies for reporting on those stories. 2022 saw several unions form in US retailers. Noble Knight Games, Card Kingdom, and Mox Boarding House Bellevue all had unions form and we at The Giant Brain hope that allows employees at these retailers to get better conditions.
The Game Manufacturers association has been in and out of the news, mostly for all the wrong reasons.
At the start of the year GAMA member Jeff Bergen, who himself is a controversial figure, employed Jon Del Arroz in his company The Gaming Goat, and made him a GAMA member. Jon Del Arroz is a pretty nasty individual who amongst other things celebrated the fact that Musk taking over Twitter would allow him to say the N-word again. This was quickly resolved by GAMA but spoke to an administration that wasn’t really paying attention.
The other news has been the ever shifting board of GAMA. There have been several changes at the top this year, most recently Frank West was promoted to GAMA president. Frank has his head screwed on straight and I was hopeful that he would bring his knowledge and expertise to the role and straighten the GAMA ship. This was unfortunately not to be, as he resigned just before christmas, leaving a gap at the top once again.
The matter of AI has been everywhere recently and that includes the world of tabletop games.
We’ve reported on various AIs learning to master tabletop games. Chess was a while ago now, but in more recent years we have seen GO cracked and now the folk making these programmes are turning their attention to games that hove closer to the ‘hobby’ genre.
In the last couple of months Diplomacy and Stratego have had AIs trained on them to great effect. These games are interesting because they include negotiation in the case of Diplomacy and hidden information in the case of Stratego. The AIs are getting better at working out how to manipulate these two aspects of games which is at once fascinating, and slightly terrifying.
The big AI news this year has been the rise of Midjourney and other AI art programmes. These programmes at once provide an interesting tool for people to experiment with but also a potential threat to artists making a living plying their trade. The ethics of this software will be, and is being, debated all across the internet but I am sure of one thing. We will see more games with AI generated art across 2023.
Companies in Trouble
It has been a troubling year for a lot of companies. Those reliant on the crowdfunding model to make their money have been hit with endless delays, shipping hikes, and production delays brought on by factory shutdowns in China.
The following companies have run into issues this year that we are aware of:
ITB Games: ITB always seemed like a company that was trying to move too fast. It had a larger presence at conventions than really seemed justified and now it seems that the house of cards has tumbled. Several projects remain unfulfilled and a recent update to one of those Kickstarters revealed
Mythic Games: They may have just delivered the Darkest Dungeon KS but they are not a company without issues. During that campaign they asked for more money for delivery, effectively holding back games till a later date if backers didn’t stump up the cash. In addition they have sold some properties to other companies. Probably not in the most dire of straits, but one to keep careful eye on in 2023.
Pandasaurus Games: Towards the end of the year Dicebreaker produced an excellent investigation into the employment practices of Pandasaurus Games. Several former employees, designers, and contractors alleged a toxic work environment at the popular publisher, with some pretty horrible stories of people being ground down by the owners of the company.
Despite that several influencers were fawning over the company at the Pax Unplugged show a mere couple of weeks later. I would ask those influencers to maybe use their pull and power to question companies when such accusations arise, and not just carry on as if nothing was happening.
Petersen Games: Petersen Games are another company suffering from late delivery of kickstarters, needing to ask their backers for extra money, and they sound like a company under a lot of strain.
We regularly report on the passing of names both big and small in the industry. This year we said goodbye to:
Ed Pugh, CEO of Reaper Miniatures
Chris Gabrielson, Designer of Company of Heroes
Kazuki Takahashi – Creator of the Yu-gi-oh card game.
Our thoughts are with the friends and families of the deceased.
What Kind of Year Will It Be?
In my article back in at the end of 2021 I predicted that some companies would be brought to their knees by shipping and production issues and that we would see more unions form. I regret being right on the first account, but happy I was correct on the second.
2023 should see more stability for publishers but the effects of the last couple of years will continue to ripple throughout the industry. I am certain, with much regret, that we will see some companies go under this year as those ripples become waves that overwhelm them.
The crowdfunding landscape is forever changed by the arrival of Backerkit and Gamefound and I can see a turn in Kickstarter’s fortunes as those platforms pull projects to them. This will be accelerated if Kickstarter ploughs on with its plans to change the back end of the site to be blockchain powered.
I can imagine we will see more Unions form and that can only be a good thing. There seems to be a sea change coming to America as more and more unions form and we hope that we see that reflected in the games industry as well.
I hope that we see more people speak up about bad actors in the industry and influencers less willing to cosy up to companies with bad reputations. Many with influence in the industry feel too willing to ignore problematic companies and people, unless forced to by the weight of public opinion.
AI will have a seismic effect on the industry. It will be used to make art for games, to write marketing material, maybe even to create whole games. What happens then is anyone’s guess.
There we go then. It’s been not the best year for the site and the cast in terms of numbers. I’ve still had a great time writing, producing the cast, and playing lots of games. I played more games this year than I did last by someway, and I’ll write about my year in gaming soon. I’ve met new people, started new projects, and 2023 looks bright for the site. Ultimately the numbers don’t matter if you are having a good time (and don’t rely on this for your income).
I hope 2023 treats you well, and if we meet at a con we get to play some games together.
If you would like to discuss anything in this article do come and join us in our Discord.