ones upon a game

I am almost exclusively a solo gamer and look at the gaming scene seen through those eyes. I also literally like alliteration. TWITTER: @onesuponagame
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Solo Gaming: A Niche Worth Scratching

Kevin L. Kitchens
United States
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Snowflakes Melt
Not sure I've ever made it through a FULL 14 3+ hour episode of The Secret Cabal podcast, but had a little extra driving the last couple of days and managed to stay interested and resume play each time I got in the car. I do like their show in general, apart from occasional -- thankfully rare -- profanity and affected inflections in their speech (are they all Monster Truck announcers in real life?). However, I just usually listen to any podcasts in smaller chunks of time and move on to something else the next session.

I was listening to their latest episode mainly because of the post-GenCon information and their review of The Reckoners, but as I said, I made it to the end of this one and near the conclusion they do a short answer type session dealing with questions from listeners...

The first question ( at the 03:11:00 mark) concerned solo gaming and solo variants becoming a trend in Kickstarters and board gaming in general. I found their answers interesting and a little misinformed.

Especially calling soloists a "niche" market.

It shouldn't bother me that we're a niche market. Of course we are.

niche - denoting or relating to products, services, or interests that appeal to a small, specialized section of the population.

So then, by definition...

* all of BGG is a "niche" of the boardgaming community.
* Fans of Gloomhaven or Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 are a "niche" market.
* Those who like playing two player are a "niche" group as well.
* Same with three or four or five.

"Niche" here is being used to minimize the impact of solo gaming. And while they didn't mean it as an insult exactly, from their perspective (as co-dependent "gaming is made to be social" players), solo gaming is a insignificant speck in the gaming community and of very limited value.

Of course this is completely wrong.

For companies, soloists are a perfect "niche" target market. Many times on the Secret Cabal, you'll hear one or more of the team state they would like to play a certain game, but would not buy it. This makes sense if someone in your group buys it, you get to try it and move on. If the average group size is three, a publisher could potentially sell to every third gamer. For soloists however, if you want to play it, then short of borrowing it from someone else, you have to have your own copy. Therefore, more gamers in the "niche" have to buy it.

Of course those who solo game are not exclusively solo either. Each gamer should make their own choices of how they play games. Solo. In groups. Some combination of the two. But solo gaming is no longer a negative identification at all. And it is growing as seen by the wisdom of many companies now to include solo variants, wonderful and intelligent AI and Automa, and of course cooperative games (not semi-coop or common goal games) which are always soloable.

As for some "niche" numbers, let's look at some data for a couple of podcast guilds here on BGG (as of this post).

The The Secret Cabal, created on September 23, 2011 has 4,674 members. Very nice.

The 1 Player guild, nearly seven months YOUNGER, created on April 12, 2012, has 9,724 or over twice as many members. And at last check it was the second largest guild in all of BGG, just falling short of the The Dice Tower which has 10,334 members (and of course has been around nearly five years longer!).

On the 1-Player Guild, there were 30 threads that were last active on August 15 or later. For the Secret Cabal, that number was FOUR (Dice Tower guild was eight by comparison).

Solo gaming is real. Solo gamers are active. And Soloists are definitely one of the more significant "niches" of the BGG and boardgaming communities.
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