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Links: Wingspan Sells, and Magic: The Gathering Computes

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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• In March 2019, software engineer and game designer Alex Churchill, Stella Biderman of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Austin Herrick of the University of Pennsylvania published a paper in which they claimed that the card game Magic: the Gathering is "Turing complete". The summary of that paper:
Magic: The Gathering is a popular and famously complicated trading card game about magical combat. In this paper we show that optimal play in real-world Magic is at least as hard as the Halting Problem, solving a problem that has been open for a decade. To do this, we present a methodology for embedding an arbitrary Turing machine into a game of Magic such that the first player is guaranteed to win the game if and only if the Turing machine halts. Our result applies to how real Magic is played, can be achieved using standard-size tournament-legal decks, and does not rely on stochasticity or hidden information. Our result is also highly unusual in that all moves of both players are forced in the construction. This shows that even recognising who will win a game in which neither player has a non-trivial decision to make for the rest of the game is undecidable. We conclude with a discussion of the implications for a unified computational theory of games and remarks about the playability of such a board in a tournament setting.
A June 2019 article by Jennifer Ouellette on Ars Technica interviews Churchill and summarizes how this "machine would be created. For a visual demonstration of how this works, you can turn to this video featuring Kyle Hill of Because Science; to skip the sometimes painfully jokey intro, jump to 6:19 when the actual game playing begins:

• On October 30, 2019, Elizabeth Hargrave's Wingspan from Stonemaier Games was featured on the radio program Here & Now (link), highlighting the game's sales to date — 120,000 copies — and how Hargrave came up with the concept, then developed it.

• Want to check out "Board Games Market: Global Outlook and Forecast 2019-2024" from the market research group Research and Markets? It will set you back only $2,975 for a single user license. A few excerpts from the report summary:
The board games market is expected to grow at a CAGR of over 10% during the period 2018-2024...

The following factors are likely to contribute to the growth of the global board games market during the forecast period:

• Capitalizing on Board Game Conventions
• Introduction of Strategic Products
• Crowdfunding Boosters paving Growth Paths
• Incorporation of the Learning Quotient
• Leveraging Global Retail Trends
Board Games Market: Geography

North America dominated the global board games market in 2018. The US leads the North America market as board games are witnessing high popularity, and vendors are introducing new variants frequently. APAC was the second-largest market in 2018. The demand for low-cost products characterizes the market in APAC. China and Japan are the largest markets in APAC. India is witnessing rapid adoption among end-users; however, the adoption rate is slow, and the per capita expenditure on board games remains low in the country. Board games are gaining popularity in several European countries, with Germany, the UK, and France leading the market growth in the region. The demand in Latin America is mainly from Brazil, where RPG board games are highly popular. Cultural and religious practices are prevalent in the Middle East market. The region is witnessing continuous growth in the gaming industry fueled by the rise in the board games industry.

Key Vendors Analysis

The board games market is slowly becoming a fragmented one, with Hasbro and Mattel enjoying a more substantial chunk of the overall share with several independent vendors barging in. The competition has intensified with several independent vendors emerging in recent years. North America, APAC, and Europe are the key markets for vendors. However, the markets in Latin America and MEA are expected to witness considerable growth in the coming years. Since the creation of board games does not require any molding or tooling, the overall production cost remains low, making the entry barrier low. Hence, the low-entry barrier is a key factor driving the rise of independent vendors, thereby affecting the market dynamics. Small vendors tend to offer board games at low prices, pushing established vendors to slash their retail prices.
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