You move your infantryman into position. He leaps over the bunker and readies his rifle, dropping the opponents in his way. Are you playing Call of Duty or Memoir ‘44? The gap between video gamers and board gamers is smaller than you might think, and it’s shrinking by the day. Do you prefer to play in real time from a first-person view, or plan out more tactical turn-based moves from an aerial position? If it’s the latter, than the recent release of Memoir ‘44 on Steam is a must-play game.
Prior to it’s online release, Memoir ‘44 was a popular board game with over 200,000 units sold, described as “a unique historical game where players command a horde of little plastic Army men facing-off in dozens of WWII battles on an oversize hex game board.” This is not your fathers war game, though, nor is it a long drawn out game of Risk.
This game was designed to cut out most of the complexity and leave a 1-vs-1 battle that can be played in 30-60 minutes. Move that into the video game realm, and you can cut those times almost in half. If Steam support wasn’t already enough to make you want to give it a try, know that the game is free to play and includes 50 scenarios, as well as a large existing player base from prior online implementations of the game.
It’s not a huge surprise to see Memoir ‘44 be the first board game to make the jump to Steam. Publisher Days of Wonder has always been pushing the digital envelope (their Ticket to Ride and Small World apps are hallmark examples iPad board gaming), and even in the analog domain, they are known primarily for their high production values.
But since Memoir ‘44 Online is a big first for the industry, its release sparks a discussion on it’s potential impact. The unknown factor here is what effect these high-quality adaptations will have on both video and board game markets. Are players more likely to shift from one format to the other, or do both stand to benefit from the overlap?
Recent data shows that video game sales are sliding while board game sales soar, but I would not be so quick to point a lopsided picture. It’s much more likely that both markets are benefiting, with video game profits written in red ink simply because the barrier to entry has been lowered so greatly.
The days of the $60 blockbusters are fading, and cheap apps or free-to-play computer games such as Memoir ‘44 are the future. They are bringing the total population of those who consider themselves “gamers” to new highs, and once publishers figure out how to capitalize on this expanded player base, the video game industry will bounce right back. So my message to publishers is this: bring on your apps, bring on your Steam games, and let’s continue spreading the gaming hobby.
Now… in case you’re all wondering. There is a Linux build in the mix. Not sure of when the release date will be. But “supposed” to happen soon.