Some Thoughts on the Economic Impact of the Coronavirus on Tabletop Games, Crowdfunding, Entrepreneurs, and More

10 March 2020 | 12 Comments

A worldwide pandemic is happening, and it’s having a huge impact even in its early stages. The coronavirus started spreading in late January, and there are already over 100,000 confirmed cases worldwide.

I think there’s much to learn about the full impact of this pandemic in the coming months, and most importantly, my heart goes out to anyone who has been personally affected or inflicted. This is a human-level tragedy.

Beyond the contagion, though, the coronavirus is having an unprecedented economic impact. Today I’d like to share my thoughts on where we might be headed, both so we can prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Manufacturing and Product Industries

In the game industry, manufacturing is largely synonymous with China. While there are other options worldwide, many of them still turn to China for specific components that simply aren’t made at scale anywhere else.

The threat of coronavirus was realized during the Chinese New Year, when millions of factory workers across China had returned home. So even though manufacturing outside of the Wuhan province has resumed, there are still quite a few people quarantined in Wuhan, unable to return to their jobs.

In the long-term, this is probably a very good thing, especially on a human level. I’m sure it’s terrible to be locked down in Wuhan right now, but it should significantly reduce the spread of the disease.

In the short term, this means that many factories may be short-staffed and thus slower than usual. If you’re a Kickstarter creator, you’re probably adjusting your production schedule and informing your backers.

As a whole, I think we’ll simply see fewer products made in 2020. Not fewer types of products, but fewer units overall. If supply goes down and demand remains the same, it’s likely you’ll see prices go up (whether companies charge more or people are willing to pay more due to scarcity). I also think we’ll see an increase in delivery services, at least in the short term.

Service and Entertainment Industries

My theory is that the coronavirus will have (and is already having) the biggest impact on service and entertainment industries; specifically, those where people gather in a confined space. This includes sporting events, conventions/festivals, airports/travel/tourism, theaters, gyms, movie/film production, game stores, churches, event spaces (like wedding venues), schools, retailers, and restaurants.

That’s huge. In the news, you might hear about how those industries impact the bottom line for billion-dollar companies. More importantly, in my opinion, are the  people who actually make those companies function on a day-to-day basis. It’s possible that many of them will lose their jobs, or if they’re hourly, they may just have a lot less work for a while.

This is going to be very rough on the blue-collar workers in service and entertainment industries, and it means that millions of people will focus their budgets on essentials. Board games, as integral as they are to the social lives of me and many others, are not essentials. You can survive without them (especially if you already have a collection to play).

Stock Market

Over the last few weeks, stock markets across the world have plunged. People are justifiably scared about the widespread economic impact of the coronavirus, so they’re selling instead of holding or buying.

I’m not an economist, so I really can’t say much about what a downturn in the stock market means for most people. It’s often an economic indicator, but a plunging stock market doesn’t cause the economy to tank.

I can say this, though: If you’ve invested in stocks (mutual funds, IRA, 401k, etc), even though it feels like you’re losing money right now, you only lose if you sell (and if you sell for a lower price than what you bought). So if you don’t need the money in your investments for the foreseeable future (the next year or so), don’t do anything. Just ride it out.

***

There are so many different types of creators and entrepreneurs that I can’t begin to understand the impact the coronavirus will have on everyone. So I’d love to hear from you: Personally and professionally, how is this pandemic impacting you?

For me, I’ve certainly been much more careful about washing my hands after going to a restaurant, grocery store, or climbing gym. I haven’t made any changes to my travel or convention plans, though I’m open to doing so if the need arises.

For Stonemaier Games, I’m proceeding with caution. I don’t know what peoples’ budgets are going to look like in 6-8 months, and that’s our production cycle. We’re proceeding with a big Wingspan reprint because distributors have committed to it, but after that, our next big reprint of any product will probably be for the holidays.

What’s your perspective on the economic impact of the coronavirus?

Also see this video from Roll for Crit.

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12 Comments on “Some Thoughts on the Economic Impact of the Coronavirus on Tabletop Games, Crowdfunding, Entrepreneurs, and More

  1. I’m concerned that more big gaming events aren’t getting cancelled, but I know that’s a big economic impact for all involved. GAMA forged ahead, and people felt like they needed to go to GAMA.

    This is going to get a lot worse before it gets better, but the key question is how *quickly* it will get worse. Slowing transmission is essential to avoid overwhelming our health care systems. It will literally save lives even if there are the same total number of cases over time.

    And avoiding large gatherings where we all handle the same items seem like an obvious way to slow transmission.

    I found this piece really thoughtful on the public health side:

    https://www.flattenthecurve.com/?fbclid=IwAR3eaXtAkFygI7_tVUe6diuzBFyah92G8heCqm9bNA4o0rP6KZ7ItouwM7Q

  2. The only real social interaction I have is going to one or two board game meetups per week at local game stores. I’m 44 and am not in the age group most at risk but my parents are 75 and 90 and I’m worried about bringing it home to them. I already brought the flu home in February which they both got through but it was rough with bad laryngitis. I don’t know how long the board game nights are going to continue, so far there’s just one case in San Diego (not including the cruise ship passengers on the military base) so it’s not yet spreading here. But Seattle is supposedly halting gatherings greater than 250 people tomorrow and to really halt it just about any size public gathering needs to stop. And for a bunch of games everyone is touching game pieces. Last Sunday we talked about washing hands but who knows if that’s enough if someone doesn’t know they’re infectious and we’re all close to each other playing?

    One thing I’m thinking of if we have to stop meeting in person is to try online options like Tabletop Simulator and I’ve set up a discord server for the meetup group in preparation.

    It’s also going to affect local game stores if they have to cancel things like MTG tournaments where they get 50 or so people into the store really close together.

  3. Great advice to hang on to your investments. If anything, if you can, buy more while they’re on “sale!” Or as a wiser man than me once said, “be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.” -Warren Buffett

  4. I own and operate a sign language interpreter staffing agency. We staff interpreters in the medical, educational, entertainment, business, and government markets. We haven’t been hit in terms of volume of orders, but I expect we will. I think we’ll see more and more remote interpreting happening as a result which has it’s own challenges.

    Thanks for a great article as usual.
    Cody

  5. A couple things…one our deep reliance on the global supply chain, minor disruptions will be felt for more than a year, and the potential for another govermment bailout.

    First, we fortunately ship far more goods in and out of US ports then anything by air. Unfortunately, our deep reliance on the port system means that if we shut down even one port for 1 week that could disrupt trade in that area and across the US by 5, 6 or even as many as 8 weeks. Most restaurants can weather missing a shipment, however, if a restaurant misses two or more shipments in a very short period of time that restaurant could very well be on the verge of collapse. This scenario coupled, with individuals displaying reticence to go to restaurants could have a dramatic and deleterious effect on that industry.

    Given what we know about the Coronavirus, and there’s much more to learn, it will unfortunately get far worse, before it gets better. Even if we were to identify a vaccine today, it will take months to deploy enough of it to the better part of 300 million people in the US. We will no doubt experience downturns in the private sector and moreover we’re going to see productivity shifts in both the private and public sector, especially if schools begin to close and two income households have to decide who will work that week and whi will stay home with quarantined children.

    Finally, while the airline industry is certainly not immune to the disruptions, it could have a dramatic impact on more than just tourism. People who have booked flights over the last several months may not want to get on a plane. There are 2 choices the airlines can take. One, they can provide the 70% or 80% reimbursement to those individuals or two, they deny people those reimbursements if made too late. Either way, this will dramatically affect airline industry bottom line, and given the fact that we have only four national airlines left, they are, in the words that were used to described the banks a decade ago, “too big to fail” or in this case, “too vital to fail.” Thus, you may see airlines seeking government bailouts or relief as to not go under.

    What’s important to learn from all this is risk mitigation, not risk avoidance. Life must go on as much as possible given the current, new normal of a global pandemic. I study trends for a living as both an intelligence analyst and an observer of our industry and others. I appreciate the conversation and thank Jamey for initiating it.

    Cheers,
    Joe

  6. I have a small business and rely on gaming conventions for about 65% of my sales. While the Cons I’m going to have been sending out reassuring messages about how they are taking safety precautions and that they aren’t seeing mass cancellations, I am concerned on how this will effect my overall sales. I invested a lot of my profits from the Christmas season into materials for products, so I’m cash poor/inventory heavy right now and really am hoping that sales keep up with purchase commitments I’ve already made (plus the expenses of attending shows).

    I have two shows coming up quick and will know better then how Corona is going to effect the bottom line. Fingers crossed.

  7. Hi Jamey. My wife is a flight attendant and Delta has been dramatically reducing the number of flights to Europe & Asia. The number of domestic passengers is also way down. This will impact the airlines & airports significantly. There is talk of retirement packages and possibly furloughs.

  8. I live in Iran. It’s been 2 weeks since most people have self confined themselves at home. Schools and universities are closed and for the 1st time in the history, there’ll be no Friday praying for at least a month, and if you know Iran, you’d know this is huge.

    There are lots of speculation that, had they quarantined Qom city (a holy city where Covid-19 first appeared), we wouldn’t have this problem all around the country now. But the government didn’t and now lots of cities are affected and quarantined either by the government or by the people themselves blocking the routes. Because you know the crazy thing is (and you’ll laugh but you’ll probably experience it yourself in your country too), people never take these things serious, so lots of them have gone on vacation!! It’s ridiculous and shameful how unaware they are of the damage they do to others.

    I say the same will happen elsewhere as I have friends in France whose friends have traveled to Italy in the midst of Coronavirus!! And they tend to hug and kiss when they see each other. It’s been a while I haven’t hugged my beloved ones.

    Iran is under severe sanctions which had already destroyed the economy. You wouldn’t believe it, but 100,000,000 rials, which is more than 80 %of people’s monthly income, is less than 1000 US dollars. And now that we don’t go to work, we don’t even have that. (Mine was actually around 200$).

    What do we do? So we became creative each in our own way and try to spend these long days peacefully at home. Some people try to collect help for very poor people, for doctors and specially nurses who are under frustrating pressure of 24/7 work and not catching the virus.

    It’s also become a political matter (as most things have nowadays). People don’t trust the government, the government doesn’t publish correct statistics, I haven’t heard from the President since 10 days ago, lots of political figures say they have caught it (which most people don’t believe). Some of them have actually died from it! Still people won’t believe the living ones. Alcohol has become scarce. But other than that, the city is calm, a lot calmer than what I see in Italy and Australia at least.

    Be vigilant. Don’t think “this is for others, this won’t affect me, I’ll be safe, poor China, Poor Iran” etc… No, it’ll come and knock at your door and everyone should be ready for it. Don’t panic, don’t listen to the wrong info people tend to publish about everything. This is a virus, it’s not bacteria. Read WHO guidelines or at least watch a video on YouTube. Stay safe until we can pass safely this pandemic.

    1. Thank you, Pouya, for your important spellbinding account of the situation in Iran, Reading it from someone there, to whom I feel connected via this blog, really delivers the emotional impact it deserves.

  9. Perhaps, on the plus side, this may create an opportunity for more domestic production facilities to pop up and reduce the burden. Then maybe, just maybe, we can have an industry that isn’t almost fully reliant on a single point of failure for game production while also reducing shipping/fullfillment times. China and central Europe cannot continue to be the only locations for quality board game production on the planet. And this virus, while a human tragedy, has exposed this issue in the industry.

  10. It might be best to keep grandchildren away from their grandparents.

    This news articles explains that there is something very different about this SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19)than regular flu viruses. Normally children and elderly are at risk but this one impacts elderly more and may go unnoticed in children. It uses elderly people’s immune system against them after the virus is gone. Their immune system turns hyper-active and that is what kills them. It would be helpful to find out why some elderly people have a super-charged immune response.

    https://www.wired.com/story/kids-can-get-covid-19-they-just-dont-get-that-sick/?fbclid=IwAR3EUeVR0XYRCftPQ6Y-Z4ACMq0tnOqbh104lNSdPN–NZkXKPVOOFqJE3Q

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