ePawn Arena is a more affordable version of the Microsoft Surface: a big screen capable of interacting with physical pieces that touch it. Will it revolutionize tabletop role-playing?
Tabletop role-playing, which by its very definition requires a table, has been slow to transition to new technologies. This is at least in part because role-playing games require so much interaction that technology cannot support well. A full range of media richness is necessary to mimic the experience. Instead of replacing the players, ePawn Arena seeks to replace the board itself.
With the increasing popularity of battle maps and miniatures, this could be a real game changer to both of those industries. For miniatures, it means ‘clix-style games, where the rules are integrated into the miniature itself, would become obsolete because the screen would handle all calculations. For maps – well why buy a printed map when you can download any map you want?
There are several challenges with a tool of this sort, not the least of which being price. The aforementioned Microsoft Surface is fantastic, but so expensive and rare to be out of reach of most gamers. As reported by TechCrunch:
That’s why ePawn has decided to go big with the display — the way they see it, bigger displays mean room for more people. The current prototype kicking around ePawn’s Paris headquarters comes in at 23 inches across (which made a splash at this year’s E3), but Duteil tells me that the production model is even bigger at 26 inches. What’s even more impressive is the price point they’re aiming to launch at: $400. The company hopes to pick up more steam at CES 2012, and aims to launch soon afterward.
The screen, at its current size, may simply not be large enough for tabletop gamers. Will gamers buy it? You tell me: What would the ideal screen size be for a role-playing game and how much would you be willing to pay for it?
For more information see the ePawn web site.