"When pegged about bringing board games to the modern game player, many designers will work straight to the tablet/PC port. Sometimes it works well (Neuroshima Hex!), but a lot of the time the port misses the point of it's original game, the tangible obligation."It turns out Disney are going to be the force that breaks into this playspace in a significant way with AppMATes. These "Mobile Application Toys" are figurines that interact with an iPad app that Disney will release. The iPad will essentially become a digital play area that is manipulated by the physical toy.
A video with Disney Mobile's Bart Decrem shows how the toys and app will work.
Admittedly this is focused on toys and singular play. However the technology could certainly be abstracted away from the Christmas-retail focus that we'll undoubtedly see, and into more meaningful social play.
Imagine an Ogre Tactics style strategy game, with physical pieces and cards that manipulate the digital environment. A Civilization or Catan spin-off with digital calculators that respond to the movements of your meeples. Some of these broad ideas could easily be integrated to an established platform, like Disney already have with the iPad.
(Hello significant removal of development overheads!)
It will take pioneers of game design to move into this territory, lest the playspace become inundated with flashy gimmicks with no meaningful context.
Designers who value meta-data and automation to free up player intentions.
And layered user interface that is prohibitive to print, but intuitive to touch.
And juicy, juicy polish that can bring a stationary figurine to life.
I have a dream of these mash-up digital/physical playspaces, and they look fun.