Thursday, June 15, 2006

Now it's RPGs that are dying. Knock it off, already.

On the heels of Chris Crawford's speech about computer games dying (a disguised prop for his own new computer game genre), here come thoughts on how the RPG genre is dying. It is a good read, and the essential arguments are:

  • Costs are up, but customers aren't willing to pay more.
  • RPGs are too good. For computer and board games, to get a new experience you have to buy a new one. With an RPG, you just create a new campaign.
  • There are too many RPG games coming out competing for the same customer base.
  • MMORPGs are stealing away the customer base.
As to the first argument, I can only assume that it applies to all games, not only RPGs. If everything goes up in price, I seriously doubt that RPGs will cease to exist because of the price issue.

As to the second argument, this is the same complaint that Microsoft had about its Windows 98, 2000, and XP systems. People were happy enough with their current product that they didn't want to upgrade. Microsoft hasn't rolled over and died, yet. Some of its ideas to fix this were obnoxious, like trying to change software licenses to be of limited time period, but its better ideas were to simply continue to produce new products that offered value to customers. Maybe some older users won't switch over, but surely the new customers will.

Furthermore, if a line of products slows in sales, you have to offer peripherals. Get into the convention market, or miniatures, or subscription services with downloads. Companies must diversify, even when selling a single base product.

The third argument is the same argument in every industry in history. Big boom, winnowing out process, sustainable growth. I've also read this about board games. The market will self-correct. Yes, a whole lot of companies may die, but that is only natural. No one mourns for the companies that join a market hoping to make money only to find that the market is now glutted.

The fourth argument is probably true, to some extent. A whole lot of roleplayers fall into the bash 'em smash 'em crowd. Like in war games and board games, these players are drifting over to online multiplayer games. I can't blame them, as the online games are damn good at providing this type of experience.

I reached this page via a discussion about the page on EN World., and I got to that page via this comment by Deep in the Game.



MaksimSmelchak said...

Hi Yehuda,

I also think that the modern media (television, computers, etc.) are stifling some (perhaps a significant share) of the creativity needed to successfully run an RPG cmapign. I saw this repeatedly as an elementary teacher...

TV is a much easier "entertainment fix" and in a home with unrestricted TV privileges, many to most children will sit in front of the "boob tube" and let themselves be "drained."

I've also noticed that RPG players very often outgrow the genre...

As an older player, I want a mature RPG group that can commit a regular amount of time to a campaign and that's not an easy thing to find any more. The golden time of the 1980s and the pinnacle of the RPGs has come and gone... maybe it will make a return? But until then, who knows?

Another draw is that computer RPGs give much of the same experience as a paper and pencil RPG although they're missing a vital aspect of the RPG experience... social interaction.

Then again, comic books like KODT (Knights of the Dinner Table) have been fantastic runaway successes so really knows what is happening...

It might just be that the market is oversaturated with the now easily published RPGs and the D20 system...

Your friend and Shalom,

Mischa said...

There's some good links at the start of this thread over on Story Games.