Sunday, January 6, 2013

Tabletop Role-Playing Games are Dead! LONG LIVE ROLE-PLAYING GAMES!

The nay-sayers would like to tell you the industry is dead. Well, I guess it kind of is. The 2000s were kind of a boom for the RPG scene with the release of D&D 3e and the d20 rules being OPEN SOURCE and supported by the OGL. Wow, it did an amazing thing for the hobby. D&D became a force, the RPG hobby quickly gained popularity under it. The Players Handbook was on the NYT best-sellers again, pretty amazing for a game of wizards and warriors in dark dungeons.

About 3 or 4 years ago that bubble burst like a balloon. But guess what, that balloon was filled with confetti, and what did people do with that confetti? They picked it all up and recycled it like old newpapers. The ironic thing is that it brought the industry back to its roots. The DIY mentality that created D&D in the first place. The OSR was born. The (arguably) mass appeal of "Story Games" seems to be thriving. While the big guys like White Wolf, Mongoose and Wizards (well, really the just D&D brand) pretty much whithered, while some companies switched to more traditional tabletop games like Board Games (Fantasy Flight, anyone?) It's kind of sad, but face it, the RPG industry as an industry was just not sustainable, at least not as it was before video games. That's right. Tabletop RPGs have kind of gone the way of CDs, DVDs and Vinyl Records. If it's not digital, the kids won't touch it. Accept it, those kids are the future, and they like to sit in front of their glowing rectangles. But here's the irony. Vinyl records are making a comeback. Yeah, they're not selling millions like songs on iTunes, but there is a scene and a market for Vinyl records. I know of 5 or 6 record shops in my area alone. Yes, I live in LA. But that's just it, these little shops are awesome, and will survive because no one is trying to make millions, but tons (enough) folks are throwing down on those plastic disks and spinning them. Some of them as jobs, i.e. DJs at the local clubs. RPGs are pretty much the same way, the indie stuff is doing well, relatively. A small press by an ex-pat that now lives in Finland is somehow cranking out these amazing RPG products with some of the highest quality art, writing and STYLE in this "so-called" dead market. How? Because he's doing it in a sustainable manner. Small, niche, without the expectations to make millions, but just enough. Indie publishers are doing pretty well with their little games that started as "free" games, and turned them into interesting games that are making hundreds of thousands. Yeah, not the millions that WotC/Hasbro and those other big guys are used to. But they're making quality products and a reasonable price for a niche market in a fringe hobby. Sustainability is key for a business to survive.

Honestly, it's time for the industry to get out of thier old models of "if it ain't making millions (of dollars) it ain't successful." The worst thing that happened to the RPG gaming market was when D&D, the former sure-thing, became owned by a company that needed to make millions for its brand to be "worth-while". When D&D sold more than all other brands put together, everything seemed fine. But when D&D became an also ran to one of its derivitive (i.e knock-offs) everyone started this crazy talk about the industry dying. I guess it did for WotC. While Paizo has never done better! It's really basic economics. Less people aren't playing D&D, I think more poeple are. But more people have returned to their original books that don't "expire" or get "out-dated" like computers and automobiles, D&D has the ability to thrive and survive like great books of literature to. (As movies?! haha, that's another topic. The Hobbit analogy follows...)

I'm a small publisher, and publish for a small game, that is a derivative of D&D, from a small publisher. It's a hobby that was never intended to make anyone rich. It did for some folks, for a while, but that was arguably its downfall. But how is it a downfall when I still play it? Like every week. 

A few weeks ago the movie The Hobbit was released. Yeah, it's all modern and high-tech. It's Good in my opinion. But what did it do for the brand? Did it get people to buy a copy of a book published in 1937? That's right, it did. Funny thing is, it made me want to play D&D. See, RPGs aren't dead! The companies trying to make millions off of them just are.

Posted via email from Dak, D.M.