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#1 Posted by gamefreak9 (2877 posts) -

So those around here that know me know that i'm pretty obsessive with economics/financy stuff so here's my latest read on the end of RPG's... or read it here:

The more segmented those brains became, the weaker the overall social network was. Every new game system, and every new variant to those systems, subdivided that network further, making it weaker. Between 1993 and 1999, the social network of the TRPG players had become seriously frayed. Even if you just looked at the network of Dungeons & Dragons players you could see this effect: People self-segmented into groups playing Basic D&D, 1st Edition, 2nd Edition, and within 2nd Edition into various Campaign Settings that had become their own game variants. The effect on the market was that it became increasingly hard to make and sell something that had enough players in common that it would earn back its costs of development and production.

We looked around the industry and saw the same problem at virtually every company that had become successful: White Wolf had 5 World of Darkness games which were all slightly different, surrounded by a more diffuse constellation of games somewhat related to the Storyteller system but designed to be mutually incompatible. FASA had 4 games, none of which shared anything in common. Palladium & Steve Jackson Games both had “house systems” that they tried to use across their entire product lines, but they had ended up with the “Campaign Setting” issue that was bedeviling TSR; the variant rules at the edges of their games were creating independent game networks despite the shared DNA of the core. And we knew that inside every one of those companies they were seeing the same financial information we were seeing: Each new release was selling fewer and fewer copies, and in response, the companies were increasing the pace of releases trying to sustain planned revenues by volume of titles, not by volume of units. And it was killing everyone.

…My opinion is that the hobby gaming industry is going to transform into a very small niche business. It will cater primarily to an aging group of players who have made TRPGs their lifetime hobbies. As those players age, they’ll need less and less support in the form of commercially produced products. They will instead seek out community support tools to help them remain in touch with their hobby even as the social network they’re directly connected to becomes ever more frayed.

Any thoughts? Is the RPG world becoming segmented to the point of extinction?

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#2 Edited by JasonR86 (10178 posts) -

No. The popularity of game genres come in waves. Right now the RPG wave is waning a bit. But it will come back. But, more importantly, modern RPGs that sell well have just changed with the times. Take Skyrim for example. It is clearly an RPG in most every way. In a lot of ways, it still shares a lot in common with Daggerfall (a much more niche product). But it is designed in such a way that it is easy to get into. I don't see this as a bad thing.


Oh...tabletop RPGs. Yeah, I have no fucking idea.

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#3 Posted by LordXavierBritish (6651 posts) -


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#4 Posted by Animasta (14903 posts) -

oh, are you talking about tabletop RPG's? that's not what most people think of when they hear RPG's dude

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#5 Posted by Example1013 (4854 posts) -

None of this should be surprising. As an example, I started playing D&D during 3.5e, and I bought a fair amount of extra books (to the tune of me spending around $150). Now that 4e has come out, all these books are obsolete. And all of a sudden, I have net total zero interest in 4e and am perfectly content sticking to 3.5e, besides the fact that I've never really gotten into playing D&D anyways. And it's the same way with people who play 3e, and 2e, and 1e. Because RPG books are such a heavy investment, and because characters and such create an investment within a certain ruleset, there's no impetus to upgrade at all. I just literally have no reason to upgrade. It's not like 4e is inherently better than 3.5e, it's just newer.

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#6 Posted by Fajita_Jim (1517 posts) -

I haven't played in many years, but all the DMs and GMs I ever had (AD&D & Cyberpunk mostly) used their own variant rules. There were so many exceptions and exclusions to the rules in the rulebooks (especially concerning movement rate) that the official rules just became an esoteric mess. I know WoTC tried address this by going strictly D20 and streamlining everything, but they went about it the wrong way by focusing almost exclusively on combat to the exclusion of skills for role playing. 
Damn, I miss this shit.

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#7 Posted by FreakAche (3050 posts) -

I think Wizards of the Coast and whatever other tabletop RPG manufacturers there are just need to be smart about this stuff. By the very nature of tabletop roleplaying games, every player group eventually starts to view the rulebook as a "suggestion book". It's a tricky line for publishers to walk, as it means that every rulebook, or piece of supplementary material that they release has to be generic enough to simultaneously cater to hundreds of possible playstyles at once, but also specific enough to not just be considered fluff.

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#8 Posted by MysteriousBob (6262 posts) -

@Animasta said:

oh, are you talking about tabletop RPG's? that's not what most people think of when they hear RPG's dude

That certainly explains why I couldn't make any sense of his post.

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#9 Posted by MikkaQ (10296 posts) -

If it's tabletop RPGs you're talking about... well their age of relevancy ended 20 years ago.

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#10 Posted by superpow (271 posts) -

I'm pretty sure the TRPG scene is already an extremely niche market and that it does already cater to aging players. The TRPG as an industry will be obsolete very quickly. It will only work as community based hobby, where homebrew rules can be shared over forums and such. Marketing it just won't work anymore.

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#11 Posted by gamefreak9 (2877 posts) -

@superpow: @MikkaQ: @MysteriousBob: @FreakAche: @Fajita_Jim: @Example1013: @Animasta: @LordXavierBritish: @JasonR86:

My bad guys I didn't realize I posted this in General Discussion :(.

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#12 Posted by amir90 (2243 posts) -

Hmm, might be true.

I didn't like 4th edition too much, though it improved on certain areas.

I havne't been able to find a group yet in my town (haven't played with randoms for a couple of years).

Though playing with friends is fun, they are having a hard time learning all the rules, and showing up each week :p

I think it will continue, but its hard to make new books :p

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#13 Posted by FreakAche (3050 posts) -

@superpow said:

I'm pretty sure the TRPG scene is already an extremely niche market and that it does already cater to aging players. The TRPG as an industry will be obsolete very quickly. It will only work as community based hobby, where homebrew rules can be shared over forums and such. Marketing it just won't work anymore.

I would be okay with this if I could find a good Star Ward d20 forum.

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#14 Posted by AndrooD2 (242 posts) -

As someone who works in this industry, I can tell you that the author of this article doesn't see the market with much clarity or understanding.

It is not the fragmentation of an audience base due to the creation of new editions, systems and campaign settings that has caused tabletop RPGs to wane in popularity. The reason is far simpler. That type of game, where people get together, create a narrative and characters, and play pretend around a table, takes a lot of work on the part of the GM and the players. Today, there are a lot of ways to scratch that gaming itch in a satisfying way that take considerably less work (video games and role-playing-esque board games, for example), so gamers are often simply opting to not play tabletop RPGs.

Tabletop RPGs are still reasonably popular (there's more than just D&D out there). No one is making a fortune on them, but consumers are still buying them. RPGs as a commercial product will probably disappear eventually, like most things, but it won't happen anytime soon.
Also, the hobby games industry won't transform into a very small, niche business. That's what it already is, and what it's always been.

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#15 Edited by PenguinDust (12994 posts) -

I used to play a lot of table-top RPGs, so I hate to tell you but it's been steadily declining since the 90's. Outside of AD&D and the World of Darkness, there just isn't the same plethora of games that there were 10-20 years ago. Players can do this stuff online these days so there is no need to get together on a Friday night to eat junk food and explore the far reaches of space via die rolls. As a former GM/DM I used to take hours each week to organize a campaign and, that meant I couldn't play myself since I was directing the whole adventure. Today, everyone can have a similar experience with an MMO or some co-op adventure. It's cheaper and by far less time consuming. Still, there were worlds in pencil-and-paper RPGs that have yet to be satisfyingly realized in computer games like Rifts (not the MMO) & Torg, Space 1899, Gamma World and Paranoia. I'm still holding out hope for a proper Shadowrun RPG.

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#16 Posted by FreakAche (3050 posts) -

@PenguinDust: Wait. How is playing an MMO possibly cheaper than playing a pen and paper game?

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#17 Posted by Butler (438 posts) -

Wizards is already working on a new edition of D&D and they have been very vocal about accepting player feedback, given all the negative feedback that 4th received. The people who enjoy tabletop games will continue to perpetuate them. ^^

It will never end!

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#18 Posted by zombiepenguin9 (582 posts) -

There's still a sizable D&D community at my college. I don't see it fading away entirely.

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#19 Edited by PenguinDust (12994 posts) -

@FreakAche: Books, guides, modules, figures, paint and supplies, maps, etc... trust me, I spent a lot of my disposable income on pencil-and-paper games in the 90's. It adds up. Above you mentioned that every TRPG group eventually starts to view the rulebooks as "suggestion" books, well that can be true of the modules as well. I began creating my own and that took a lot of additional expense as I sought to create very detailed accessories for the weekly games. My Shadowrun games included figures from Warhammer 40k, Battletech, AD&D, Cyberpunk and whatever else I could find. Maps, dossiers, art, and created files added to the level of detail I wanted in my games. I took some to state conventions and ran them there with great success. All-in-all, it was not cheap however.