Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Bring a Friend to Hyboria, Faerûn, the Northern Realms, or Post-Apocalyptic Earth

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 5, 2017

After yesterday’s post, several people asked me “Who actually asks if RPGs are dead?” If you are computer RPG fan today, and you are even casually plugged into what’s appearing on the major digital distributors, you get a pretty good idea of there being more games coming out in this genre than you have time to play. Especially if, like me, you are also a retro-gamer who enjoys playing the older stuff we may have missed the first time around.

I can’t answer the question in general, but I know of at least one case where it was an acquaintance who hasn’t gamed much in years, but fondly remembers the classic turn-based CRPGs of his youth. A quick check revealed a bunch of big-name games like Fallout 4, Skyrim, Diablo III, and Borderlands… all of which looked action-intense and not his cup of tea. He wondered in a public forum if nobody made those kinds of games anymore – the ones he used to enjoy. I had to practice great restraint to avoid going into massive exposition mode like I did yesterday on the blog on the poor guy.

So yeah. A little over ten years ago, it was a legitimate question. I used to try and keep track of as many indie RPGs that were in development as I could back then. I had a tough time keeping track then. Now things have exploded to about 10x that – well beyond my capabilities of keeping up, but you do need to be a little bit plugged in to see it.
Here’s an educated guess on my part: As much as we’re in a golden age of really cool new CRPGs, I’d guess that the majority of the games out there in this category don’t make money. Or at least not enough to keep going on. Sure, there are situations like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, where it seems like the company itself was badly managed and needed a home run in order to finance development of another title (see what I did there?). But there are also situations like Might & Magic X: Legacy, where we don’t know exactly what happened, but clearly sales didn’t justify continued development and sequels on what was already sort of a budget offering for the publisher. For all its flaws, I liked the game, and had hope for future installments. Finally, there are countless indie titles of varying quality, and often even the best of these don’t make money. Like, not even breaking even with their hard costs, based on anecdotal evidence.

Now, there’s nothing that’s really going to change that. That’s just life in the big city, and the competition is fierce. I don’t care so much about who gets what share of the pie, so long as everyone gets their shot. I do want to see that the pie keeps growing, though. That means the demand has to stay there to justify developers taking risks, maybe sucking up a failure or two while they improve their chops. That means we need more fans, more gamers, more converts to the RPG fold. The audience needs to keep growing.

Over the holidays, my youngest daughter was introduced to the Borderlands by her sister and brother-in-law. I mean, she’d seen me play it on the PC before, so she was vaguely familiar with it. But they played multiplayer cooperative with her through Borderlands 2, and she was hooked. After they left, she bought a used XBox and picked up a copy of the game for herself – both to play on her own, and to play with them when she could.

That’s how it’s done. At least, that’s one way really good way to do it.

That means inviting these folks who are only “kind of ” interested to play these games. We existing fans are the best people to help bring folks into the fold. Now, the best game for the beginner might not be the same games that we go nuts over – the quirky, complex indie titles that cater to advanced players. It depends on the person. If its someone who cut their teeth on the old SSI Gold Box games, a turn-based game with tactical combat might be a good match. Others might prefer something along the lines of Torchlight II. Or, like my daughter, they need some time in multiplayer cooperative mode to really catch the vision. Maybe they need some tips on how to play, and some evangelizing of certain games so they know it will be worth it taking the time to play. Whatever.

The point is… it’s easy to find ourselves in a bubble with this hobby. RPGs are still niche, and we need to get outside of that and invite others to come join us. A lot of the potential RPG players out there aren’t the kind that will respond well to smack-talk and the challenge of proving themselves. They are just looking for fun games to play, as we all are.

Let’s invite them into our worlds, and let them feel welcome.

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