Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Are Publishers Getting Interested in Old-School PC RPGs Again?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on June 27, 2013

Hmmm… in answer to the title query… yes, maybe publishers big and small are getting interested in that genre they happily left for dead years ago.  After some high-profile Kickstarter successes, publishers are thinking… no, not that they were wrong, but rather, that the market has now changed. That’s the excuse I remember….

Publishers may start funding old-school RPGs because of the success of Kickstarter

Well, isn’t this interesting

Apparently, they are looking at the success of (some) old-school RPGs like Wasteland 2, Torment: Tides of Numenera, Project Eternity, and the sales of games like Legend of Grimrock (over 600,000 sold, last I heard), and said, “Hey, we can make real money on these!” Maybe not the kind of money they are used to making on Call of Modern Zombie Battlefield Warfare (by, like, at least an order of magnitude), but they are being forced to recognize that there’s still a reasonably large market there.

Ubisoft may have telegraphed this “sea-change” several weeks ago with their announcement of Might & Magic X: Legacy. From what I can tell, it is not a “AAA” game. It’s low-budget (by Ubisoft standards, not by indie standards), and while it is not crowd-funded, they are engaging gamers to vote for features and styles. This is a more transparent development style adopted from crowdfunded games, so… I guess they are learning and imitating.

Is this a great thing?

Well, there’s certainly a question of whether it’s really “a thing” or not. At least the publishers are expressing interest and curiosity… and, in the case of Ubisoft, actually putting their money where their mouth is. But publishers always do this. If there’s money to be made in gaming, they’ll try their best to explore it. That’s why they exist. Many times in the past publishers have made less-than-stellar forays into gaming territories outside of their comfort zone, and retreated. This could be one of those times.

But if they really do go there, and return to the fields they abandoned long ago? While I’m personally a little miffed that I’m such a slowpoke and that my “desperately underserved niche” that I was going to try and occupy with very few neighbors is suddenly looking very crowded, I’m otherwise pretty excited. In the words of Bruce Willis in Die Hard, “Welcome to the party, pal!” As a gamer, the idea makes me giddy, even though I already own far more RPGs than I have time to play. As a game developer… I think it opens up a lot of opportunities. I think the upside wins, overall.

As always, we’ll just have to wait and see where this goes. But if you are a fan of classic role-playing games (and I know most of the folks here lean at least slightly in their favor…), this is a pretty fascinating little rumor…

Filed Under: Biz - Comments: 10 Comments to Read

  • MalcolmM said,

    Given the history Ubisoft has of pretty much ruining Heroes of Might and Magic, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for Might and Magic X.

    I think Ubisoft focuses too much on graphics and not enough on gameplay. The HoMM series was never about fancy graphics, it was always about great gameplay.

    If Ubisoft hired the right developers and focused on gameplay first, I think they could be successful. They could start by hiring the team who developed King’s Bounty the Legend and Armored Princess, those are developers who really understand captivating gameplay.

  • Infinitron said,

    Jay: Chris Avellone had more to say about this at Eurogamer today http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-06-27-obsidian-base-building-in-aliens-crucible-canned-games-and-publishers-now-open-to-kickstarter-sized-projects

  • Kyle Haight said,

    Welcome to the party, guys… now don’t throw up in the fish tank.

    If publishers are starting to realize that they can make money by serving niche markets with sub-AAA budgeted games instead of throwing tens of millions of dollars into the race to the Lowest Common Denominator that’s a good thing. But if they want to succeed at that they need to understand what the niche market really wants. If they just view it as another way to suck cash out of our wallets for minimal effort they’ll fail, hard.

    We can see some of that in people’s reaction to MMX. If an indie developer had somehow managed to get the rights to Might & Magic and put up a Kickstarter I think it would have a lot more positive response than it does. Coming from Ubisoft there’s a wariness. Is it a trick? What are they really after?

    I’d like to see this work out well. Of course, step 1 is for the first wave of Kickstarted RPGs to actually ship. If they don’t live up to expectations, or tank in the marketplace, then the whole landscape changes again.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Heh – that was EXACTLY my reaction, Kyle, and I didn’t think I was alone… 🙂 Although to be fair if it was just some indies I’d never heard of, I’d be equally concerned.

    I guess aside from The Banner Saga (which isn’t that big), the first “big”-ish Kickstarter RPG coming up is Shadowrun Returns. That’s been delayed a month, but looks pretty sharp. Wasteland 2 isn’t too far behind, presumably.

  • Kyle Haight said,

    The ones on my watch list are The Banner Saga, Shadowrun Returns, Dead State, Wasteland 2, Project Eternity and Torment: Tides of Numenera. The last three, in particular, are the really big Kickstarter funding success stories.

    Brian Fargo has a lot riding on him. May he and his team do well.

  • Xenovore said,

    Call of Modern Zombie Battlefield Warfare. . . I SOOO want to play that game! =D

    @Kyle: Totally. At this point, I don’t trust Ubisoft (or any of the big publishers for that matter) to make anything I would want to play. Not to mention, they’ll probably force Uplay on us again. . . =(

  • Kyle Haight said,

    I’m not as hostile to Ubisoft as some. I had a good time with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, for example, and I’m kind of looking forward to Watch Dogs. If the user reviews on MMX are decent I’ll probably pick it up. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I want the big publishers to move in this direction and I’m willing to reward them for getting noticeably better even if there’s still room for improvement.

  • BarryB said,

    There were plenty of unimaginative, poorly done old-school RPGs back when, and it was my good fortune to review a number of them. :\ All I’m suggesting is that throwing a few stats on a character, creating a bunch of weapons, armor and spells, and going for Plot #1 (the little guy who turns out to have a Big Destiny and must kill the Evil One) or Plot #2 (the guy who “gets” amnesia and must search to find out who he is)or Plot #3 (just getting the hell out of the dungeon you’re in) doesn’t make for a memorable RPG experience.

    Doing an RPG is easy. Hardly a day goes by that IndieRPG doesn’t list one or two new ones. Problem is, they pretty much sound alike, and little of it seems imaginative. So let’s see if M&M X comes anywhere near III, or or whether anyone creates self-sustaining, interactive (within limits) worlds like Ultima VI and VIIa&b. If so, we can start speaking of the Rebirth of Old School RPGs. Until then, I’ll save my money while the Big Industry folks talk, because hot air is cheap.

  • Infinitron said,

    Ubisoft didn’t publish Deus Ex: Human Revolution. That was Square Enix.

  • Kyle Haight said,

    D’oh, you’re right.

    I’m still looking forward to Watch Dogs, though.