July 17, 2009

Predicting the Industry

Filed under: Business — bilbo @ 5:25 pm

A popular sport of all time it has now become a bit of a frenzy. Part of it is he said this and part of it is that person questioned that with a big dose of every one questioning everyone else’s cred. The end result is rather comical in the worst kind of dark humor that reveals more about the “seers” thank anything about the future of the RPG industry. I have been involved in the industry for a long time. Longer than most people realize. I generally do not wave it about like a badge of honor or anything mainly since most of it is stuff that the vast majority of people either would not believe or choose not to believe. I have heard the “end of the industry” along witht he “end of the hobby”. When magic came out, industry folks in the know said that was the end for RPGs. Late 90s, CCRPG would kill the industry in 5 years. In 2000, it was MMORPGs.

My father once told me, “Bill, whatever you do, never believe your own bullshit. If you do, no one will be able to convince you otherwise and you will end up on the loosing end.” This is, I believe, the heart of it. Folks decide that the ideas they have are right and just push on to reinforce it more and more. You end up with proclamations of the end of times every 5 years or so (sometimes more often).

What will happen, as it always has happened, new methods of doing business will arise. Some folks will adopt them and fail, some will adopt them and succeed, some will not and fail and some will not and continue. You have companies that are still around 20 or more years into this. Some that are brand new. A great example of this is the retail tier of the industry. Here you have an original start with hobby stores. RPGs being sold next to model airplanes. Then you had athe first dedicated game stores. Then you had card/RPg hybrids. Now you see all manner of new models arising including online and entertainment models. The industry will go on, but it will evolve. Into what, I cannot say (if I could I would be WotC).

On a side note, a lot has been thrown up about “needing” the industry. Gamers do not need the industry on several levels. If the need a rules set, there are more than enough out there and will continue to be remainders sitting on pallets for the foreseeable future. Rule books are not consumable. Sure, 50 years after the last RPG book is printed you might have an issue but not in the foreseeable future. Couple this with the ability, nay, the inherent nature of RPGs to be customizable and you reduce any need to a convenience. Mind, for some it is pretty highly valued but still not a need.

Now, here is the thing, what we as publishers should do is look for ways to provide that convenience. In some cases it is a case of system rules, in some cases settings or adventure ideas. In all cases it needs to keep with the easiest means to access and use the rules books. Things that seem to be after thoughts to some publishers like bookmarks in digital copies or indices in print copies, looking at the book in terms of entertainment but also remembering it is a reference book.

In the end, as I have said before, the industry is evolving. There will be pain. More importantly, it is academic. As a company you cannot control it but you need to react to it. As a customer, you can only vote with your dollars.

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