Ryan Dancey speaks - the Most Successful Year for Fantasy RPGaming ever. However...
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    Ryan Dancey speaks - the Most Successful Year for Fantasy RPGaming ever. However...

    From Mike Mearl's blog: http://www.livejournal.com/users/mearls/115593.html

    Ryan Dancey:
    2005 was the best year in the history of the fantasy roleplaying game concept. In 2005, 4 million people paid more than $480,000,000 to play World of Warcraft. That figure is five times the total revenue generated by the tabletop roleplaying game segment >of all companies, of all time, combined<.

    The population of people trained to understand the value premise of sword & sorcery RPGs by D&D have found a medium which asserts a new fun/not-fun ratio far more balanced towards "fun" than tabletop RPGs and they have embraced it with gusto.

    The core network of D&D players drew in an expanded community of friends, dates, relatives, and co-workers by extolling the fun to be had in kicking down doors, whacking monsters, taking stuff, and powering up. After a half-decade spent developing the technology and the service infrastructure at Ultima Online and EverQuest, the industry hit the ball out of the park.

    I think it will be impossible, form here on out, to separate the on-line and tabletop categories of RPGs - the former will become increasingly similar to the latter as new technology like voice & video become integrated into the experience - allowing "virtual tabletops" to exist. It is already impossible to ignore the economic impact MMORPGs are having on the tabletop sub-segment - they decimated it in 2005. Only time will tell if some value premise can be rebuilt from the foundations available to entice a new generation of gamers into the hobby - or if the battle has already been lost.

    Me, I'm betting on the guys with $480,000,000.

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    You can find Mike's response (and others) to this here:
    http://www.livejournal.com/users/mearls/116408.html

    Cheers!
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    More from Ryan (see previous post for link).

    Ryan Dancey:
    I will now make a very heretical argument.

    Blizzard should cut Wizards of the Coast a giant "thank you" check, because I believe that D&D3E is the exact reason that WoW is doing so well.

    In 1998-99, our market research uncovered the fact that there were several million people playing RPGs annually, and more than a million playing D&D monthly. That data stunned us - because the number of active >purchasers< in the category at the time was likely just several tens of thousands. For a host of reasons, the market had lost contact with its customers - people who remained committed to an RPG component of their lifestyles, but had little or no contact with the business of making and selling RPGs.

    D&D3E got a lot of those people back in retail stores, and revitalized the business of selling RPGs. People who may not have made an RPG purchase in more than a decade shelled out $100 for the three core books, and likely some other products in addition. And it is a lot easier to redirect purchasing power once it is active than it is to activate it in the first place.

    EQ never addressed the fun/not-fun ratio problem. EQ required players to substitute "boredom" as a primary resource for character advancement. "How long were you willing to wait to do something" became a fundamental game design paradigm. I know people who learned to play guitar, taught themselves a foreign language, and worked on masters and PhD dissertations while camping in EQ. As a result, the game remained a niche player compared to D&D. At its height, EQ boasted perhaps 400,000 paying customers - and as with many service-based businesses, I suspect that means that only 40,000 played on any given month.

    WoW addressed this problem and then some. WoW (and City of Heroes) still require you to use "boredom" as a resource - but the level of boredom required is tiny compared to that of EQ. Having addressed the fun/not-fun ratio problem, these games were rewarded with the ability to sell into a market recently revived by D&D3E - a million or so consumers who were buying RPG products and had money to spend.

    Now tabletop RPGs (TRPGs) have a network externality problem. The core network of TRPGs (D&D) is being predated upon by the WoW network - which continues to grow. The WoW network is extremely dangerous for the TRPG network, because it has a twin attack:

    1) It is cheap. $15/mo is nothing compared to what most people spend for entertainment, and a lot less than an active, engaged purcahser of a TRPG line spends during the purchasing cycle.

    2) It uses time as a resource. Player time. Time that could be spent engaged in TRPG activities (scheduling, prep, play, and post-game). All MMORPG players know that time spent in the game is rewarded in the form of increased power and range of action. So time spent playing a TRPG is actually >hurting< them in relation to their peer group in the MMORPG.

    Since the release of 3.5, I believe we've seen a "flight to quality" in the TRPG segment. Players are increasingly unwilling to buy products they think they can't use - so they buy D&D products, because they think they can use those products universally. As the WoW network predates on the TRPG network, it will be increasingly hard to justify that mentality. I am hearing about far more gaming groups moving on-line and suspending tabletop play than I am the reverse. And that's a trend I think will accelerate.

    Worse, the real profit-making business of D&D is selling core rulebooks. Core rulebooks are sold to younger, new players who are interested in the hobby and are becoming ensnared in the TRPG network externality. WoW blocks that acquisition path - it is much more likely that a young, fantasy oriented, otherwise likely target customer will get diverted into WoW than that they'll pick up D&D or another TRPG. Cutting off the acquisition engine of D&D will kill the TRPG category as a viable business - even if millions of grognards continue to meet and play into their golden years.

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    WoW has advantages over D&D in many respects, for certain. I could play WoW in the middle of Alaska at 2 am for starters. That's the big benefit.

    The other benefit is that if I'm a social outcast, people will continue to accept me in WoW, even if I weigh 800 pounds, and have to scrub myself with a washcloth at the end of a stick.


    For pure social interaction, it can never beat D&D.

    Hell, one could draw the same comparisons between the internet and real life. Yes, the internet is great, but I like to go outside once in a while.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by der_kluge
    For pure social interaction, it can never beat D&D.
    I wouldn't say never. None of us know for sure what the future holds and I suspect CRPGs are going to continue to grow and improve.

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    Quote Originally Posted by philreed
    I wouldn't say never. None of us know for sure what the future holds and I suspect CRPGs are going to continue to grow and improve.
    Broadband has had a huge impact. I know people are talking to each other in real-time now with CRPGS. That level of interaction is a big step forward.

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    I do agree that D&D as a business model (or any RPG) is fairly weak. Once you have the core rule books, there is really not a large reason to purchase more product. That is, once I have a car which can take me to work, there isn't a reason to buy more cars, unless I just want to buy more cars. I already have a way to accomplish what I want to do.

    I don't think WoTC can sustain the "let's release a new edition to revitilize" the market model forever. And there really is no other way to draw a huge influx of people into the industry for a prolonged period of time.

    Let's face it, in our busy, hectic world, people want instant gratification, and games like WoW can do that for them. If you think about it, it's sort of a "pay your DM" model. WoW provides a DM'ing service, whereby you pay a monthly fee for the privilege of being able to sit down at their table anywhere in the world, at any time of day, and play in a full realized campaign, with other players.

    I don't agree that the set of WoW players includes the set of D&D players. Certainly a large percentage of people who play games like WoW could be potential D&D players - are at least of the fantasy mindset, but probably many of them would have no desire to play RPGs in RL. These games also include numerous kids who primarily play TCGs and Video Games, and have no real interest in playing what they consider to be a very old game.

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    Quote Originally Posted by philreed
    I wouldn't say never. None of us know for sure what the future holds and I suspect CRPGs are going to continue to grow and improve.

    It won't happen in my lifetime.

    With a P&P RPG I can adblib anything at a moment's notice. I can build in any NPC, any quest, any dialogue tree - right on the fly. CRPGs can't replace that. If they can, P&P RPGs will die. But again - not in my lifetime.

  9. #9
    What if I want to play some other RPG aside from Fantasy/SciFi/Super Hero? I don't see a Call of Cthulhu MMORPG (Lovecraft Country is great and all, but it is really just a MUD after all) or how about a MMORPG Deadlands. Your options are limited. Also, if I was a third party content creator I think I would take exception with the use of the phrase "flight to quality" being implied as being the same thing as "just sticking with the core rule books". Seems pretty insulting to me. Espescially considering there is some great 3rd party content out there...not to mention other non-D20 games.

  10. #10
    I think TRPGs will have to evolve.

    Hell. The fact that we now need to add the "T" in there dates it. Used to be RPGs and CRPGs and MMORPGs.

    Things like MMearl's Iron Heroes is one step in the right direction (if a little complexified in a needless sort of way). People like rewards. Tokeny-things. They like to be able to bet resources for advantages.

    I think that's why the Action Point system is popular with my players. It's not NEW, and has been around for quite a while ...

    They need a constant-acquisition model, like trading card games and minis and MMORPGs. Something needs to bring people back to the table with frequent, SMALLER purchases. People will nickle and dime themselves right to the poor-house with booster-packs and 15$/mo. payment scales ... the same people that would tell you to jump off a roof if you asked them to pay 40$ for an RPG book.

    D&D desperately needs a booster-pack model if it is going to stay a viable game in the face of technological increases. Not necessarily a Collectable RPG, but something that will entice people into paying LOTS AND LOTS MORE, but over a larger period of time.

    --fje

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