The Fortenite-ification of Everything

I still don't buy the idea that having different settings "fractured" the D&D player base: no one I ever knew refused to buy Forgotten Realms or Ravenloft books because they "only played Dark Sun." Yes, people may have had favorite settings that they focused on, but everyone always bought everything they could in my experience, and ran multiple games in different worlds, including homebrew which they would fill with ideas cribbed material from all the books. Just because Greyhawk was my favorite didn't mean I didn't also buy up Drow of the Underdark and Dragon Kings the moment I saw them, or consider The Code of the Harpers to be one of the best and most interesting D&D books I've ever owned and still crack open to read through today.

Producing more books than they could sell is what killed TSR, not having multiple settings.
 

Comments

Aaron L

Adventurer
Or mine! Everyone I know has a favorite setting for D&D, whether an existing one like FR or a past one like Planescape, and clamor for new stuff in that setting.
I specifically said that we each had our favorite settings but that never precluded any of us from buying books for other settings as well, if only just for material we could mine for ideas and for our preferred world... or simply because most of us liked more than once setting.

My great love of Greyhawk never stopped me from also loving the Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, and Dark Sun as well. While most of us had a favorite setting we liked above any others we all liked the 'Realms enough that we would always be happy to play a campaign set on Toril. But honestly, despite all of this current discussion, probably 90% of all of our group's campaigns were actually set in our homebrew campaign worlds we had spent years designing and building. Our main DM's campaign was set in his homebrew world that expanded and evolved over about 20 years, from about 1991 through about 2013 when he started a new one... and even then he still uses it sometimes. My homebrew world has been going since '85 or so and it is still what I use 95+% of the time. In fact, despite how much I dearly love Greyhawk and its twisted Weird Tales Alternate Dark Age Earth feel, I've probably only ever actually run 2 games set on Oerth. Any time I want to run a game the players clamor for me to use my own world of Alterra, a dark fantasy alternate Earth that's a mashup of Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Arthur Machen, Tolkien, and Lord Dunsany, a fairytale Dark Age Britain overlaid with the Cthulhu Mythos, instead of any others.
 

ccs

39th lv DM
I used to play with a group that only ran DM-written (this is multiple people) campaigns, and I can say confidently, homebrew is not as good as the published material. We were the first and only beta-testers for merely-OK and always overlong "modules" (I was going to say 'wankery').
Homebrew < than published? Really?
Have you ever read/played/run The Forest Oracle as written?

In my xp, homebrew or published material, it's the DM that's the key factor.
 
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Hussar

Legend
IME, slapping a specific setting on a book made it largely a no-sell for most of the groups I played with. I remember [MENTION=2174]Erik Mona[/MENTION] talking about how any Dungeon Magazine that featured setting specific adventures would tank in sales as well. So, yeah, setting specific stuff is generally not the way to go, again, IMO.

That being said, WotC seems to have gotten around this by making everything FR specific, by and large, but, we'll see how that goes as time marches on.

But, I'm not sure it's a case of "emulation" as much as simply parallel evolution. It's not that D&D or Fortnite is copying each other, it's just that they are taking similar paths, albeit to very different audience sizes.
 

ParanoydStyle

Peace Among Worlds
Based on its body text this article would be more accurately titled "the D&D-ification of Fortnite", Mike. Which is a stretch as you know. But looking primarily at the market place of OTHER VIDEOGAMES, yes, there really is a "Fortnite-ification of everything" happening--or maybe "already happened" would be more accurate". Besides the ranks of outright clones, it seems like virtually every post-Fortnite game has needed to include massive multiplayer and/or survival and/or crafting elements. It's a continuation of the trend started by Minecraft which I still don't understand, because I am old.

I am starting to think I will never understand this streaming thing either ("Spectacle"). One of the only things I can think of more boring than watching a stream of someone else playing videogames and talking over them is watching a stream of OTHER PEOPLE having fun playing D&D. And yet, these things are making people boku bucks, catapulting nobodies to stardom virtually overnight, and expanding the D&D fanbase wildly...I guess with D&D it's that the streamers are allegedly "charismatic" or "entertaining" but with that I don't know, they kind of fall into a lose-lose with me. If they're too attractive/charming/witty, they read to me as opportunistic Hollywood-type scum capitalizing on the D&D streaming fad that currently exists: fake gamer guys. And if they're not attractive/charming/witty enough...then it's like...I have personally spent hundreds of hours gaming with people much more interesting than you, I will probably game with people more interesting than you at the next con I go to, why would I want to watch you game?

I know plenty of the forumgoers are probably older than me and probably think it's funny when I refer to myself as old even though I'm in my early 30s. But to me...this feels like the process of becoming "old". I am trying my best to wrap my head around something that young people today like and understand what about it appeals to them and just failing and failing and failing. I don't get what these kids today get out of this streaming crap.

FWIW I don't have a favorite D&D setting as such or at least I change favorites so often that none of them count. Right now it's Greyhawk, before that it was Aereth, a few years ago it was Krynn, two weeks from now it might be a homebrew setting of my own design.
 

Zarithar

Explorer
I can't stand Fortnite... but I get the appeal it has for others. My 12 year old daughter has been playing it for months now, and basically... it's just a chat room with guns.
 

Vanveen

Villager
The article is witless. Fortnite is the *opposite* of RPGs--far more social, far less learning curve, far less friction in general than an RPG. In short, this is why it's so successful.

Those of you arguing about how much and what kind of TSR crap you bought in the 90s--you are literal examples of a cannibalized market. To put it another way, you're not anecdotes...but you ARE anecdata, that is exemplars of weird niches. [MENTION=926]Aaron L[/MENTION], you are a definite outlier in terms of group strength and play frequency. You are a fantastic customer, but you are a TINY market demographic. [MENTION=6724873]Crimson Fist[/MENTION], same thing. Except your tiny market demo is different from, and subtly incompatible with, [MENTION=926]Aaron L[/MENTION]'s. THAT is the problem TSR ran into during the 1990s. Your restaurant will go broke if you are continually making custom meals, even if the customers are gourmet gluttons. You want a customer base of gourmet gluttons who all like your roast duck. For roleplaying, that may be impossible. The duck fans are there. There aren't enough of them.

Hasbro has gradually been professionalizing the ranks of people at WOTC, the important ones anyway. These aren't the folks that get splashed on ENWorld. But you can tell, if you're a fellow product pro, by the fingerprints they leave on what's getting published. They're trying desperately to solve the roast duck problem. But it's more like..."Try our roast protein! You looooove protein!"
 

JBGarrison72

Villager
I'm glad to see Fortnite and 5th Edition compared to each other... it's probably not coincidence that I have zero interest in either (...as mostly follows with my Generation X demographic).
 

MarkB

Hero
I know plenty of the forumgoers are probably older than me and probably think it's funny when I refer to myself as old even though I'm in my early 30s. But to me...this feels like the process of becoming "old". I am trying my best to wrap my head around something that young people today like and understand what about it appeals to them and just failing and failing and failing. I don't get what these kids today get out of this streaming crap.
Yup - pretty funny. I'm 48, and streaming constitutes the majority of my weekly viewing. Age is not the issue.

The main issue is that you're still thinking in terms of watching people play a game. There's a game there alright, but in most of the more successful streams, the game is simply the tool that structures the stories they're playing out. And it's those stories, and the characters that bring them to life, combined with the fact that, being completely unscripted and partially dependent upon luck, they can play out in completely unexpected ways, that creates a compelling viewing experience.
 

Staffan

Adventurer
I still don't buy the idea that having different settings "fractured" the D&D player base: no one I ever knew refused to buy Forgotten Realms or Ravenloft books because they "only played Dark Sun." Yes, people may have had favorite settings that they focused on, but everyone always bought everything they could in my experience, and ran multiple games in different worlds, including homebrew which they would fill with ideas cribbed material from all the books. Just because Greyhawk was my favorite didn't mean I didn't also buy up Drow of the Underdark and Dragon Kings the moment I saw them, or consider The Code of the Harpers to be one of the best and most interesting D&D books I've ever owned and still crack open to read through today.

Producing more books than they could sell is what killed TSR, not having multiple settings.
But having multiple settings is part of why they produced more books than they could sell. At their height*, TSR published something like 100 books per year (not counting novels). Part of that was because many settings had their own splat books - Al-Qadim had the Complete Sha'ir's Handbook (which covered all sorts of Zakharan magic, not just sha'ir), Dark Sun had Defilers & Preservers, Forgotten Realms had Warriors & Wizards of the Realms in addition to books like Pages from the Mages and Volo's Guide to All Things Magical, and so on.

* For certain values of height.
 

Staffan

Adventurer
I don't buy this either. If anything, I think having additional setting material expands your audience.
It does, but probably not in proportion to the effort it takes to make the setting material.

For example, let's say for the sake of argument that there are 6 million players who are interested in playing/buying setting-agnostic or Forgotten Realms material (the stuff they're doing these days). This is supported by 3 books per year. Now, let's say that Wizards decides to release Birthright as a setting for 5e, and do one book per year for Birthright in addition to the 3 books they already do. That's increasing the effort made by 33%. Do you think that Birthright will attract another 2 million players who would not otherwise play D&D?
 

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
But having multiple settings is part of why they produced more books than they could sell. At their height*, TSR published something like 100 books per year (not counting novels). Part of that was because many settings had their own splat books - Al-Qadim had the Complete Sha'ir's Handbook (which covered all sorts of Zakharan magic, not just sha'ir), Dark Sun had Defilers & Preservers, Forgotten Realms had Warriors & Wizards of the Realms in addition to books like Pages from the Mages and Volo's Guide to All Things Magical, and so on.

* For certain values of height.
Agree and disagree. They could have published one or two books a year for each setting along with some non-setting specific stuff, and still produced a lot fewer (and probably higher quality) products. The point is that they wouldn't have had to sacrifice any settings; they just would have had to be smarter with how they made product decisions.
 
I

Immortal Sun

Guest
Kinda skimmed the article the first time, so went back and re-read so I can better respond.

Fortnite's success rests on three pillars, as outlined by Fortune: accessibility, sociability, and spectacle.
Accessibility
On video game platforms, different gaming consoles created different experiences. A player on a laptop could not play with another play on a mobile device, or a Playstation, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch. Fortnite cracked that code. Now all players are playing in the same world -- a world that is easy to play immediately -- and play in the same game. The effects of this are huge, creating a gaming community that is agnostic of which device you play on.
This, however, makes for a poor comparison. Playstation (Sony), Xbox (Microsoft), Nintendo (duh) and "PC" are all separate competing entities. A better comparison would not be to different versions of D&D or different worlds but to Paizo vs. WotC. Arguably, both rule sets are compatible, though you'll still find some players who refuse to do so, still, the divide created between different versions, heck, even different editions of D&D was largely accidental. I'm going to go out on a limb here, but I doubt the goal of a new edition, a new world, or a new version was to divide the players.

With video games, IT IS. It is purposeful in order to enforce "brand loyalty".

More important, like the Basic rules of D&D, Fortnite is free to play. It's all the accessories that cost more, and Epic Games wisely focused its efforts on providing compelling, optional content than on game-breaking rules to entice players to spend their hard-earned money. Converting players is challenging -- a 2% conversion rate is common -- but Fortnite averages an astounding 68.8% conversion rate, spending on average $85!
I find the use of the term "game breaking rules" here quite interesting, so emphasis mine. Is this a reference to loot-boxes and cash shops providing players with items that are game-impacting? Is this also a reference to splatbooks in RPGs that often throw new high-powered options into the mix? It's interesting to refer to either of those as game-breaking. The former, any given player cannot do anything about, the latter DMs can simply refuse to accept the material.


Sociability
Fortnite mimics this aspect too. Players can join games in squads of up to four, although there's no classes or specialization to speak of. Fortnite's map is static, but it changes with each season, providing new goals and new equipment that alters the game in significant ways. In this regard, Fortnite has a lot in common with D&D hexcrawls, in which deep exploration of a map unearths new and exciting adventures.
But lets not forget that the cooperative aspect of the game is a subset of the competitive aspect of the game. An element that D&D entirely lacks. (assuming your DM does not build it into the game) There are still 96 other players, potentially 25 total teams, competing for victory. The other 96 opponents are not NPCs, with predictable actions, paths and traits.

Also, this is kinda starting to sound like an ad for Fortnite.


Spectacle
If D&D had a weakness in the past, it was spectacle. The game was largely confined to small groups playing in mostly non-public areas. Tournaments alleviated some of this, but to the casual observer, seeing actual gameplay was difficult to come by. That all changed thanks to video, livestreaming, and podcasts.
LOLWUT. I may be "in the know" but back in the 4E Encounters days, piratically every store in town was running and advertizing for it. You wanted to see gameplay, you popped right in and watched the group play, heck, you might even join up! Yeah okay you had to get up off your butt, leave your computer screen, possibly drive somewhere, but no more effort was required than going to see the live music Friday night at the bar.

This also affected how D&D was perceived and played. D&D's playerbase has expanded tremendously to encompass people from all walks of life, and the Fifth Edition art has changed to reflect that. More women are playing D&D than ever before, and by making it accessible on channels like Twitch and YouTube, D&D is finding audiences who might not normally have encountered it.
Time keeps on skippin...skippin..skippin...

Woah there's some time travel going on here that could make Portal Through Time look safe. It's weird to talk about how both more women are playing D&D...and D&D's art has changed to reflect that. *coughnomentionofminoiritescough* I mean, chicken or the egg man. And then you throw streaming services into it like they're bringing new groups of people into it (which I'm sure they are) but the way its written here sounds like they brought new people into it, which changed the art, which brought new people into it, which changed the art, I'm so confused!

D&D is also never the same game twice. Because game masters control the flow of the game, even the same adventure played by two different game masters will likely be quite different. This makes it fun to play repeatedly and at length; the tropes may be familiar, but the gameplay is always innovative.
Well, I wouldn't say always, but yeah sure.

Fortnite's
impact is enormous, and it's no coincidence that D&D is experiencing a similar surge in popularity. What makes a good multiplayer game extends across platforms and genres; Fortnite's just capturing what made D&D so special in the first place.
I guess? Frankly, I see it the other way around, I see D&D as finally catching up to what makes a good video game, with the developers finally getting their heads out of the stone-age and seeing that video-games, which once spawned from TTRPGs, can now in return teach them something about what makes for a good game. About what "people" or "the market" are enjoying outside the bubble of their own gaming niche. Knowing what your players want is important in any game, but finding out what people in general are enjoying is important for the growth and longevity of the game. And D&D has struggled with getting new people into the game for decades.

There are threads that both Fortnite and D&D are pulling on that are making them successful right now. These threads exist outside of each individual game and can be seen in other games and other platforms as well. Ease of entry. Low overhead. Low time requirements. Low jargon. Shallow learning curve. Now, I might posit these aren't necessarily positive traits to be seeing on mass society, but they are indeed common.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
It does, but probably not in proportion to the effort it takes to make the setting material.

All settings aren't equal either, which disturbs calculations, some are good, others bad. This is true for games, other entertainment IP, the business is very up and down; so much so that people try to jump on the bandwagon of the latest trend. It's always been this way, and tomorrow there will be a spinoff, and that will be the next new big thing.
 

Hussar

Legend
/snip
LOLWUT. I may be "in the know" but back in the 4E Encounters days, piratically every store in town was running and advertizing for it. You wanted to see gameplay, you popped right in and watched the group play, heck, you might even join up! Yeah okay you had to get up off your butt, leave your computer screen, possibly drive somewhere, but no more effort was required than going to see the live music Friday night at the bar.
You do realize that in the entire United States, during the 4e era, there were about, oh, 1000 gaming stores? That the vast, overwhelming majority of D&D players these days wouldn't even know what a gaming store looks like? That if you took the entirety of every single 4e Encounters player and observer, it likely wouldn't add up to a single episode of something like Critical Role?

There's a touch of difference in scale.
 

Cergorach

The Laughing One
A player on a laptop could not play with another play on a mobile device, or a Playstation, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch. Fortnite cracked that code.
Games have done this in the past, before the proliferation of mobile devices even, based on an RPG no less. Shadowrun PC vs. Xbox. Final Fantasy MMO PS vs. PC. There are others, but none were very successful due to this feature. The platforms themselves have evolved and Fortnite took advantage of that. But that's not why Fortnite got big. Because Fortnite was out far longer and wholly unknown to the public at large, until they made a free to play Battle Royale mode at just the right time. BR games had already exploded previously with different games that were also quite popular, but those games were aimed at a certain target audience, due to Fortnites artstyle and 'humour' they appealed to a far larger audience. Not to mention that the game was far more stable then PUBG.

Sure Fortnite is popular, it ain't revolutionary. Compare it to lifetime of League of Legends revenue, many millions over the last couple of years. But that income is declining, just like PUBG in the BR genre, so will Fortnite eventually decline and be replaced by the next new big thing...

And due to it being the current new big thing everyone tried it once (or trice) and then stopped playing. So lifetime players is like saying how many people walked into a gamestore and not filtering out those who walked right out. A lot of people that are into BR games left for the newer Apex Legends, some stayed others went back to Fortnite and some new players that aren't Fortnite players showed up...

And that 'magic' conversion rate:
After conducting a survey of 1,000 Fortnite gamers, we uncovered some very interesting statistics, including:
Those 200+ million 'players' aren't all those 1,000 interviewed Fortnite players. That is like asking a 1,000 RPG players in a gamestore if they ever bought a RPG book. Not the average player that has ever tried RPGs... You'll get totally different results.

This article reads and feels like "Something hot + D&D, let's write an article!". Added to that a bunch of stats and statements completely pulled out of context.

Where Fortnite is a (team) competitive game, most RPG games are certainly not that. Most RPGs aren't played in gamestores, cons, or tournaments. They are played with a bunch of friends or fellow enthusiasts at home. And where in Fortnite the players need to get good to advance in the game or get destroyed, in RPGs the DM/GM sets the difficulty level at just challenging enough, but still fun.

Maybe if, I close one eye, stand on my head and let a mule kick me in the nuts a few times I can vaguely see some commonality between Fortnite and RPGs/D&D... ;-)
 

LuisCarlos17f

Explorer
Do remember the last years of TSR was in the great kaboom of the videogame industry. Final Fantasy, Stacraft and Diablo II killed AD&D and (almost) Warhammer.

Fortnite will survive when the battle royal games to be out of fashion. It has got the cooperative campaign "save the world" and now the creative mode. It could add new modes, for example a recycled version of the shooter MOBA Paragon

* Sometimes I imagine the future or RPG like a mixture of asymmetric videogames and liveplay show. A group of players would be heroes exploring the dungeon, and other player would be the Dungeon Master creating new rooms and sending minions. With a creative mode to write your own quests, or to do machinima movies.
 

Cergorach

The Laughing One
Do remember the last years of TSR was in the great kaboom of the videogame industry. Final Fantasy, Stacraft and Diablo II killed AD&D and (almost) Warhammer.
BS!

In those days GW was growing:
http://investingsidekick.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/GAW-sales-long.png

TSR was also growing, but TSR got killed by horrible management decisions, not computer games. They overextended themselves and then got screwed by a distributor that ordered a lot, destroyed everything to be returned for a refund. That is what killed TSR, nothing else.

Your also talking about the days that Magic the Gathering was released and growing, ccgs, what computer games?.

TSR was already dead and in WotC hands when StarCraft and Diablo II came out... Hell, when Diablo II came out we were just starting in D&D 3E, at the time the most popular version ever. 2000-2008 is often seen as a D&D golden age... And while WoW is often cited as the reason why D&D 4E failed, they are right, but for a whole different reason then you might think. WotC designed it with WoW mechanics in mind, and while the rules were very mechanically sound, imho it lacked something (and I wasn't the only one). Dune and the original WarCraft were rather niche products, often played when 'social' events weren't happening or a group couldn't assemble entirely.

And while Fortnite will be around after it's popularity fades, just like you can still play EverQuest (1999), but don't expect the same experience/popularity...

Sometimes I imagine the future or RPG like a mixture of asymmetric videogames and liveplay show. A group of players would be heroes exploring the dungeon, and other player would be the Dungeon Master creating new rooms and sending minions. With a creative mode to write your own quests, or to do machinima movies.
You either don't watch enough anime, or too much... ;-)

Many of the streamers/podcasts are entirely personality driven, when (s)he stops, no more stream/podcast. And look around for such folks talking about burnout and what that does for their financial situation, some even have gotten sick and loose most of their audience. The added stress can't be good for their recovery...
 

Staffan

Adventurer
They overextended themselves and then got screwed by a distributor that ordered a lot, destroyed everything to be returned for a refund. That is what killed TSR, nothing else.
I'll agree that that's what struck the killing blow, but there were numerous decisions that lead them a position where that could happen. As best as I can tell, these were the main things that killed TSR:

1. Poor, and in some cases dubiously ethical, management decisions. For example, TSR kept doing Buck Rogers RPGs, and the CEO/owner just happened to also be one of the beneficiaries of the trust that held the copyright. They also tried doing two different trading card games (Blood Wars and Spellfire) as well as a Collectible Dice Game called Dragon Dice. These experiments did not work out well.

2. Selling things too cheaply/paying too much to print them. I recall seeing reports from the takeover that apparently there were some things that cost more to print than TSR got from the distributor when selling them (e.g. the Encyclopedia Magica books, which is why the printings after Wizards took over had regular paperback covers instead of faux leather). If you're losing money on each copy, you can't make that up with volume.

3. Over-extension. TSR had something like a dozen settings - not all supported at once, but I think they were supporting six settings toward the end, in addition to setting-agnostic material. Each of these had numerous products coming out each year, some even multiples per month. Birthright, for example, saw 24 RPG products released in 1995 and 1996. Even if half of these were 32 page "Player's Secrets of ______" regional sourcebooks, that's still a crazy release rate.

4. Overproduction of novels. Back in the mid-80s, TSR had had a previous bout with bad finances, and was saved by the Dragonlance novels. So by the mid-90s, they were cranking them out by the bushel. The problem with novels, and the thing you allude to that eventually did them in, is that they're commonly sold via mass-market book stores instead of game stores.

See, when TSR sells a copy of the Ariya Domain Sourcebook to a game store, that sale is final. If the game store can't sell it to a customer, they just have to suck it up, or try putting it on sale, or something. Either way, TSR already got their money. But when they sell the novel The Hag's Contract to Barnes & Noble, and B&N can't sell it, B&N will just tear the cover off, send most of the book off to be pulped, and turn the cover in and demand their money back. This was going on via their book publisher, Random House, for a while, and TSR paid Random House back with more books. Eventually, Random House told TSR "No, your shlocky books aren't moving. Pay us back in money instead."
 

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