RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Jan 16th 2014 at 03:01:25 PM by (Fleach)
Posted under RPG, Sales, Genres, Revenue, Games Industry, Steam, Digital Distribution, Platforms

Bonus Super Awesome points if you know the connection between the picture and this article's topic

The video game industry is huge; it's one of the fastest growing industries alongside film. Now with outlets like Steam, Origin, and a myriad of digital distribution platforms gamers have more ways than ever before to play and experience the latest of what the creative minds in games have to offer. There are also more developers many who owe much to crowd funding and self-publishing. So why, with all these creators, retailers, and distributors, don't we see more RPGs?

The primary point of attention is that members of the games industry, like any other industry, are out to make money. Many people have said it before, myself included, that when it comes to games we vote with our dollars. Kickstarter is the perfect example of this. If a project interests you and you want to see it come to fruition you back it financially. It could be the genre, the developer, or an exciting gameplay mechanic that entices you to pledge support. Looking at Double Fine and their crowd funding campaign for Broken Age shows us that a genre once considered long forgotten still has eager and enthusiastic fans. Without digressing too much, this particular game might have benefited a fair bit from the "right time, right place" idiom. Without Telltale Games' The Walking Dead becoming a huge success we might not have other point-and-click adventures like Kentucky Route Zero (which is super cool and very eerie!) or the aforementioned Broken Age.

Still, could RPGs experience a similar revival? It's important to look at the numbers when considering this question. In 2012 the video game industry generated approximately $21 billion in revenue1. That's a lot of sales. To put that into perspective, if that total were to only be physical retail games priced at $60 it would equate to 350 million games sold. But this number includes handheld, mobile, DLC, and digitally distributed games which made up nearly $15 million of this total. This all indicates that gamers are spending large sums over various platforms and even within games. At the top of the sales charts is the action genre accounting for nearly one quarter of the total revenue.

At least RPGs outsold racing games. Take that Forza 5!

It comes with no surprise that action games represent the top selling genre. They're fun. They're fast-paced. They have explosions! Simply put, they echo whats popular in the film industry. This is not wrong by any means; ever since video games have become bigger and more cinematic they would naturally be influenced by big budget, high grossing movies. From a gamer point of view action titles play an important part in gaming libraries. The gun fights test a player's hand-eye coordination, and reacting to sudden events challenges a person's reflexes and reaction times. These are all vital skills to have in real life, so in a strange way it can be said that action games prepare us for unexpected circumstances. Video games in general have real life benefits. Look at the case of the 10-year-old boy whose Mario Kart playing helped him steer a car to safety (Article here).

It can be, and likely is, argued that Role Playing games can benefit players as well. These games require map reading skills, strategic thinking, and anticipating an opponent's next move. Not an as exciting skill set, but next time you outwit someone thank Fire Emblem.

"Create a distraction by throwing a stick away from the Sasquatch, toward the forest"

The unfortunate reality that many RPGs face is that the games usually receive poor publicity and marketing. This ends up with people calling these games "niche," but the case really is that the public and the advertisers have brought about this classification. It's a cyclical correlation that few people buy these games because of the little efforts spent towards promotion. If the next Final Fantasy had TV commercial slots like Fifa 14, or got more attention from the games news outlets the game could have the potential to reach a wider audience. This would ideally translate into greater sales, and ultimately into more games of the genre.

But that's wishful thinking.

Yes RPGs don't have as wide an appeal as other genres, but to debate this ends up in bickering over small things. Games of all genres have noteworthy qualities and nitpicking certain personal gripes just shows fanboyism and unwillingness to try something different of the gaming population. Sure, RPGs are overlooked, but there are too many factors to overcome to completely remedy the situation.

Perhaps the bold new ideas we can see from developers collaborating with genre veterans2 will prove that there enough people who love these games to bring forth an RPG renaissance. We'll just have to wait and see.

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I'm guessing the first pic has to do with all the themes Kubrick hid in The Shining.
@Flee: I like it, but it's not that deep. Think of the article's theme and the movie's setting.

Hope you enjoyed reading this blog!
good article! i think you hit the nail on the head with the marketing point, but the other key side of it is the length of the games. most action games can be finished in 6-8 hours, whereas most RPGs require huge time investments, in some cases as much as hundreds of hours. that can be enough to deter even the most experienced of gamers, let alone the average person just looking for some casual entertainment.
Love the Shining pic!

Other than the sudden surge of RPGs translated to the West on the coattails of Final Fantasy VII's popularity, it has felt to me that the rate of RPGs brought over has always stayed consistent, albeit slow.

In just the last few years, my backlog of RPGs grew with the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, the Hyperdimension Neptunia Trilogy, the Dragon Age games, Skyrim, the Record of Agarest War trilogy, Ar tonelico Qoga, the Atelier PS3 quadrilogy, Disgaea 3,4, and D2, the Guided Fate Paradox, Mugen Souls, Ni no Kuni, Tales of Graces f, Tales of Xillia, Time and Eternity, both White Knight Chronicles, Etrian Odyssey IV and Untold, Project X Zone, SMT Soul Hackers, SMT Devil Survivor Overclocked, SMT IV, Persona 4 Golden, Ys Memories of Celceta, Ys Oath in Felghana, Ys Seven, Radiant Historia, Trails in the Sky... and that's just from a quick look around my game-room, and not counting digital games I bought on sale.  Not to mention mobile/tablet games like Shadowrun and the redone Baldur's Gate games.  And not counting ones I actually finished, like the Mass Effect trilogy.

Sure, not all of those are that great, and some are variants of RPGs such as SRPGs or western RPGs.  But I can't even keep up with the pace now.  Although I'm very interested to see what a 'next gen' RPG will look like.
The Overlook Hotel. Boom.
i think the time-factor is a strong argument that holds many people back from RPGs. It's also easier for me to play an half hour of NBA, NHL or race some rounds in Gran Turismo, when i know there are still things to do afterwards. I only put in the RPGs when i know that i will have at least 2 hours to play them that day, because i want to sink into the gameworld, and traveling, searching and preparing items in menus often takes it's time. Also most action-, sports-, and racingtitles are much better to share with friends. If it is not some online-RPG like WOW or something like that, it is hard to come togehter for such a long time to finish the games...i guess that only could be accomplished as kids back then in summer-holidays with your friends in the neighbourhood. But you are right, marketing takes it's toll for sure, too. thanks for the article!
@Duke.Togo: Winner!
@Duke.Togo: Bonus Super Awesome point unlocked!

@slackur: I can't say there are fewer RPGs now because that's not true, but they're so burried beneath other games that many don't reach a wide audience and end up overlooked or forgotten.

I'm also looking forward to the next gen RPGs, both western (Dragon Age Inquisition) and Japanese (FF XV). Not to mention Japanese influenced WRPGs like Child of Light. Cheesy

@ericeskapade: Glad you enjoyed the article. And yes, these games are huge time investments and does push many players away, but on the other hand, you get an experience you can't find elsewhere. By guiding the game characters on their journey you go on your own little journey and I find that incredibly fun.

I'm so happy with the discussions going on here. Thanks guys! Smiley Great motivation to keep writing.
Fleach, a Shining Force indeed.

Don't forget that JRPG powerhouse ATLUS was bailed out by Sega this past year.  Let's hope they can pool their talents and revive some old franchises.
Let's not forget the huge review bias against JRPGs.
@OatBob: and @GrayGhost81: Those are both great points. JRPGs don't get very much attention at all. As for Atlus games, I know about them but haven't played one. Gotta do something about that problem soon.

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