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Cryonic

Where have all the Gamers Gone...

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Broke this off from http://www.wegfansite.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1352&page=2

 

I'm still curious about why. Everyone mentions how the market is crap now, but no one seems to attribute it to anything. People don't just suddenly, and randomly, stop doing stuff en-mass. That seems to be the general opinion I'm hearing though.

 

That's the thing. They haven't just quit en masse. What has really happened is that those that made the hobby big have gotten older, married, had children. In other words, have lost the time/interest in the hobby. Yes, new versions of D&D have brought new blood into the industry, but this is an industry that has always been out on the fringe (niche market). Heck, I've noticed that quite a few, if not most, of those posting to this forum have been playing RPGs long enough to remember D6 Star Wars, which would mean they have been playing RPGs for probably 15 years or more (much less than that and WEG would have been dying when they got started). Now look how few are on these boards.

 

~360 on Wegfansite

~300 on Westendgames

 

Now compare that to

10,500 on the Dumpshock Shadowrun Forums

424,942 on Wizard's forums (granted that is D&D, Magic, etc...)

 

I would say that it is primarily because of the generational changes. I started playing D&D now about 20-22 years ago, when I was 10 years old. Now kids who are 10-15 live on video games, don't read, and have as little interaction with their peers as possible. Combine this with the stigma of the game and the difficulty of getting it together and you have a serious problem.

 

When RPGs were growing up, gaming consoles and PCs were not common in the average home, but even then, they weren't exactly popular. Most (probably almost all) of those that play their DS or PSP or Wii, etc... nowadays wouldn't have gotten into RPGs even two decades ago. Now there is less reason to. Want to find a group of people to play something, there are tons of online games (FPS, MMO, etc...) with the added advantage of a bit of anonymity.

 

In my city of 5 million people, most of the gamers I see might have traveled 30 miles to the FLGS for RPGs and "looking for groups". Most of the other "game" stores cater to other markets, mostly miniatures (Warhammer, Flames of War, etc...) and CCGs (Magic).

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Now compare that to

10,500 on the Dumpshock Shadowrun Forums

424,942 on Wizard's forums (granted that is D&D, Magic, etc...)

I don’t know if its really fair to compare WEG to those forums. This iteration of WEG is no where near what WEG was back in its hayday.

 

Also how many of those people are spambot accounts? I know on my forums I had over one thousand register users at one time before we cleaned house of all the fake spam accounts.

 

 

 

When RPGs were growing up, gaming consoles and PCs were not common in the average home, but even then, they weren't exactly popular. Most (probably almost all) of those that play their DS or PSP or Wii, etc... nowadays wouldn't have gotten into RPGs even two decades ago. Now there is less reason to. Want to find a group of people to play something, there are tons of online games (FPS, MMO, etc...) with the added advantage of a bit of anonymity.

 

I’m not sure how old you are or what your frame of reference is but consoles were hot when I was playing D&D back in the day. Atari, Intelli-vision, Coleeco and a host of other made a TON of cash back in the day and the same argument was used then.

 

Honestly, I read the same argument about comics and how their dying too.

 

I’m sure the model train guys and historical battles guys said the same thing in newsletters and fanzines in the 80s.

 

How many people go to Gencon to play Avalon Hill games? Quite a few actually but how marginalized have they become since 1985? When I was a kid and first went to the hobby store we had one maybe two shelves of RPGs and aisle of trains and boxes of war games by the end of the 80’s early 90s those pursuits were pushed to the back of the store to make room for all the RPGs and Warhammer minis. By the mid 90s it was the rpgs in the back with the old yellowing box set battle games and the CCGs were out front lining the walls with glossy foil packs

 

 

The hobby is almost 40 years old and really hit its peak in the mid to late 80’s. I’m surprised there are still as many fans as there are now.

 

 

If we need a scapegoat or a reason I would blame the internet and its creator Al Gore

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If we need a scapegoat or a reason I would blame the internet and its creator Al Gore

 

Personally, I would really love to see the Bible-thumpers come out of the woodwork again and declare that "Dungeon and Dragons is Evil!" One of my family friends had gotten my older brother and I one of the early D&D boxed sets and the moment my folks heard that "D&D is evil!" they took it away. It was too late, I had played the game and telling me that I couldn't have it made me want it all the more! :D

 

Free advertising for the win!

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I still think WoW being released right around the same time as the whole d20/3.5 glut started to wane has a lot to do with it.

 

Yes, there have always been forms of entertainment which people claimed would kill the industry, but didn't. Atari, internet, Magic: The Gathering, etc all had people calling doom on the RPG industry. So why do I think WoW is different?

 

Because WoW has driven people away from a lot of things in life, which have nothing to do with gaming. Not many people got fired for calling in sick too much, so they could play Atari or Magic. Hobbies weren't exactly known for breaking up marriages or ruining the education of otherwise smart people.

 

I say WoW has an incredible effect on the situation because WoW has an incredible effect on the life of 11 million+ people. That's more than twice the number of NRA members, and right around the entire population of Ohio.

 

Anyway, I'm actually not against WoW, and I don't want to sound like I'm demonizing it for cutting into RPG's. It's just a serious beast that can't really be overlooked, in my opinion.

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I've also lost track of how many times a gaming night fell apart because everyone had a raid to attend...

 

Sounds like Vegas is different though.

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Sounds like the same excuses I heard from people playing Everquest before WoW...

 

Everquest did cut into RPG's for a while, but not that heavily. More importantly, the reach was very limited. I think everquest had something like 175k subscribers total at it's peak.

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Guest bave
Everquest did cut into RPG's for a while, but not that heavily. More importantly, the reach was very limited. I think everquest had something like 175k subscribers total at it's peak.

 

Take it from a guy who played EQ. The subscribed they did have were very heavily into RPG's.

 

For every 10 EQ players, you lost 5 RPG players at least. Didn't mean they didn't play RPG's as well, but it certainly meant they were not going to work as hard to get an RPG game going.

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Every few years a new culprit is blamed for the demise of tabletop RPGs: TSR, computer games, Magic the Gathering, WotC, d20, MMORPGs, aging gamer demographics, not enough competition in the industry, too much competition, lack of mainstream marketing, etc. I'll admit that I have been guilty of jumping on the blame bandwagon over the years, but the real blame is RPGs themselves.

 

To have a successful roleplaying experience you need two things: a good group of players and a good GM. Rules and setting are largely irrelevant if you have a good group. The reason our hobby is a niche is because most players aren't good and most GMs are pretty bad. I'm not saying that to be harsh, but just reflecting my experiences as a player and GM. Out of the ten or so GMs I have played under - four were good, six were bad. In the 80s and 90s a lot of players would put up with a bad GM and annoying players because that was all there was. Nowadays with MMORPGs, superior computer game RPGs, and the like, well, why deal with a bad GM when you can have a fair and reasonably decent A.I. for your GM. Sure it's not as good as a good GM, but it's a lot better than a bad GM.

 

Sure people can buy RPG books and enjoy reading them, but our hobby is about playing and it is very hard for people to find a sustainable good experience with tabletop roleplaying. The long running campaigns some of us have run are the exceptions not the rule with the hobby.

 

This is why the hobby remains a niche hobby. Let's be honest, GMing is really hard to do properly and few people agree on what it means to do it properly, but this is both the appeal of tabletop RPGs and its bane. Good GMs give tabletop the edge over MMORPGs, but without good GMs then the whole experience is negative. You can provide some instruction to make people a better GM, but it's also an art form and that is what makes it so difficult. This is why it is a niche and will remain a niche, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

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This is all true, but I think from my own experience, the real problem is the dying of the FLGS. In the 90s the RPG community was some kind of clandestine group. We knew we were in some way different from the general populace and seen as freaks by all other people. Most of us lived normal lives, studying, working whatever and in our free time we went to the FLGS to meet other roleplayers. While in our normal lives our peers tried to convince us that roleplaying is a waste of time and we should try to fit in with the crowd, in our free time we assured each other that being a roleplayer is fully normal and there is no reason to change.

 

Now the situation is different. There are much less FLGS than in the 90s and the remaining are less the living room for players they were in the 90s. We buy many of our RPGs online and meet other players (apart from your own gaming group) only at Cons.

 

But first and foremost, roleplayers are seen as a different kind of freaks now. We were seen as the embodiment of freakism in the 90s, prompting us to seek our friends mostly among other roleplayers. With the FLGS it was easy to find new friends too. Now, we are seen as some kind of backwater freaks. Freaks still but from a forgotten time. Just like what we thought about the fans of model railways. Remember how we used to ask these people why they don't play RPGs instead? Now we are asked by the nowadays freaks, the MMOPGamers, why we don't play their game instead.

 

With the FLGS as our living room gone, we have no one to assure us that our way of living is OK. We are used to be seen as freaks but not used to be seen as outdated. We find no new people with the same mind set as ourselves, no new RPG groups, no new entries into our gaming groups to replace those that are leaving. My gaming groups have changed a lot over the years but in the 90s I had 3 different groups to play with on a regular basis, now there is only one left.

 

What can be done against this trend? Find a new living room for roleplayers!

 

Roleplayers were among the first to use the internet (even back when it still had other names). Some players came as contacts in the internet and I am holding contact via the internet with some former players who have moved away. And there are even new contacts made between roleplayers in MMOs who meet in real live to play RPGs. There are even RPGs played via Internet (as this forum proves).

 

But the internet is no living room, it is a marketplace. In every marketplace you find cafes and even free benches where you can rest and meet other people but the main reason for a marketplace is to sell goods. The FLGS of the 90s were in theory shops but in reality the living room one roleplayer opened for other roleplayers. Now they are first and foremost shops, mostly part of an international franchise. There is no real owner present, only the franchiser and his employees. Of course roleplayers are invited to play there as they were in the 90s. But today the games are often presentation hosted by GMs in the employ of the shop or game companies. And the feeling you are expected to buy is everywhere.

 

We need living rooms for roleplayers with what in sociology they call barrier-free access. This is not as easy as it sounds. Normally this could be done with regular open meetings in pubs but playing RPGs in a pub is no real option. Trust me, I tried it. Some people don't go a pub on principle, really they exist even among roleplayers. Some don't go to this or that pub because they don't like the music, the regulars, the smoking, the non-smoking... And if you play RPG in a pub you have the feeling as if you were in a zoo, behind the bars.

 

So, we need living rooms for roleplayers with barrier-free access that are no pubs. If they exist, how do roleplayers and more importantly newbees get to know them? You need ads. To place ads you need money and a monetary concern. This was all true with FLGS. There is another option - the club. But clubs are seen as things of the past (at least in germany). The RPG clubs are loosing members for years. Most of all, they are not barrier-free. Most people don't go to club meetings just to look what people are doing there and if they do they will soon be asked to join. This is the opposite of barrier-free access.

 

So, we need living rooms for roleplayers with barrier-free access that are no pubs or clubs.

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Guest bave

Gluck with that. FLGS are gone and won't be coming back. The few that remain are struggling and dying, but slowly and surely dying.

 

Economics always wins out. Who pays $30 for a book when you can get it for $21 on amazon and get it sooner, and delivered to your house. Sure, people love to "support the local store", but it doesn't matter. You have a shrinking audience, a growing threat of online piracy, and online competition that you can't compete with.

 

Its all percentages. If an FLGS in their hayday was making 10% overhead profit, and they lose 10-20% of their customers, they are done. If you don't think that has happened, you are in a false reality.

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I talked with the owner of one of my FLGSes yesterday and basically here's what I got out of it:

 

He makes his money off of people who can't wait the 2-3+ days for something to order/ship from Amazon.

 

He sells everything at retail prices with occasional discounts to repeat customers (by way of coupons sent out from his customer database.)

 

He mentioned things like offering a place for gamers to gather and tables to play, but those don't make him any money unless he charges for such services (he doesn't) or said gamers buy stuff. Considering I have not yet met a gaming group from his store, I have none of the blind loyalty ("support your local FLGS!") that my fellow customers have.

 

He even told me about one customer who asked about prices for buying a box of Magic Cards from him ($140) vs Amazon ($80). Apparently the guy scoffed, and didn't buy a box, but then came back over the next week and bought enough booster packs at retail prices, that he basically bought a box worth.

 

So from what he told me: if you have an impatient, lazy, ignorant, or blindly loyal customer base you can make money as a FLGS. Apparently, patient, informed, price-conscious shoppers like myself are an oddball and he doesn't need me to keep his business in the black.

 

Btw, this all came up cuz I asked if he was willing to negotiate price on Fires of Amatsumara. (He wasn't willing to negotiate.)

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Yeah, the FLGS is more of a "because it's there" or "because you want to support it" rather than a "because it's got good prices on things."

 

And if I FLGS does things correctly, they can help foster more gamers. If there are groups at the FLGS that are open to the idea of inviting new people in without overwhelming a new gamer or scaring them away, they you can easily work on building up what's lacking the most in gaming nowadays: new blood.

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Everquest did cut into RPG's for a while, but not that heavily. More importantly, the reach was very limited. I think everquest had something like 175k subscribers total at it's peak.

 

Try closer to 450k, but yeah, not nearly as many as WoW... But then, how many RPGers are there?

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There are really only two FLGS up here. One survives quite nicely by branching out into pop-anime products, trend-based items such as posters and lava lamps, and some used video game sales (mostly from 8 and 16 bit era). The other is supported by RC equipment, some of which is pretty expensive. FLGS's *can* make it work, but they cant' rely on selling RPG's and CCG's to pay the bills.

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Try closer to 450k, but yeah, not nearly as many as WoW... But then, how many RPGers are there?

 

yeah, I should have double checked that number last night, lol. thanks :)

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i do honestly believe wow would be a quiet bad thing to blame. in my 21 years lots of things have changed, people stopped visiting each other, people gave up reading(pretty much only "old" people read now a days). that is what i think will lead up to the death of tabletop entertainment in general. i wont go as far as to blame it on anything but lack of interest in the general public.

 

we shouldnt think that the rpg hobby is the only thing dying out either, tv used to be a social activity where you invited friends and family to watch the news, model railways, matchbook cars, news papers(well perhaps not quiet but its coming, this can be blamed on the internet on the other hand), cartoon violence, proper knowledge in the ability to read and write(clearly displayed here :P)

 

my point, there are to many factors to blame so to mention one is almost as much faulty as pulling nails with a hatchet(believe it or not i found that quiet cleaver after a six pack at 4am) :P

 

and as far as the factors go, culture change, tv, computers, internet and religion(some still think its an evil thing). those are only the first things to spring to mind im sure there are loads more.

 

 

further more the gamers are out there, just need to help them realize they are geeks deep down inside ;)

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I guess I'm pretty lucky then, having a FLGS that seems to be doing pretty well. I have to special order what I want, since I mostly want more fringe stuff, but the owner happily brings it in and gives me a discount. Based on inventory and who I see in the store, he makes most of his money on CCG's and wargames (Warhammer 40K and Warmachine, mostly). He has tables to play on, and little to no pressure to buy.

 

This thread does bring up a thought I've had for a while. Perhaps the direction needed for RPG's would be a game room business. A place where you can rent a room, similar to the study rooms in libraries, and play there. Some rooms could include terrain for wargaming, others whiteboards with a grid for maps, or even wireless networking for those using RPsools.net software. Gaming books and supplies would be availible for sale, such as dice, pencils, etc. But the place would make its money on renting the rooms, say on an hourly basis. It may take a bit to catch on, but it could have potential.

 

Sevya

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This thread does bring up a thought I've had for a while. Perhaps the direction needed for RPG's would be a game room business. A place where you can rent a room, similar to the study rooms in libraries, and play there. Some rooms could include terrain for wargaming, others whiteboards with a grid for maps, or even wireless networking for those using RPsools.net software. Gaming books and supplies would be availible for sale, such as dice, pencils, etc. But the place would make its money on renting the rooms, say on an hourly basis. It may take a bit to catch on, but it could have potential.

 

Sevya

 

This is why nearly everything I have done has been through a university game club setup. We get rooms in the Student Union for free, complete with all that stuff, but you have to set up and tear down yourself. Storage is simple enough if the club has an office, and if not, there are usually wall lockers that can be reserved for game supplies. True you have to hunt down the actual products, but that's simply a matter of tracking down a good supplier and ordering what you need.

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...This thread does bring up a thought I've had for a while. Perhaps the direction needed for RPG's would be a game room business. A place where you can rent a room, similar to the study rooms in libraries, and play there. Some rooms could include terrain for wargaming, others whiteboards with a grid for maps, or even wireless networking for those using RPsools.net software. Gaming books and supplies would be availible for sale, such as dice, pencils, etc. But the place would make its money on renting the rooms, say on an hourly basis. It may take a bit to catch on, but it could have potential.

 

This is exactly what I was talking about. I was not whining about how the FLGS and times have changed but looking for a replacement. Be it commercial or non-commercial. I toyed with the idea of games rooms for rent for a while but believe the commercial basis is too small. A non-commercial version on the other hand could work or a blend of commercial rooms for different uses (Lan-Parties, storage, band rooms...)

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This is exactly what I was talking about. I was not whining about how the FLGS and times have changed but looking for a replacement. Be it commercial or non-commercial. I toyed with the idea of games rooms for rent for a while but believe the commercial basis is too small. A non-commercial version on the other hand could work or a blend of commercial rooms for different uses (Lan-Parties, storage, band rooms...)

 

I've seen quite a few small businesses that have sprung up around renting space/computer time to kids and what not for gaming and such. The problem with wanting to rent out rooms is that retail space isn't cheap. The game room at my FLGS occupies half the space and holds about 8 tables in close proximity. The advantage of the lack of walls and doors is that they can use more of the floor for actual tables/gaming and easily reconfigure it for other kinds of games. Like switch from Warhammer on single 4'x8' tables to two sets of 4'x32' tables for larger Apocalypse games.

The store isn't geared for or designed to handle LAN parties which would consume a lot more power and need a lot more outlets and fuses to take the load. They only have a few outlets for a couple of laptops for the various gamers. I don't think I've seen more than 1 or 2 laptops there on any given day. They also do special events like a monthly Boardgamers evening. They close the store and until midnight people can play all kinds of games (based on what all was brought in). Good way for people to play those games that need more players and/or time to play than they might normally have at home with family. This also works as the players are more likely to buy copies of said games :)

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