This is an interesting bit of news that has been circulating around the video game sites. According to an article in Business Management video games have been giving more traditional entertainment industries a run for their money with sales. Comparing the box office numbers of Avatar vs Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (see graphic below), each has taken in over 1 billion world wide in sales.
Even modest returns have gotten some notice with the movie industry. Batman: Arkham Asylum took in unit sales nearly 2 million within the first month (average $45 USD/unit = lots of cash). Warner Bros. decided to get in on the action and take a role in pushing out the sequel, dropping Eidos (the company that developed the game) as the middleman developer.
I notice in this splash page that little blurb on World of Warcraft. Nearly 100 million every month in sales. Everyone that has played D&D knows the inspiration for a lot of fantasy MMOs. Levels, classes, forming groups to battle monsters to gain treasure and magic items, at the core of a lot of these games you can see D&D’s fingerprints all over them. I’m certain there is a chunk of MMO players that cut their teeth on pen and paper RPGs, and moved to MMOs. At the same time, I am absolutely certain there are a young generation of folks that have experienced fantasy worlds solely through video games.
I think the big challenge for the RPG industry is to try and tap into this younger generation and, in a way, ‘take back’ the influence and inspiration D&D and many other RPGs have on MMOs. The incorporation of digital tools is a pretty good step. I’m hoping that that expands even further as improvement in technology allows for more interactive computers. However, I still think some efforts have to be made at an even younger age.
One of the strongest elements about D&D is the social aspect, and that everyone is gathered around the table top interacting with each other. Kid RPGs might be a good step. I think children find role playing a natural extension to a lot of normal play. But I think that boardgames are also a good introduction.
Something physical with miniatures to move around and colorful boards can spark imagination. Also, boardgames have a structured style where there is a winner and an end. It’s a concept that is a little easier to pick up over a continual story like most RPGs. Something that kids can sit down, play for an hour, and move on to something else would fit the bill nicely. I think some companies have picked up on this theme, and even WotC has jumped onto the bandwagon, which I think is a solid move.
I see entertainment growing from a passive form to something more interactive. I think the next big generation will be drawn to forms of entertainment where they are more involved in a story rather than just being an audience member. There is big money here too. So you can bet that industry types will be looking at getting into this market. I think the challenge to RPGs as an industry is to try and reclaim a bit of the very thing they helped create. I think without D&D, you would have never had an Everquest or World of Warcraft. The challenge will be to capture a younger generation that never knew about D&D, and reintroduce them to the world of pen and paper (likely a computer too) RPGs.