DS, Editorials, Featured, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360

Is The RPG Genre Dead?

by on July 8, 2011 1:30 PM 10

This isn’t meant to upset  or stir fans of the genre, more of an observation of what I’ve been noticing as an industry trend lately. Last week Nintendo upset enthusiasts across the US with their reply to “Operation Rainfall”. The fan-led localization initiative and it’s followers were let down after being told by Nintendo that they had “no plans” of releasing the titles in question in the US any time soon. And while some would argue that the error is on Nintendo’s end, maybe they see something that the rest of us don’t. And come to think of it, I don’t think they’re the only company out there that feels this way.

Ask any publisher lately and it seems as though the RPG has become something of a four letter word. Something that the “average joe” Call of Duty player wouldn’t even glance at if it were on the store shelf sitting next to (insert generic shooter here). Even during a recent demo of Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma, I had a PR person tell me that a video game with dragons, quests, party members, swords, open world exploration, mages, warriors, heavy emphasis on story, and a leveling system wasn’t an RPG. No, according to Capcom, because it’s made by two guys behind Devil May Cry 3 and 4, its clearly an action game through and through. If this game is not a role playing game then i don’t know what is.

As far as Nintendo’s recent take on the subject and “Operation Rainfall”, what I’m wondering is if they see any value in bringing those products to the states. Localization isn’t free you know and one needs to consider how much of their marketing budget is currently going towards the 3DS and pushing software on that platform. We all saw their E3 press conference and the focus on making sure their latest handheld succeeds.

Fans will argue that some of the best RPG titles of the current generation are on the aging Wii and that there is still a market for these titles on the console, but at the end of the day it’s all about ho it affects Nintendo’s bottom line. Unfortunately you can’t pay the bills with critical acclaim. And while fans like to live in the land of make believe and think that these companies have to “do right by their fans”, if it doesn’t make sense in terms of finances, it just isn’t going to happen.

Is The RPG Genre Dead?

"F*ck exploration, let's blow some sh*t up"

How did it get this way? When did the genre that dominated, influenced, and blazed trails for the industry become the red headed step child? IGN recently declared Mass Effect 2 (an RPG, mind you) the best modern game of our time on a recent top 100 list. As a series (key word here) Mass Effect has sold 7.4 Million copies total and that includes Xbox 360,PS3 and PC. In the same amount of time 15 years ago, Final Fantasy VII sold 8.6 million, on just one platform. Some people say that the only reason Mass Effect 2 is so good is because BioWare ditched the role playing elements. That in itself should speak volumes just in case these sales numbers don’t.

Let’s face it, if there’s something as rampant as “ship now, patch later” this generation its “our game has RPG elements.” It can be titles that have absolutely nothing to do with role playing, yet for whatever reason these titles will have a leveling and progression system. The inclusion of the feature has gone to almost laughable heights and has now turned into nothing more but another bullet point for the back of a game’s packaging.

And this is why the RPG, as a genre, seems like if it’s not already dead in some respects, is certainly on it’s way out. Getting experience points these days is as easy as popping in the nearest first person shooter. If you want to level up, just pick up pretty much any video game that’s released in the past 5 years. We’re a culture of Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and now Google +. We want instant gratification in everything we do and that includes gaming. People usually connect role playing to awkward characters, 50 hour campaigns, and endless grind-fests. We don’t want to farm or mine, we just want to level up. We know it and the game publishers know it. That’s why even though they won’t out right say it, the role playing genre is dead, by name alone at the very least.

Join the Discussion

  • http://www.facebook.com/giuseppe.nelva Giuseppe Nelva

    Actually Mass Effect 2 is not as good as it could be exactly because Bioware reduced the RPG elements. That’s so evident that they promised to reintroduce as many as possible in Mass Effect 3.

    Overally, I completely disagre with your analysis. The RPG genre is fully alive, and several great RPGs come out each year.

    Skyrim is one of the most anticipated games this year, and the few lonely poor sods that dared to post negative (and completely unfair) reviews of The Witcher 2 got a kick in the face and their credibility by a ton of angry fans of the genre.

    Despite some trollish wannabe journalists trying to paint it negatively, Final Fantasy XIII-2 will still sell in the several millions, and people will probably enjoy it quite a lot from what we have seen.

    Kingdom of Amalur is gathering lots of attention as well and will probably turn into a sleeper hit.

    That’s just a few examples, but there’s plenty more. The RPG genre is far from dead. It may be less popular than it was before, but it’s undeniably a very profitable venue for many developers. That’s beyond any reasonable doubt.

  • http://www.facebook.com/giuseppe.nelva Giuseppe Nelva

    Actually Mass Effect 2 is not as good as it could be exactly because Bioware reduced the RPG elements. That’s so evident that they promised to reintroduce as many as possible in Mass Effect 3.

    Overally, I completely disagre with your analysis. The RPG genre is fully alive, and several great RPGs come out each year.

    Skyrim is one of the most anticipated games this year, and the few lonely poor sods that dared to post negative (and completely unfair) reviews of The Witcher 2 got a kick in the face and their credibility by a ton of angry fans of the genre.

    Despite some trollish wannabe journalists trying to paint it negatively, Final Fantasy XIII-2 will still sell in the several millions, and people will probably enjoy it quite a lot from what we have seen.

    Kingdom of Amalur is gathering lots of attention as well and will probably turn into a sleeper hit.

    That’s just a few examples, but there’s plenty more. The RPG genre is far from dead. It may be less popular than it was before, but it’s undeniably a very profitable venue for many developers. That’s beyond any reasonable doubt.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Fanets/100001539336962 James Fanets

      I completely agree with everything you just said. Especially about ME2… it seriously got worse because of the lack of RPG elements. 

      Also, FFXIII-2 is totally going to do well, that’s a given. It also looks like it’s going to be better than the original with all the awesome new features (but then again I am apparently in the minority of gamers who enjoyed FFXIII). 

  • Anonymous

    Mass effect. Dragon Age. Fallout. Elder scrolls.

    All of these franchises sell extremely well and are true rpgs. And correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t world of warcraft an rpg too? That has 12 million people playing it. And let’s not forget the millions of wow clones that are also rpgs and have a ton of subscribers. I personally have never played as many rpgs in my life as I have this generation. Back in the day perhaps 1 good rpg would come out a year but in this gen there are at least 3 or 4 “must play” ones any given year.

    The notion that rpgs are dead is even crazier when you see how (as you mentioned) every game has some sort of leveling system. I would argue that if not the games themselves, rpg mechanics are dominating this current gen and therefore makes it the most influential genre. RPG game mechanics are in everything from Ratchet & Clank to Call of duty these days. To me that means that the rpg genre is the most successful since it’s mechanics are in all sorts of games now.

    So are rpgs dead? Hell no!

    Waiting for Chad to give us his 2 cents in 3..2..1…

  • Anonymous

    I don’t agree with the general notion that RPGs are dead, no. Absolutely not. In addition to what Giuseppe and Romudeth said, just the fan reaction to Operation Rainfall, the massive spamming of Namco Bandai’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for the last – oh – three years, to get them to localize more Tales games, the super popularity of World of Warcraft and the fact that Final Fantasy XIII sold over six million copies worldwide should also be added to the mix.

    That isn’t all, either. But I digress.

    I think the issue at hand here isn’t that RPGs are dead, because they aren’t. The issue is that the genre itself, as a whole, is now diluted because everyone and their mother who is making a game these days feels the need to put RPG mechanics into their game, from Forza 3, to Black Ops, to Assassin’s Creed. The genre itself seems to hold little to no meaning these days, because, in general, gamers don’t really know what a video game RPG used to be.

    It’s true that in just about any game these days you’re “taking on a role”, but that isn’t what makes games RPGs. You can’t take it in the strictly literal sense of the genre name. It’s more of a question of game mechanics, story and character progression, certain specific ideologies and design philosophies that make a video game RPG an RPG, not just the fact that you’re taking on the role of someone or something else.

    Last year, Mass Effect 2 was one of the highest selling and most critically acclaimed games to release. This year, I’m positive Skyrim will do the same. Next year, Mass Effect 3 will be the same and FFXIII-2 will sell five million copies. The genre isn’t dead, it’s just diluted because everyone wants to be it, yet no one wants to actually call themselves an RPG.

    • Anonymous

      Couldn’t agree with you more, Chad. The idea that RPGs are dead is a bit… ridiculous, to say the least. Like Chad stated, the issue is that just about every genre in gaming is trying to add some form of RPG element into the game in order to give players a sense of personification regarding the characters (although most don’t work). These falsified concoctions are then labeled as such, and the genre as a whole begins to take an egregious viewpoint from gamers.

      The RPG genre isn’t going anywhere. The issue with RPGs nowadays is the lack of creativity and energy that companies put into it nowadays. Companies that once reigned with fresh IPs, like SquareEnix, and perpetuated nothing but memorable emotions that, even today, we continue to embrace. Is that to say that ALL RPGs this generation are feeble attempts? Absolutely not. The difference with RPGs of today compared to RPGs of yesterday is that most are easily forgettable. There’s no concrete substance that gives us that feeling that we will be talking about them a decade or two from now, with the exception of a few. With today’s generation, a lot of companies — and this goes for all genres — are aiming in bringing a realistic experience through graphics, rather than focusing on a more unique, expressive and emotional story. Sad to say, even though graphics do enhance the experience somewhat, it doesn’t add to the element of subconsciously attaching itself emotionally into our psyche. Games like Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, Breath of Fire, Terranigma, Wild Arms, Earthbound, FFVII, FFX, Suikoden, Grandia, etc. And notice how all of these games are all from previous generations.

      We do have a decent lineup of RPGs this generation. To say that the RPG genre is dead isn’t, at all, correct. But the “RPGs” that we do have are the minuscule titles that we want imported, or take ages to come to our shores (this, of course, doesn’t institute games like Oblivion in this argument).

      The term “RPG” is used way too loosely, or not accurately enough.

  • Anonymous

    Wait Tidus is dead?! WTF?! Where have I been lol!

  • Pingback: Is the RPG Dead? - Digital Ruby

  • http://www.digitalruby.com/is-the-rpg-dead/ Jermhoop

    I think the RPG of the past seems to be dead. With the increase in technology and information, it’s much harder to sit down and enjoy an immersive RPG experience.

    The mobile phone and tablet have made it very easy to pick up a game and play it – and these games are made with little learning curve and made to be picked up and put down at minutes at a time – games like Doodle Jump and Angry Birds, for instance. Sure, the games have great replay value, but they are quick and easy and accessible.

    The old school, classic RPG would rope me in for many hours at a time. Perhaps technology and information have just made our lives too busy for them?

    I think there is room for an immersive RPG still. Many of us who are older (30 and beyond) I think long for the class RPG game, like Baldur’s Gate. As a game developer, I just don’t know how many of us there are who would buy it, so it seems risky to develop it.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective on the RPG.

  • Spencergreenshow

    Joel Taveras is a god damned genius… you’re words will help me sleep a little better

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