The RPG Genre Is Flat-Lining
There was a time when I would note the shift in the role-playing genre; i.e., the death of turn-based and the fact that just about any RPG these days can be considered an "action/RPG." But I've just realized something...the RPG genre itself is dying.
Perhaps it's because so many action/adventure games hold role-playing elements and in general, the boundary lines between categories are becoming blurrier and less defined. Or maybe it's simply because the entire world has an ever-decreasing attention span. Then again, maybe it's just because the influx of casual gamers is essentially squeezing out any title that is - for the most part - reserved for the hardcore. It's probably a combination of all these things...but that doesn't make it any less true. I've been playing RPGs for a good 18 years and because I'm so busy with other things these days (like reviewing a ton of stuff, for instance), I didn't notice the fall of the RPG.
This year, for instance, it's all about Mass Effect 2, Fable III and Fallout: New Vegas, as far as I can tell. I can't get into any of them (except for maybe Fable) because in all honesty, I have trouble defining the likes of ME and Fallout as RPGs. Final Fantasy XIII might be role-playing...hard to say, really. Beyond that, what? A bunch of handheld RPGs (I admit the genre seems to be thriving in the portable realm) and that's about it. Look at 5 years ago: in 2005, we got Dragon Quest VIII, Dungeon Siege II, Guild Wars, Jade Empire, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga I and II, Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, Champions: Return to Arms, X-Men: Legends, and more. And that's hardly the best year for RPGs; I just chose a 5-year span.
Is anyone going to make an RPG besides BioWare, Obsidian, Atlus Square-Enix and Nippon Ichi? The RPG-dedicated studios are going down and the really talented teams apparently don't want to have anything to do with the genre. I guess it's just because they don't sell well enough unless the name "Final Fantasy" is in the title. At this point, I dare say Dragon Age - and maybe Fable - are the only recognizable RPGs in my eyes. I can look at them and go, "yep, that's role-playing." But how much longer will I be able to do that? At this rate, we'll end up with maybe one or two RPGs in any given year and it's only a matter of time before the entire genre disappears...
10/22/2010 Ben Dutka