Thursday, February 26, 2009

Meanderings on Market Glut

Last weekend, after we finished up with S&W (and my unfortunate companions had finished rolling their replacement characters), I took a stroll through the shelves of the FLGS that kindly hosts our game. The shelves had kind of a graveyard vibe to them...a wall of d20 stuff, mostly Eberron and 3rd party material, all marked down to 50% retail price. Some of the stuff was 3.0 and clearly had been on the shelf a long time. I found obscure core books of games I'd never heard of, stuffed between the White Wolf games and the GURPS section. (Which in itself contained a lot of old stuff from GURPS 3rd; some even had faded covers.) I found games that I'm reasonably sure are out of print now. Before me was a glut of books, a sprawl of supplements, and all I could think was what a tremendous waste it all was. Many of the supplements are so specific as to be useless to all but niche gamers or autistic collectophiles.

I think perhaps I'm being too harsh. Recent discussions on my blog roll have brought to light the peril of gaming being a supportable industry, and as I picked through the books it made even more sense. Publish too much non-core material, and people accuse you of spitting out fluff. Put out too much core material and people bitch about how you have to buy so many books in order to play the game. I don't envy any company that is trying to make it's bread and butter with RPG books. At the same time, I wonder how many d20 books on war and seafaring and abominations we really need. I also wonder why anyone would buy Dark Champions: the Animated series when the plug on the back pretty much tells you how to do what the book proposes. (That is, play Dark Champions with the violence and grit toned down. Look, I just told you how to do it in even less text than they used.) I'm not picking on Champions (or Dark Champions), but you get the idea... the rpg market seems pretty flooded to me, and has seemed so for a long time. It just seems like there's so much creativity and effort that's being spent on....what, another book of bloodlines for Requiem? (They're on the third one now, methinks) Splatbooks that microdetail every class or faction? The Quintessential Elf 2? Was the first book not quintessential enough? It just doesn't seem like there's anything worth my dollar on the shelf anymore. Maybe I'm being a dick. Certainly anyone who designs rpg books for a living has a sweet job... but as a gamer these days, I find myself buying less and less because I've seen it all before. Unless I'm forgetting something, the only gaming book I bought in 2008 was the core book to the new Hunter. (Actually, I didn't buy was a birthday present from my wife)
I want to support those gamers who are lucky enough to produce games for a living... I want to support the FLGSs in my area, but I'm not going to buy shit just because it's there, you know? Right now, the only games I really want to buy are various retro clones, but most of those are graciously given away by their authors via PDF.

Sorry if I come off as ranty, but this is something that's been on my mind for awhile and I just thought I'd share it.

EDIT: Not sure how I could've forgotten about this, but I did buy the 4th edition core books in 2008. Of course, I plan to be rid of them in the very near future, as I have given up on the new edition after seven months of trying very hard to like it.

1 comment:

  1. it is kinda a bummer that there's such a glut of product - maybe somebody gets something out of it, i don't much.

    i think that the PDF/grog 'fan-product' thing going on right now is amazing! It's
    setting up an environment more like the years in which the game started - where people sold games in dragon magazine in classified adds - reading on Tim Kask & Gygax's early years, you read that they talked on the phone for hours about gaming, etc
    Where it was kinda a struggle for gamers to connect back then, it's way less so now...