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January 7th, 2007, 22:34
Originally Posted by Hedek View Post
My point is, ok, even if PsT Fallout and Arcanum sales didn't reach astronomic numbers, would it really be taking a too great risk for a publisher today to produce this kind of "old school, deep, enthralling RPGs with complex stories" ?
I mean how much would they cost ? Would I be wrong if I said most of us fans of such games don't care that much about the engine or fancy effects, doesn't that cut the costs by a great bit ? I don't even care for full voice-over, I love the Fallout approach where only key NPCs are voice-overed.
A main story writer, quest writers, a few designers adapting/reusing an existing engine. Imagine a new game release reusing the PsT/BG2 engine (is that Infinity2?) or the more modern ToEE engine but with a brand new story, memorable characters, all those non-cosmetic things we truly care for, wouldn't that really please us, would you be willing to pay $40 for that. I understand such a game wouldn't sell much because the main ingredient for massive sales ("breath-taking graphics") isn't there, but perhaps it can be profitable thanks to low costs making it. Any thoughts ?
You're asking for games in the "middle" tier, which is arguably the most difficult area to operate. I agree with what you are saying but it's harder than it looks - the loss of this area of the market is the primary reason there are few RPG releases these days.

Obviously top-tier AAA games can potentially make a lot of money, so it's clear why publishers pursue these types of games. A genuine hit can capture a lot of mind-share (WoW or Oblivion). A middle-tier game isn't promising much profit in the first place, so the risk vs gain equation doesn't really entice publishers. Retail shelves are increasingly squeezed for space, so they know there's a good chance a low profile title just won't get bought or two copies will be stuck out the back in the storeroom. Don't forget that while games like PS:T and Fallout didn't exactly get huge promotion, Interplay was a reasonable sized publisher and they were current technology games. Would PS:T sell even 400k copies if it was released now? I don't know.

What we need is self-funded indies, but that's not so easy, either. There's a reason Jeff Vogel is one of the very few full-time RPG developers. I assume you want better than Spiderweb's graphics, right? (By the way, estimates of Jeff's games are usually 5000-10,000 copies.) So, let's say we have a tiny team of 5x devs and produce a decent product in 2 years. That's at least $500,000 in development costs…would you be willing to sell your house to fund that gamble? What if we need 10x staff, which doubles the cost?

If you are relying on digital distribution, what's the market history? What is the best performing RPG sold exclusively through DD? Who knows.

Hopefully, games like Age of Decadence and The Broken Hourglass can shine a little more light on the potential of this. Otherwise, Russian and Eastern European games can exist in this marketplace because they are cheaper to produce.

-= RPGWatch =-
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