Why Buy RPGs?

I really do not see the point to buying a new RPG nowadays. There is a plethora of free games available to us now. Fudge, Open D6, OSRIC, and the list just goes on and on.

Make no mistake – these games are good! Just as good as any game that you can buy in the stores. Even more important is that the free offerings are getting better at a pace that is faster than their commercial counterparts are from what I can see. It is as if RPGs are becoming a commodity item.

This changes everything. Big companies like Wizards of the Coast can’t compete with free. This is not like Apple versus Microsoft versus Linux where Linux does not have a huge market share because people need to run software that requires Windows or want to use OS X as part of a lifestyle choice (seriously, this is part of Apple’s marketing strategy). With RPGs the game itself is just a component to enable the group’s fun. If that component does not work you can switch it out easily. Why buy that component when you can get it for free?

The answer might be that people want to support the industry, but I really do not feel like supporting the industry. Individual artists and creators, sure, but the industry? Nah! It has not delivered results that meet my expectations.

You could make a case for buying a new RPG when it is the official release for a licensed property, but such games usually disappoint me. They cost too much and deliver too little in many instances. I can always recreate my favorite licensed property with one of those free RPGs anyhow.

The only two reasons that I can think of to buy an RPG today is:

  1. Price – make it cheap enough to be an impulse buy and I might just buy it.
  2. Extraordinary quality – such a game does appear from from time-to-time.

In the end, this just means that I as a fan of RPGs win. I have plethora of free games, another plethora of relatively cheap games, and a very small selection of extraordinary games with a higher price tag. The best part though is that those extraordinary games will continue to emerge in both the free and the cheap categories instead of the higher price tag category.

I’m sure someone reading this is crying out “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE GAME DESIGNERS???”

I mean, from what I have seen in the business of RPGs the game designers can barely make rent as it is and I am probably being too optimistic with that statement.

The truth is that RPG designers will probably always make crap money, but that if they embrace the change to games being both great and cheap (if not outright free) that this is still better for them. They will probably have to find jobs other than being game designer to support themselves with but their work will reach a bigger audience without the need for an industry to get between them and their fans. Get enough fans to buy a cheap product and you can make some nice coin, if you cut out the middle man that is.

This is wonderful. We as RPG fans can just expect better and better products to come out for cheaper and cheaper prices. At least that is what I am betting on.

So why buy an RPG? Only because you are happy to do so.