Sunday, September 4, 2011

RPGs Are NOT Less Relevant... But Bioware Is

BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk says RPGs are becoming "less relevant" as a genre to the current state of videogaming. I say RPGs are not becoming less relevant to the game industry. Bioware, however, has become less relevant to RPGs. 

Okay, I'll admit that's not entirely fair. Bioware isn't really bioware any more. Bioware is EA games now, and EA games has NEVER been relevant to RPGs.

EA is simply not capable of producing good RPGs. Their corporate culture forbids it. EA is one of those companies that thinks of customers as the enemy. All of EAs games are based on the premise that gamers are mouth breathing morons. That's their audience. It's a huge audience and they serve it well. They make shooters, racing games, and sports games. They don't develop games, they just repackage the same games over and over again and the drooling masses buy them. Most people are, after all, idiots. If you want to sell the maximum number of units of anything you need to cater to idiots.

Here's the simple truth that EA just doesn't get...

Idiots don't play RPGs.

RPG players aren't looking for a casual experience. RPG players are looking for a smart, immersive experience. RPGs are ingrained as part of geek culture, so RPG players tend to understand much more about computers and the technical side of game development than most mainstream game consumers. To make things worse RPG players tend to be genuinely creative and imaginative. This means that the cheap tricks that EA uses to cut corners on development costs are just not going go unappreciated by the RPG crowd. It also means that RPGs will never translate to the mass market the way EA wants it to. They make a ton of money selling games to "the lowest common denominator".

It's not complicated. EA sees this thriving niche market and they see dollar signs. They want a piece of that pie. They buy the best RPG developer in the industry, and then EA groupthink takes over...

"I know," says some EA exec that knows next to nothing about gaming and refers to games using buzz words like "titles" and "product".

"We can broaden the appeal of the genre," he continues, "by making it more accessible (ie dumbing it down), and we can apply the same techniques to RPGs that we've learned producing shooters (racing games, sports games, whatever) to cut production costs. Sure, we may loose a few RPG snobs, but the mass market will gobble it up!

After all, it worked with shooters. It worked with racing games. It worked with our sports titles. It'll work with RPGs too, right? After all, a game is a game.

Then when DA2 falls flat on it's face the simple reason STILL evades them. They announce that the sales are flat because RPGs are "less relevant".

That's a steaming pile of bovine dookie. Us gamers haven't changed. You developers did, and we don't want dumbed down copy/paste games so we stopped buying them.

The reason EA's RPGs are falling flat is because they're trying to broaden their market at the expense of the existing fan base. They are trying to move RPGs out of it's established niche and into the mass market.

And what happened? Where did all these new customers go? Why didn't the mass market embrace the exciting new genre they've been given?

Well, the mass market is composed primarily of idiots, and idiots don't play RPGs!