tav_behemoth (tav_behemoth) wrote,
tav_behemoth
tav_behemoth

RPGs and model railroads

At the Future of the Gaming Industry panel at Gen Con SoCal, princeofcairo suggested that model railroading was a good metaphor for RPGs. He used the metaphor mostly to suggest that RPGs might be also a niche hobby that had peaked at some point in the past and would never regain that peak of popularity, although the aging cadre of devotees would stick with it and have more time and money to devote to it as they grew older. (The things I wish I'd said at the panel are here). As the father of a train-obsessed boy, I can draw some other parallels:
  • Even before the panel, I'd often use model railroading as a way to explain the publishing niche Behemoth3 occupies to non-geeks: "It's like you're really into Lionel trains; you already have all the equipment, but these books show you new things you can do with them."
  • Some people are able to make some money doing model railroads, like the folks who set up the Christmas train display at the Citicorp building in Manhattan, but they're always fanatics first and profiteers a distant second.
  • Hardcore model railroaders don't buy any new materials and disdain those who work from commercial kits: they get the original train schematics, scale and cast their own pieces, and assemble their trains by hand.
If these hardcore types in gaming are more resistant to attrition, while the number of kids who do want to buy premade stuff will dwindle proportionally, that's bad news for the profiteers among us. Of course, Charles Ryan says Wizards of the Coast's 2004 market surveys show that the audience for D&D roleplaying materials is still growing and is bigger than at any point in D&D's history; make of this what you will.
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