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Thread: RPGs go mainstream in the west

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    Default RPGs go mainstream in the west

    Hey, just had an interesting discussion point for the good people of the digitpress forums. What do you think ushered RPGs into mainstream entertainment here in the west? D&D or FFVII?

    Personally, I think Final Fantasy VII is the game that broke down the perceived barrier that was around the genre for most gamers, but what do you think? Really just curious is all. Looking for some interesting conversation.
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    Technically Zelda II got many gamers to play an action RPG without even realizing it was that. If it weren't for the experience points, it wouldn't be but it is.
    [quote name='Shidou Mariya' date='Nov 17 2010, 10:05 PM' post='4889940']
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    Not as extreme as Rickstilwell though.[/quote]


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    Video game RPGs didn't break into the mainstream until Final Fantasy VII came out. They were never extremely popular until then, maybe Americans preferred real-time games? Nintendo did have to give away copies of Dragon Warrior, but Final Fantasy VII and every one past that needed no help.

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    D&D was the inspiration for many early titles. FFVII mainstreamed it because it was easy to get into. Most early ones either used passwords or had 1 save slot, a deal killer for a family sharing a cart. They also tended to have a higher grind (Most Square Soft), awkward gameplay (Final Fantasy), bad ports (some Falcom), expensive hardware (Lunar, the best Falcom too.) or a high price tag (Phantasy Star series).

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    I know as far as Nintendo goes, RPGs were mostly popular with subscribers of Nintendo Power Magazine.
    [quote name='Shidou Mariya' date='Nov 17 2010, 10:05 PM' post='4889940']
    I'm a collector, but only to a certain extent.
    Not as extreme as Rickstilwell though.[/quote]


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    The fact that they made about a trillion Ultima and Might & Magic games suggests to me that they were, at least, not that far outside the mainstream. Ditto for the Gold Box series. Dungeon Master seems like it was a big hit at the time, and it was also widely imitated. I think LandStalker too, because quite a few games were billed as its successor in some way.

    Its RPG status is somewhat debatable but Sid Meier's Pirates! was certainly a mainstream success. Hell, Diablo came out before FF7.
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    The PC market up until about 2000 is kind of funny. Not everyone owned a computer, so what sold well on the Windows platform doesn't necessarily represent the mainstream. Sure, D&D RPGs did well, but it makes sense if you think about the old computer nerd stereotypes.

    I would argue that RPGs really reached the "mainstream audience" with Oblivion and KOTOR as a result of the increase in accessibility. Final Fantasy VII helped, but look at its influence on the market. Did other subsequent PSX RPGs go on to sell as well in the US?

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    Final Fantasy VII and Pokemon, really. Final Fantasy VII was one of the most popular RPGs with an immersive story. Pokemon Red and Blue gave people a simple and addictive concept that introduced many people to the concept of selecting a party and leveling up.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retronick View Post
    Hey, just had an interesting discussion point for the good people of the digitpress forums. What do you think ushered RPGs into mainstream entertainment here in the west? D&D or FFVII?

    Personally, I think Final Fantasy VII is the game that broke down the perceived barrier that was around the genre for most gamers, but what do you think? Really just curious is all. Looking for some interesting conversation.

    Lets see;

    Infocom Games
    Ultima
    The Bard's Tale
    Wizardry
    Might & Magic
    SSI Gold Box PGs
    Fallout
    Baldur's Gate

    We've always loved good RPGs and they certainly existed around here before Final Fantasy came along.

    So what got me into RPGs? The first game that I remember playing that got me into adventure and RPGs was Adventure for the Atari. At the time I used to always buy Electronic Games magazine with money that I made from mowing lawns or shoveling show as a kid and I would always be amazed by the previews and reviews for the computer game RPGs since they wee such an upgrade over my Atari. (I kind of consider Infocom games as early RPGs). Once I finally made enough to purchase an Apple iic there was no turning back I was hooked on adventue and RPGs. This was back in '83, before there even was a Final Fantasy.
    Last edited by Griking; 02-11-2012 at 12:04 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BetaWolf47 View Post
    Final Fantasy VII and Pokemon, really. Final Fantasy VII was one of the most popular RPGs with an immersive story. Pokemon Red and Blue gave people a simple and addictive concept that introduced many people to the concept of selecting a party and leveling up.
    I'm inclined to agree with BetaWolf 47.

    While RPGs had certainly been somewhat popular before, Final Fantasy VII seemed like a phenomenon when it came out. I remember it being THE reason to own a PlayStation. This game brought in a lot of people who had never played RPGs before, and came out at a time where many RPGs weren't being released in the US (Dragon Quest V and VI) or received limited print runs (Earthbound) due to low sales. The gorgeous cinematics, the ease of the gameplay, and the climate of gaming at the time created a near-perfect storm for this title's success.

    Pokemon was (and still is) incredibly mainstream. More importantly, it introduced many gamers to RPGs, specifically children.

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    It's all relative. I would argue that RPGs in general still aren't mainstream. We are not the norm. Gamers who get on online gaming message boards in general aren't the norm. The norm is stuff like Halo, Madden, Gears of War, etc. etc. Western RPGs are still basically a niche of the computer nerd stereotype. Japanese console RPGs are still a niche sector of console gaming as well. Final Fantasy VII may have sold a lot better than the RPGs before it and it may have been heavily hyped in some magazines of the time (like PSM), but it's not what made the PS1 a huge success in the US. It may have attracted some more mainstream-type gamers to give it a try, but they didn't suddenly become huge RPG fanatics buying up everything. Almost all of the other RPGs on PS1 were still exclusively the territory of hardcore gamers. Same goes for most on PS2 and so on.

    Looking at singular titles, I'd say the most mainstream RPG for computers I guess would be World of Warcraft and for consoles it would be Pokemon. But, again, in the majority of cases of those who play those titles, they didn't suddenly become huge RPG fans buying stuff like Shin Megami Tensei and what have you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie2B View Post
    It's all relative. I would argue that RPGs in general still aren't mainstream. We are not the norm. Gamers who get on online gaming message boards in general aren't the norm. The norm is stuff like Halo, Madden, Gears of War, etc. etc. Western RPGs are still basically a niche of the computer nerd stereotype. Japanese console RPGs are still a niche sector of console gaming as well. Final Fantasy VII may have sold a lot better than the RPGs before it and it may have been heavily hyped in some magazines of the time (like PSM), but it's not what made the PS1 a huge success in the US. It may have attracted some more mainstream-type gamers to give it a try, but they didn't suddenly become huge RPG fanatics buying up everything. Almost all of the other RPGs on PS1 were still exclusively the territory of hardcore gamers. Same goes for most on PS2 and so on.

    Looking at singular titles, I'd say the most mainstream RPG for computers I guess would be World of Warcraft and for consoles it would be Pokemon. But, again, in the majority of cases of those who play those titles, they didn't suddenly become huge RPG fans buying stuff like Shin Megami Tensei and what have you.

    Skyrim may disagree with you. Games like Fable, Fallout, Dragon Age, Mass Effect have also done pretty well in recent years.

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    And most people playing those games probably haven't ventured outside of those. Specific games can be pretty mainstream, but RPGs as a genre can't be considered mainstream when the vast majority of them are only bought by diehard RPG fans.The typical guy that buys Skyrim or Pokemon probably isn't buying Sakura Wars, Mana Khemia, Ar Tonelico, etc.

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    They might not jump into JRPGs, but the casual player that played Oblivion is somewhat more likely to pick up Mass Effect or Dragon Age.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie2B View Post
    And most people playing those games probably haven't ventured outside of those. Specific games can be pretty mainstream, but RPGs as a genre can't be considered mainstream when the vast majority of them are only bought by diehard RPG fans.The typical guy that buys Skyrim or Pokemon probably isn't buying Sakura Wars, Mana Khemia, Ar Tonelico, etc.
    Seems to me that you could apply that same logic to any other genre. Are racing games not mainstream because for every Forza and Need for Speed, we have a dozen other games, sometimes well reviewed examples near the top of their genre, that go unnoticed by most of the public? Huge successes are far from the norm.

    For every Call of Duty and Halo, we have countless other games like Black that are ignored.
    Last edited by Leo_A; 02-12-2012 at 12:30 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie2B View Post
    And most people playing those games probably haven't ventured outside of those. Specific games can be pretty mainstream, but RPGs as a genre can't be considered mainstream when the vast majority of them are only bought by diehard RPG fans.The typical guy that buys Skyrim or Pokemon probably isn't buying Sakura Wars, Mana Khemia, Ar Tonelico, etc.

    The same can be said about any genre of game.

    How many RPGs would have to sell well for you to consider it a mainstream genre?

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    Yeah, RPGs were hugely popular on Apple 2, C64 and A8 as the above mentioned already, SSI sold vast amounts of RPGs on those platforms. Same with Origin, Sir- Tec, EA and so on. FF VII sold the equivalent in comparison but certainly didn't mainstream it.

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    On the other hand, with FF 7 it probably went mainstream for the casual console gamer who never used a keyboard. Easy pad controlling made it possible.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Griking View Post
    Lets see;

    Infocom Games
    Ultima
    The Bard's Tale
    Wizardry
    Might & Magic
    SSI Gold Box PGs
    Fallout
    Baldur's Gate

    We've always loved good RPGs and they certainly existed around here before Final Fantasy came along.

    So what got me into RPGs? The first game that I remember playing that got me into adventure and RPGs was Adventure for the Atari. At the time I used to always buy Electronic Games magazine with money that I made from mowing lawns or shoveling show as a kid and I would always be amazed by the previews and reviews for the computer game RPGs since they wee such an upgrade over my Atari. (I kind of consider Infocom games as early RPGs). Once I finally made enough to purchase an Apple iic there was no turning back I was hooked on adventue and RPGs. This was back in '83, before there even was a Final Fantasy.
    This is the truth, right here. Richard Garriott made enough money in the course of his pre-Final Fantasy VII career that he could afford to build himself a castle in Texas and also go into outer space. Final Fantasy VII is the game that arguably introduced American gamers to the JRPG, and made that genre worth something for the course of a console generation or two, but that's as far as it goes.

    And where did Richard Garriott (and the SSI Goldbox guys, and the Wizardry guys, and so on) find their inspiration? Dungeons & Dragons, which by the time of the NES was already a household name in the United States.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie2B View Post
    And most people playing those games probably haven't ventured outside of those. Specific games can be pretty mainstream, but RPGs as a genre can't be considered mainstream when the vast majority of them are only bought by diehard RPG fans.The typical guy that buys Skyrim or Pokemon probably isn't buying Sakura Wars, Mana Khemia, Ar Tonelico, etc.
    So what? TEN MILLION COPIES OF SKYRIM. Three million Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Five million of the Dragon Age games, for better or for worse. It doesn't get any more mainstream than that. To argue that my little brother, who put two hundred hours into Morrowind and Skyrim, and is starting New Vegas too, isn't an "RPG fan" because he didn't also buy Growlanser: Generations is ridiculous. That smacks of elitism. "You're not as big a fan of RPG's as me: I bought Phantom Brave and all the Falcom PSP games. All YOU bought was Dragon Age and Pokemon, you poseur".


    Quote Originally Posted by tom View Post
    Yeah, RPGs were hugely popular on Apple 2, C64 and A8 as the above mentioned already, SSI sold vast amounts of RPGs on those platforms. Same with Origin, Sir- Tec, EA and so on. FF VII sold the equivalent in comparison but certainly didn't mainstream it.
    Does anyone else remember being told at a very young age that Dungeons & Dragons was the "work of the devil?" I sure do. Consequently, as soon as we were able, we bought the books and played the game.

    This, I think, is a generational thing more than anything. The folks who discovered role playing games through Final Fantasy VII will certainly remember that as the catalyst of the RPG revolution here in the U.S.; it's worth noting that this is pretty much a strictly console based phenomenon however(excepting Anachronox and the shady VII port). Meanwhile, those of us who didn't like VII and had been playing Dungeons & Dragons, and eventually Ultima Underworld and the Wizardry games didn't need to be introduced to the genre at all.
    Last edited by G-Boobie; 02-12-2012 at 08:27 AM.

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    One major problem with most of the arguments, is that we don't have a proper definition of "RPG". A few examples:
    Final Lap Twin (TG16) The highlight of this one is the story mode, which is an RPG by every definition that would include Final Fantasy.
    Ys III Wanderers from Ys (Any) Very Side-Scrolling platformish but has many aspects of the genre, Faxanadu is similar.
    Hydlide series (Especially the Sega Saturn one) I don't get what makes this an RPG even if we include Rogue-likes.
    Keith Courage in Alpha Zones (TG16) Usually considered a platformer but is closer than Virtual Hydlide.

    The East/West divide is also a complication don't know to many people who would finish Final Fantasy VII and then play Fable or vice-versa.

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