Ryan Dancey, Still Wrong

This article on the future of the Role-Playing Games industry, specifically Dungeons and Dragons, contains a completely ridiculous quote from Ryan Dancey

Kids stopped playing with trains, and the businesses that remained dedicated to hobbyists who got more disposable income as they grew up, until the price of the hobby was out of reach of anyone except those older hobbyists. Eventually, it became a high-end hobby with very expensive products, sold to an ever-decreasing number of hobbyists. As those folks die, the hobby shrinks. That is what is happening to the tabletop RPG business.”

Ryan Dancey knows nothing about the model railway hobby.

He reminds me of the record label executives trying to defend a dying business model in the music industry – like Dancey, they’re marketing types who only care about selling “product”, and aren’t interested in actual creativity. Dancey was notorious a decade ago for a master plan to drive all games other than D&D out of business, spouting nonsense about “Network externalities”. If he’d been working for a model railway company he would have made his mission to destroy N gauge and 0 gauge in order to make 00 more popular.

It seems to me that there are a lot of parallels between the RPG industry and the cottage industry end of the music business. It’s all about creative types taking advantage of massively reduced barriers to entry to product things that can be sold direct to the customer, and using the Internet to build communities around those products. This is bad news if your career, like that of Ryan Dancey, is based on marketing things that others create – they don’t need you any more, and the viability of their businesses in a fragmented market often depend on them not having to share their revenue with you.

The irony is that one of the things fuelling the cottage industry is the Open Game Licence, which Ryan Dancey himself was responsible for…

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