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As more and more people around the world find themselves playing videogames, game publishers are faced with the increasingly difficult challenge of trying to satisfy as much of the gaming population as possible. This is especially true for publishers of RPGs in the United States. In a country where such a large portion of the gaming population will not play anything but action and adventure games, the job of RPG publishers finding a large audience can prove to be nearly impossible. Some companies have found a winning strategy in combining elements of other genres in their RPGs. But as RPGs continue to gain larger audiences in U.S. mainstream gaming, the formula for classic RPGs is quickly becoming lost. Two U.S. publishers--Square of America and Working Designs--have very different plans for handling the RPG mainstream.
Square’s plan for publishing RPGs in the U.S. seems to be very simple: serve the mainstream. Its money-making Final Fantasy series shows just how Square’s ideals have changed over the last few years. Final Fantasy 7 featured an almost perfect blend of classic RPG elements with advanced graphics and gameplay. Final Fantasy 8, however, sacrificed some of these elements in favor of flashier graphics that would draw in mainstream gamers. When fans of classic RPGs complained at the series’ new look and feel, Square struggled to satisfy mainstream and classic gamers. The result was a ninth Final Fantasy that resembled a classic RPG in gameplay but featured major visual flare to appeal to the mainstream. Unfortunately for long-time fans of the series, Final Fantasy seems to be a series that will eventually ignore its original fans and focus solely on what the majority wants.
There is at least one U.S. publishing company that has yet to sell out to the mainstream--Working Designs. Its re-release of fan favorites such as the Lunar and Arc the Lad series shows just how committed it is to giving RPG fans what they want. Instead of spending its production budgets on 3-D graphics or massive advertising campaigns, Working Designs puts its money into creating games that will make fans happy. Only true RPG fans can appreciate its special packagings with bonuses like soundtracks, posters, and behind-the-scenes movie CDs. Only true RPG fans can play a game with old-school graphics and find entertainment in the storyline and character development. Working Designs has made its policy clear: true RPG fans take precedence over the mainstream.
While the future of the RPG genre is not certain, it is safe to say that the fate of the RPG rests in the hands of big-name companies like Square, Working Designs, Konami, and Sony. But if U.S. RPGs evolve even further to please fans of other genres, it is entirely possible that the pure, unadulterated role-playing game will go the way of the 2-D action game.
Also, a little research could go a long way on this editorial - as both judges are in countries that recieve less RPGs than America, stating that the only RPGs sold are those conforming to mainstream tenets, no matter how true, applies even more to countries outside America and Japan, where no mention of those countries was included. Finally, the debate of mainstream RPGs versus "uncommon" RPGs is a rather hackneyed one.
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