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The Process

 
 

The analysis was far more time consuming than I ever thought it would be, but I managed to generate a huge pool of viable data and a few pretty charts and graphs. Let's go through the process that was implemented to accomplish this task so that everyone understands how the numbers came about. Because the scope used was a trend analysis and not profitability, I didn't account for sales figures. I wanted a neutral view of the industry at large, so the frequency and nature of RPG releases was examined instead. Trend analysis typically examines long periods of time in order to apply reliability and validity to the numbers. To generate the most reliable information a ten-year analysis of RPG releases was chosen, with the sample period beginning September 2002 and ending September 2012. The release date used for each title depends upon region; if a title was first released in one region and then subsequently released elsewhere, the North American date was considered first. If a game's North American date is later than September 2012, the Japanese date was used and the title was considered a Japan-only release.

In order to understand the trajectory of certain RPG subgenres, releases were broken into seven broad categories based on their game design: action RPGs, dungeon crawlers, JRPGs (or classical RPGs), MMORPGs, strategic RPGs, tactical RPGs, and western RPGs. Most of these subgenres are easily recognized by RPGamers, but a distinction between strategic and tactical RPGs should probably be made. For the purpose of this feature, a strategic RPG is a game featuring scale battles that are generally larger than than other RPGs, but offers a different level of stage management (maintaining fortresses, recruiting troops, managing resources, etc.) and a brisker pace of battle than tactical RPGs. To better put things in perspective, Dragon Force, Ogre Battle, and Generation of Chaos would be considered strategic RPGs, whereas Fire Emblam, Disgaea, and Final Fantasy Tactics would be considered tactical RPGs.

No real-time strategy, real-time tactical, tower defense, vehicle/civilian/card/puzzle/mech sims, or adventure titles with RPG elements would be counted towards the total RPG release count. To the same effect, expansion packs, visual novels, premium pack/limited edition re-releases, and XBLA/PSN/VC carbon-copy re-releases of games from previous generations were also excluded; only original releases and enhanced remakes of previously released titles were added to the data pool. I know that these restrictions might sound harsh, but parameters had to be built around the release data to eliminate outliers. Thankfully, most publishers list a game's genre with its release information.

Over 1200 RPGs released over the course of our sample period were observed and categorized based on period of release, subgenre, platform, release region, and publisher status. The high sample pool means that even if some RPGs were not accounted for or miscategorized, the overall inferences of the data remains consistent. All that was required for this article was a sample strong enough to generate consistent trends over time.

 

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