Industry Watch: RPGs

I'm talking about the original RPGs, the table-top variety! I've been reading the columns and message boards about the terrible state of the industry (RPG publishers).

The picture is hazy, but apparently sales are down, and publishers lay some of the blame at the feet of the distributors or the Friendly Local Gaming Store (FLGS). I suppose it's of note that I can think of almost no gaming store that supports itself solely with RPGs. Gamescape of the San Francisco Bay Area was a store that supported games of all kinds: traditional board games like chess and go, board games and war games, collectible card games, and of course, RPGs. Other stores I went to were a comics / CCG / RPG mixture.

The brick and mortar stores are tricky because there are a wide variety of RPGs our there, and the chance that someone in your area / neighborhood wanting your stuff was good to fair in terms of the "evergreen" RPGs like D&D, but indy and off-the-beaten path games like Over The Edge were hard to find - very hit or miss.

Now many RPG publishers have gone the online route to distribute their stuff, sometimes opening up their own online store! An example is HERO Games, which apparenty doesn't charge for shipping. Even more folks have made their games available in PDF format!

More and more tools are coming out to allow gamers to play these once-tabletop-only games online using chat tools, groupware that allows map sharing and character placement, and other neat stuff.

Is this the changing shape of the RPG industry?