Back in the 90s, when people asked me to recommend a good starter roleplaying game, I’d always give the same answer: West End’s Star Wars. I said that because the game had a premise that new players could instantly understand and a setting they knew from the movies. “You are part of the Rebel Alliance.” And you’re off. The rules also featured simple character creation and were easy to pick up. Later West End even did a nice introductory boxed set, and you know how much I like those.
With today’s announcement that the current license holder, Wizards of the Coast, is not going to renew, you’d think I might have some interest in who might pick up the rights. There’s already speculation about which companies might have the desire and money to do so. I’ve got to say though that best thing Star Wars could do is go away for awhile. Say three to five years.
The interesting thing about the West End RPG is that it came out when basically nothing else was going on with Star Wars. There were no novels, no prequels, no cartoons–none of that. One of the cool things about it was that it was one of the few Star Wars things you could even get in 1987. Today the brand is just tired. Lucasfilm is just flogging it and flogging it and they show no signs of stopping. Star Wars is still everywhere and most of what passes for it is just crap (starting with the dreadful sequels).
So I think the RPG at least but really the brand as a whole needs a fallow period and then a reboot. Look at Star Trek. It had its time away and it came roaring back with the recent J.J. Abrams movie. Right now the only Star Wars thing that looks cool is the upcoming BioWare MMO, and that’s because BioWare seems to understand the spirit of the original Star Wars movies better than George Lucas these days, as evinced by their excellent Knights of the Old Republic game from a few years ago.
It seems that Star Wars won’t be going away anytime soon though. There’s the upcoming TV show, which might have had promise if someone other than George Lucas was in charge. More toys, games, and novels get cranked out every year. What’s funny is that the niche nature of the RPG business may actually turn out to be a boon in this situation. There are only a handful of companies that could hope to afford the license and launching a new game with all that WotC product on the shelf would be a challenge. So the RPG at least may have that fallow period but for the rest of the brand the flogging will continue until morale improves.