I’m working on some Q&A questions for a couple of publishers (a few days late as usual), but while considering publishers, my thoughts went to White Wolf.
Here’s a clear caveat: I am not really a White Wolf fan. Neither am I an ill-wisher, they just don’t make a lot that interests me. For a long time, their games were too angsty, and then they were just dull. Modern/urban horror was never a big draw for me, and much of the “edgy” fiction rounding out each product reminded me of those kids in high school who wore all black and smoked clove cigarettes outside the gym (not that there is anything wrong with any of those activities by themselves or in tandem, but they don’t seem to produce superior verse, if you follow my meaning). Werewolf was ok, but not much else scratched that itch.
Do not get me started on Exalted, which….ok, let’s just not get started on Exalted, yeah?
I’ve read Ryan Dancey’s opinion on it all, and I’ve seen the threads at Big Purple detailing the apparent demise of White Wolf, and if you think about it, it is striking. Of course, White Wolf’s decline is only compared to where they were. This is a company that owned the 90’s. Even if they go Print-On-Demand and pdf only, there are likely still many more active players of White Wolf games than of all the small-press games reviewed here combined.
I think White Wolf is one of those companies that a certain subset of people want to see fail; they never could get past the whole Storyteller “Roleplaying, not ROLLplaying” stuff and the existence of Mark ReinDOTHagen. So if they’re perceived as not as strong as they were, people are going to jump all over that.
Really, what we have this point is less titles being put out and a widespread perception that the company’s market share/player base has dwindled. We aren't insiders, so that's what we have to go on.
Well, a lot of companies aren’t as strong as they were. The 4th Edition of D&D hasn’t seemed to have made the splash of 3e (though, as a side point, the guy at the FLGS last week said the D&D Encounters program is going very strong). Of course, those of us online tend to have a slightly skewed version of the gaming landscape, anyway. (A novice wandering into RPGnet, for example, would think that Exalted was the most popular RPG, far above any other one).
White Wolf is now part of a company making video games. If they can find a reduced publishing model to work with that, great. If not, well, they’re hardly alone on the list of gaming companies that have fallen by the wayside. The impact to me is probably a somewhat decreased likelihood of getting drunk again at Gen Con and stumbling into the middle of a Vampire LARP. The impact to their fans would depend on what sort of production schedule was allotted to White Wolf’s remaining employees.
If nothing else, it would be nice to see more of what a writer/editor like Jess Hartley could do with some of the other games that are out there.