The big issue with RPGs and teenagers right now (besides the fact that the industry isn't paying any attention to them) is that they're still coded "boy stuff," but a lot of the things that boys traditionally get into RPGs for (killing stuff, fiddling with numbers, imaginary hot chicks) are done better by computer games. Girls are a much more natural target for post-CRPG tabletop games, but since RPGs are something that "boys do," the only girls who pick it up are the ones are sort of intentionally oblivious to gender roles. That's far from a majority, particularly in the prime RPG introduction age of 10-13.I find this to be a fascinating Catch-22 while simultaneously offering a kernel of hope for the future of RPGs, should they survive.
Robert Fisher pretty much summed up my thoughts on how to re-create the sort of "gateway" product that used to exist, the kind that brought me and millions of others into the hobby:
Licensing (i.e. a Harry Potter RPG) isn’t the way to do it. Firstly, those handcuffs aren’t worth the price. Secondly, I think history proved that RPGs didn’t need to license anything to get off the ground and be successful. Better to play on the same tropes—as D&D and Traveller and many others did—rather than bother with licensing Harry Potter.
Price is not a problem. Kids and the people who buy things for them regularly spend more than I’ve ever seen any RPG product priced. (Ignoring a couple of ridiculous outliers.) Although, I do think that pricing as low as you can is a good idea.
Too often, introductory RPG products have tried to be a gimmick. Tried use board-game elements or videos or other things in the name of being accessible. That seems so clearly the wrong way to go. You sell something by selling it.
And, yeah, I see RPG marketing, but not when I’m doing things with my kids.
And don’t tell me we have to turn the hobby into something different to compete with all the newfangled stuff. My kids see the value in traditional games and activities that haven’t needed to be updated to appeal to them. They’ll turn off the TV, PS2, Wii, computer, iPod, etc. all on their own for activities that have stood the test of time. They even beg me to do it with them.