I find the discussion interesting on whether the roleplaying market is developing a even longer tail. Switching to market where the best strategy is selling small quantities of a large range of unique products.
And finally a Ryan Dancey quote that sums up what is fueling his comments on roleplaying.
I'm talking about people who work full time designing/developing tabletop RPGs.Perhaps what we are seeing is the collapse of mass market RPGs. Games and products that appeal across the entire spectrum of gaming. The large volume generated by such products can generate a lot of jobs. There are jobs in the Long Tail as well but people who prosper in working for a company may find it difficult working in the Long Tail and vice versa as well.
I think why we have mass anything is because of the limitations of technology. There are things that have broad appeal. But for type of consumer items that many of our parents and grandparents have been buying, individual tastes rule. The problem that throughout the industrial era there is only so much variety a company can offers before costs going up. Henry Ford's famous quote of "They can have the Model-T in any color as long as it is black." is not arrogance but part of what made the Model-T affordable in the first place.
Now computer aided manufacturing has considerably narrowed the cost difference between mass produced items and one of the kind unique items. The internet have allowed the entire world to become one large bazaar catering to every tastes where Kelly Anne, my wife, sends her d20 hairsticks all around the world. For some reason Norway is her biggest customer in those items.
(Note to James Raggi, she sent some to Finland so you may see some pop up at one of your conventions)
Given the choices folks rather buy the item they exactly want and this includes roleplaying game products.
But on the flip side a lot of people like buying some that makes them part of a larger group. For roleplaying games this is a distinct advantage as well as it increases the chances of finding players for that game. In the coming decades large gaming companies will live or die on how well they do in getting their players together to play their games beyond just selling. Because this will be one area that smaller game companies will find it hard to compete with.
That is until the Long Tail figures out how to do the same thing.