There's been some talk on-and-off all year about the 'Holy Grail of Licenses' that Mongoose Publishing has acquired (or is in the process of wrapping up the contract).
It is apparently a big license that has a lot of potential.
I've ended up in a number of discussions with people over the last month or so regarding what this license could be?
Various titles have been mentioned but most of them I have considered not really that big as far as RPGs, getting them into the Mass Market and attrcating new players are concerned.
Some of the titles that have been suggested have already been RPGs in the past (or present, or I know other companies are working on). There is really only one license which could be considered a major - no THE major - license for a RPG that would get a lot of mass market attention and would attract a horde of new (and younger) people into the Role-Playing hobby.
But let's look at some of the ones that have been mentioned:
Dr Who - Whilst this would make a very good RPG it is not the 'Holy Grail of Holy Grails'. It would have a sizeable RPG fan base and there is plenty of scope with it for adventures and campaigns (possibly one of the ultimate RPGs as far as scope!) and despite some people thinking it wouldn't work because 'only one person could play the Doctor' it has a lot of scope with companions and (depending when you set the game) other Timelords. Plus you have a lot of other organisations and travellers you could choose from. Buffy had a similiar complaint aimed at it (they can onyl be one Slayer in the game) but that still worked well in group play.
Lord of the Rings - Another fine license but it has already been done. Twice now. Iron Crown Enterprises produced MERP back in the 80's/90's and brought out tons of material for it. Decipher produced the RPG with the film license and - whilst pretty - it didn't sell as well and certainly wasn't really supported well. Now I know Mongoose and Decipher are on good terms, and Lord of the Rings could be conceived as a 'Holy Grail' I don't think it's this because it HAS BEEN DONE. A new edition wouldn't be attracting many new players into the market place and with the LotR films now 'old hat' and out of the mass market conciousness I think we can rule this one out. (Plus it would require Decipher having a clause in their license to allow a third party publisher to take ot on - which I can't see the IP owner allowing in a contract).
Star Trek - Again no. For all the same reasons (and more) as Lord of the Rings. Star Trek is an 'old' license. It's been done before by FASA, Last Unicorn and Decipher and, even with the new film with Matt Damon as the young Captain Kirk, is really a dead/dying license. You wouldn't be attracting anyone new to the hobby and would just be aiming at the subsection of Trekkie Gamers who are willing to buy "yet another Star Trek" game.
Star Wars - Wizards of the Coast have already announced a new edition of the Star Wars RPG for next year. So no.
Battlestar Galactica - Personally I wouldn't call this remotely a 'Holy Grail' contender but it has been brought up in conversation. Simply it is not big enough, or popular enough in the mass market place, to be considered as the biggest property in gaming. Plus Margaret Weiss Productions (the company behind the Serenity RPG) are producing the Battlestar Galactica RPG next year (and I've seen it published elsewhere on the web now so I'm pretty sure it's now open knowledge).
Bladerunner RPG - Yes, apparently one is in the works. It has been unannounced so far and the company that is doing it is keeping it that way until they've finished it (which given my own experience with delays and knowing the industry as a whole is a very wise move on the companies part). Bladerunner, however, isn't really a Holy Grail. Also, do you base it on the film or the book? Either way the universe has finite potential if you just use either as core sourcematerial. Apart from that I don't believe it is Mongoose who has this license.
His Dark Materials - Now on the surface I'd tend to say No. This is not the Holy Grail. There are bigger Grails out there. However it is a brilliant license and one I'd certainyl dearly love to get my mitts on and develope. His Dark Materials is a stunning series, is very popular (more so than most people think - It even beat the Harry Potter books in the BBC's 'Big Read Top 100' a couple of years ago!) and has the first film in the series coming out in the next year. Plus the authour is British and lives in Oxford which isn't too far away from Mongoose HQ. A HDM RPG would certainly get a lot of coverage in book stores and the mass market and would also attract a lot of new people to the industry. This is a possibility but the only thing that holds me back is the fact that Mongoose have said they have 'THE Holy Grail' and there is something which is still bigger than this brilliant serie
Warhammer 40,000 - Yes this is a massive license in gaming terms. Yes it will easily sell 50,000+ copies and will be one of the biggest RPG Launch of 2007 (along with D&D 4E and maybe Mongoose's mystery product) and certainly the most exciting (although also depending on Mongoose's mystery product). Make no doubt this game will help rejuvenate the RPG Industry. It will help bail out a lot of stores and the way that Black Industries/Green Ronin look like they have planned release cycles the game will carry on moving for at least six years. But this is not the 'Holy Grail' Mongoose speak of because they don't have it. Green Ronin and Black Industries do.
Harry Potter - But didn't WotC have the CCG? Yes. Didn't they ask about the RPG License and Rowling said 'no way' because she didn't want anyone else telling Harry Potter stories. Apparently, as the rumours go. So why even consider Harry Potter? Well, for starters this would be THE HOLY GRAIL of all licenses. If Harry Potter was turned into a RPG then it would have absolutely massive potential. It's a no-brainer how many this would sell. How many new faces it would bring into the market. Harry Potter has tens of millions of fans worldwide. Even if a small fraction of them picked it up they'd make this one of the biggest selling RPG's of all time. OK, so most of the sales would probably go through Amazon and the book trade but RPG sellers would still get a knockback on it and the hobby as a whole could greatly benefit. Despite previous comments that JK doesn't want to see a Harry Potter RPG she has changed her mind on things before (just look at her previous HP fanfic comments) and given Mongoose's previous experience - and success - with licensed products (Babylon 5, satrship Troopers, Conan, Judge Dredd, etc) I think they'd be the company that could persuade her. Plus they're British and I have a hunch she'd be more inclined to license the property to a British company than overseas. In fact I'd go out on a limb and say that I think Mongoose have got (or are in the process of tying up) the Harry Potter RPG License.
What do you think would be the Holy Grail of Licenses? and what do you think Mongoose have?