I may be talking out of my ass, and god knows I probably am, but it seems RPG games are severly unbalanced in favor of mideval settings as opposed to, well, all other settings. Don't get me wrong, in the words of Ridley Scott I love "swords and sandles" and I consider series like NWN, Elder Scrolls, Ultima, etc to be some of the best gaming ever, but why SO MANY knights and wizards and horses and castles!? For every great post modernist/post apolcalypse RPG like the timeless Fallout there are fifty RPGs set in the dark ages. Would it kill game designers to bring this ratio back down a little closer to even? I think my argument comes from actually playing Fallout and thinking how nice it was to for once not have to worry about slaying some fu&%ing dragon. I know there is a market for them; a lot of people love KOTOR if for no other reason than the shift from elves to droids. Further more look at Fallout. EVERYONE adores Fallout.
And one more thing: stop putting all the dungeon crawlers in dungeons! Okay so Zax wasn't that great but atleast it was different!
Of course, that's just my opinion. I couls be wrong. :)
Originality, Creativity and Imagination doesn't sell unless it has a massive advertising campaign. Even a fantasy setting doesn't have to be elves & dwarves, but even though this may sound "elitist" most of the players are just plain stupid and xenophobic. In other words anything without elves & dwarves has very little chance of succeeding and sales unless it's a brand name like star wars or has a massive advertising campaign like Mass Effect. Fallout is also a brand name these days because the franchise started in the old days when creativity had a chance of success.
Most notably Jade Empire wasn't selling much even though it was a very good game from bioware and it was pretty much similar to other bioware games except they were either tolkienish elves&dwarves fantasy or they were star wars.
Then there was Alpha Protocol which was a very unique game and probably THE best when it came to player's choices and consequences and relationships with other characters throughout the game. And again it was a failure even though it's setting was one of a kind and the game was good neverminding what critics expecting another splinter cell said.
Anachronox - great game / great commercial fail
Troika games - a factory for unique and imaginative rpg games got bankrupt
and so on
it's not just an rpg genre problem. There were great unique and imaginative games all over and most of them just failed like Beyond good and evil, Psychonauts, Secret world in mmorpg etc.
Basically it's pretty much you either make a very stereotypical and dull copycat game and make money or you spend a lot of money to present the game as the greatest ever which will usually end up in big sales but not meeting the hyped up expectations that may or may not cause greater harm to the company and the game and if you don't make the stereotypical game and you don't have the money for the big advertising then you just fail and that's that.