So there is rampant speculation and rumour-mongering at therpgsite regarding Pathfinder and the D&D brand. As is often the case, the consensus seems to be that D&D in particular and role playing games in general are doomed and will gradually die out as older players, well, die out.
There is something odd about this notion. We are living in an age of booming popularity for nerdiness. On the one hand there is a whole section of Western society who now define themselves as 'geeks' in a manner almost religious or ethnic in its tenor. (I am not one of those people, but I know that they exist.) And on the other, fantasy and SF is conquering the mainstream like it has never done before - whether it is Harry Potter, Twilight, A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones, or whatever. Fantasy and SF films dominate our cinema screens. Fantasy and SF games dominate consoles. The world is embracing what used to be the province of only the unwashed neckbeards.
So why on earth can't somebody make a play at bringing D&D into the mainstream in the same way?
One problem, as I see it, is simply that the powers that be are very out of touch with modern tastes. Pathfinder and D&D in its recent iterations have been stuck in a rather drab and bland place: fantasy may be more popular than ever, but elves, orcs and the tropes of high fantasy are simply not part of the zeitgeist. People want their fantasy rooted in the real world (Harry Potter, Twilight), they want it grim and bloody (Game of Thrones), and some of them want it to do something genuinely different (China Mieville, Paolo Bacigalupi, and so forth). They don't want Dragonlance, they don't want Forgotten Realms, and I'd suggest the lukewarm reaction to the first Hobbit film suggests they don't really want The Lord of the Rings anymore either. D&D can get on the bandwagon to success, I would suggest, but if it wants to do that it needs to recognise that times have changed, and what a 40 year old nerd likes won't cut it with a 15 year old.
I don't particularly have an interest in the hobby being massively successful except in the sense that it would be nice to imagine a world in which playing RPGs is relatively normal, for many reasons. But seriously: the idea that our pastime is doomed just seems crazy to anybody who is keeping up with current cultural developments.