When I was maybe 12, a friend got the Star Trek RPG (the really old one), and as the guy who read rules, I tried to read it, and it made absolutely no sense to me. I mean, I kind of pieced together some of the bits, and my attempt to make a character produced some sort of loser, and I certainly couldn't run it. But it was still a really interesting read. It was full of writeups on the aliens races, including ones that had only been on the cartoon, which I hadn't even realized existed. Even better, it had lists of ship weapons, and I promptly stripped that out and used the list to make up a ship combat game that allowed us to buy and build custom ships using that list. It was awesome.
The funny thing is that the things that made it awesome at the time are almost nonsensical these days. At the time, the game was not only a game, it was a window into the Star Trek universe for me. This was highly specialized, not terribly accessible information. Yes, I could potentially have gotten elsewhere if I'd managed to track down a fan guide, but that was not necessarily trivial either.
Today? The only barrier to this information is interest. The Internet provides a bounty of nerdy information on this stuff far in excess of anything a game can provide.
Now, obviously there's a spectrum to this. More popular properties have deeper online resources, and there's still some room for the RPG as Fan Guide in the world, but it's a much narrower window than it used to be. But for a big license, I wonder if the nature of the game has changed. Can a licensed game proceed on the assumption that the Internet is out there and proceed from that?
Honestly, I dunno. Intellectually, I imagine so. To do otherwise is to assume that the Game is at all likely to be someone's introduction to the license, and while there are no doubt some cases of that, my suspicion is that they're far more the minority than those introduced to the game via the license. But even saying that, what would be different?
That's the bit a pound my head against. It _feels_ like this new era should allow us to have even better licensed RPGs, but I'm not yet sure what to do differently to make it so.