It seems to me that the role playing games that are still around and doing OK are the ones that have intriguing game settings. D&D always had lots of good settings, Hero System has it’s Champions Multiverse. Cyberpunk and especially Shadowrun ARE the setting, and Vampire with the World o Darkness, and the list goes on and on. GURPS, I guess there is GURPS, but again, that’s a game with settings. More settings than I can count!
My point is that setting is desperately important to a roleplaying game. Like location is to real estate. It is essentially the main selling point these days. Possibly the only real selling point left for pen and paper roleplaying games. There was a brief time when you could make games with out a setting, like RoleMaster. We played the heck out of RoleMaster, but you know what? We wouldn’t have found, learned, and played RoleMaster if it hadn’t been for MERP (Middle Earth Role Playing) made by the same company and use a version of the same game mechanics.
So, this is why, as I contemplate a FATE based game of my own I’m thinking that I had better have a setting that will draw people in and inspire them.