Licensed RPGs are amazing. They have a wealth of information behind them, and it shows. I was always a sucker for D6 Star Wars (loved it way more than the bastard child that was d20). Now I am into FFG Star Wars, a lot. So what makes a licensed RPG so much fun for me? I think it is the depth. There is more information available for them. Look at Star Wars. There is 21 years of EU materials plus the movies to draw from. This makes coming up with stories that much easier. You don’t have to make up timelines or enemies. They are already there.
That being said, what is good about a non-licensed RPG? Sometimes the wonder in role-playing is in creating a story from whole cloth. Making up the enemies, world history and timelines can be fun. I still love good games of games like generic D&D or Fantasy HERO.
Is one better than the other? Not really. It matters if you can have fun with them. Some people aren’t imaginative enough to create whole worlds. Others can’t stand using others materials in their games. In the end it comes down to what you like. I prefer licensed, only because I prefer to be able to draw on a wealth of information.
What do you prefer? Licensed or not? What makes a good licensed RPG in your opinion? Remember, please avoid edition wars here.