Tobold's Blog
Thursday, June 28, 2012
A somewhat different marketing strategy

Any big public playtest is not only done for the developers to get feedback, but also serves a marketing purpose. Marketing is done to sell your products, and boy, did that D&D Next playtest work on me: I'm buying 4th edition D&D books as if there were no tomorrow. Because it is likely that for 4th edition there actually *is* no tomorrow. The 4E books will go out of print, and the 4E support on the D&D Insider website is uncertain.

Thus I'm buying all the rulebooks I originally didn't think I needed for my current campaign, like the various "powers" books with optional powers for all classes. And I just ordered all the 4th edition adventures I didn't have yet from Amazon (some of them already marked "Only 2 left in stock--order soon!"). Basically I'm preparing for an imminent future in which there aren't any D&D products that interest me to buy, by buying everything I might need in the future to keep playing 4th edition when Wizards of the Coast will abandon me as a customer.

The sad thing about that is that my local gaming store has lots of alternative products for people who liked earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons. Thus the people who didn't like 4th edition had an excellent alternative in Pathfinder, and some other d20 game systems. For 4th edition there is no good alternative that I know of, it is a really unique system in its combination of roleplaying with strong tactical combat. And WotC's more restrictive Game System License for 4E never encouraged many other companies to make 4E compatible products.

On the upside the situation is obviously much better than if a MMORPG changes to a version you don't like. Once I have all the rulebooks I need, I can keep on playing 4th edition D&D forever, even if WotC doesn't support the game at all any more. Even if they go out of business, which I still think is an option. I hope they at least sell some licenses for turn-based computer games based on 4th edition, because 4E would obviously make for a much better system for that than D&D Next.

D&D could disappear as a product line and it wouldn't phase WotC. Magic is still going strong and shows no signs of stopping.
I really hope that they either keep the character builder as part of their subscription, or if they axe it with D&D Next, offer it again as a downloadable program like they had originally. Even with the bugs, it's super useful for helping folks put their characters together. That and the monster builder.
The D&D brand name has become bigger than the game itself. The board games have done pretty well, and I think WOTC has control of Avalon Hill for Hasbro as well, so that should continue. Even if D&D the rpg becomes only a boutique product for them, it keeps the value of the name alive.
WOTC go out of business? That's a stretch. They have a tremendous pool of nerds who will work for peanuts, and plenty of people to sell the cheap results of that labor to at fairly high prices, not to mention the ability to spin off their IP into crappy movies, video games, and so on. It's a pretty solid business model. Maybe it's just me but I think most D&D players are not nearly as obsessed with the rules as you are. I suspect your concern about the new edition is not shared by the majority of their customers.
"Once I have all the rulebooks I need, I can keep on playing 4th edition D&D forever, even if WotC doesn't support the game at all any more."

I think that you are being overly optimistic... Once you loose the ability for new people to purchase the introductory books for the hobby the pool of available players and storytellers gets smaller and smaller.
You guys take the rules way to seriously.

Tabletop rpg's are 90% hanging out and bullshitting with friends and 10% rolling dice. This obsession with the intricacies of the rules is weird.
Considering how worried you've been about the combat in D&D Next, I wonder if you've see the most recent blog post about combat modules.

At least it's a nice hint at what they are aiming for.
I got their blog on my reader now, and I know what they are aiming at. I'm just not sure how that modularity is going to work without creating a huge chaos.

I'm also not happy about the idea that is crystallizing from their blog posts that every tactical or narrative option comes with huge to hit penalties. Basically you'll only be able to use them in combats where you feel safe. If you are in front of the big boss mob, you better not try a fancy narrative move or a tactical option.
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