Friday, December 24, 2010

A New Year's Prediction for WOTC and all D&D Editions

Seeing WOTC's Legal Dept. up to their old tricks again with Crystal Keep, and noting that they are deleting older edition articles off of their website, I think there may be a method to their madness. My prediction:

Why aren't they doing this? That's the real question. Here's my theory and prediction:

Mearls isn't as stupid as his predecessors from a business sense, he likes older editions, and he is aware of the PR blunders of the past. The only reason to repeat one, even to a lesser degree, would be to have a positive side to it---or at least something WOTC can spin as a positive to the fans, while at the same time making money off of it.

Which leads me to think that there will be a re-release of older material, like as in ALL of it, going back to the OD&D books, in a way that WOTC can make money from it.

The real money-maker for the company now is DDI subscriptions, as opposed to book sales, because everyone knows the books will be outdated due to errata in a matter of months. What better way to get people who want nothing to do with paying a subscription to DDI because they don't play 4,e than to release all material for all older versions of the game? How many people would pay 10 or 20 bucks a month for access to everything?

Short of that, if the technology isn't there, they will release everything in pdf format, rather than DDI, thus making up for their massive blunder of a couple years ago.

They've blown their load on Essentials, they've scaled back book releases, there is no new revenue stream on the horizon with the current system, or at least nothing that's going to significantly jack up profits using the IP they are currently in bed with. What they are doing now is a preemptive strike to protect their future plans and revenue streams, as much as it is a way to preserve, even if temporarily, the current hegemony (wished for in their own minds) of 4e.

Making older versions available electronically is a win win for everyone, from their perspective.

My only question now is whether they will go after the clones.

Anyhow, you heard it here first if it comes true. If not, eh...who reads these silly blogs anyhow. :)

14 comments:

  1. ReReleasing the older books in PDF format
    Will give PathFinder a run for its money.

    Going after the clones would generate bad will;
    Besides the clones wont stand a chance without
    the brand name – Dungeons & Dragons.

    Q. “Do you want to play Red Planet or Swords & Wizardry?”
    A. “Never heard of them.”
    Q. “How about we play DnD with some house rules?”
    A. “That sounds cool, can’t wait to the movie comes out!”

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  2. Interesting speculation. They're foolish if they don't capitalize on their older editions, but I can imagine they have trouble convincing everyone involved it's a good idea to make them available alongside 4E. It should be fun seeing what WotC does in the coming year, regardless (it always is, with them!)

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  3. Joe, not related to this post, but apparently Firefox has your site flagged as an "attack site." Wasn't like this two days ago.

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  4. thanks for the heads up joe. someone else sent me an email saying the same thing, that i have "inlined malware images from caxdomain.ru." whatever the hell that means. i went to the comments sections and though it is against my blog policy, deleted comments with links, thinking that's really the only change in the last couple days. i would have deleted the links and left the comments but i couldnt figure out how to do that. hopefully that will take care of it. is it still showing it as malaware?

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  5. Chrome has it showing up as a malware site as well.

    Personally I always wondered why Chrystal keep was left alone it was a blatant violation of the OGL. I hope they do make it available via the DDI and I hope it is downloadable and not just part of the cloud.

    We will see.

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  6. I hope WotC does that, Joe. It would be doubly cool if they also sold PODs of all their out-of-print titles going all the way back to the early 1970s. Imagine a crisp, new, freshly-printed AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide.

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  7. Interesting theory, and it would be a smart move on WotC's part, given how divided the fan base has become over 4th edition. They're not going to win any of the lost players back with the new edition, but they could make a shed load of money bringing the older books back in print in some fashion. I'd certainly buy a lot. This is pretty much a situation where they would not be competing with themselves, but would be appealing to many different demographics of D&D players.

    It would anger collectors because it would utterly undermine the collector's market, but that just is what it is, and I'd be happy to have new versions of the old books.

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  8. I for one do not expect your predictions to come to pass. While I would love to buy the missing books from my older editions collection, I don't believe WoTC will make such a move. Why?

    No printed older editions
    The printing costs versus likely sales totals would not be profitable enough for them. The fans of older editions are a subgroup of D&D fans, which are a subgroup of RPGers, which are a subgroup of gamers, etc. We're not dealing with large numbers here! :-)

    No PDFs
    Regardless of what we think, WoTC doesn't view abandoning PDFs as a blunder. To them it was a sound decision to protect their IP. Until their opinion changes there'll be no PDFs of any edition.

    No DDI based older editions
    While it would address WoTC's piracy related fears, it would "dilute the brand" (to use a marketing babble concept) by offering multiple games through the one channel. I bet that WoTC would view this as potentially confusing to their customers, with people feeling frustrated there is so much material "they are paying for" which isn't usable in their 4E game.

    No older editions. Period.
    A key marketing rule of traditional business thinking is to never engage in competition with yourself. No matter what their products are, the company itself is run according to very traditional corporate business practices. They are committed to 4E and won't abandon it yet.

    The Essentials line proves this as their line of thinking. Seeing the growing interest in "old school" gaming, they did NOT re-release 1st or 2nd ed. Instead, they modified 4E to give it some of the trappings of the older editions while maintaining the momentum they've built in the current edition.

    The thought that WoTC would "gift" all us faithful(?) fans with our favourite games of yesteryear smacks strongly of nostalgic wishful thinking and while I agree with the sentiment, I don't see it happening, sorry.

    My Predictions
    So, what do I think WoTC will do in the coming year?
    1. Publish more 4E Essentials.
    2. Redo many of the 3E splat books in 4E splendor.
    3. Produce 1 or 2 more 4E settings from older IP.
    4. Release the next volumes of the DMG, PHB and MM. (these are obviously intended to be open-ended series' from now on)
    5. Continue to modify 4E to release as errata in DDI.
    6. Just before Christmas 2011 fire a bunch of writers, artists and middle management, possibly even Mr. Mearls, although I wouldn't strongly expect his termination until 2012 or 2013, just before they begin working on D&D 5E.

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  9. Here's something which might prove to be a clue, though it's too early to be certain.

    This is a video one of the Beta testers for the D&D Virtual Table posted:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5II83LuAElg

    If you look 30 seconds in, you'll see that there seems to be an option for playing using rules from each of the earlier editions.

    Not sure what it means, but make of it what you will.

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  10. Yeah, I've been thinking similar thoughts. It really comes down to how the see the franchise and where its real value lies.

    I'd expect to start seeing some testing of the ideas for 5e soon. Maybe Essentials is that? But the entire Essentials marketing campaign has been utterly bizarre. Sure, as Oddysey has pointed out, it's clearly an attempt to lure in lapsed gamers, or, at least, to get them to buy it for their kids, but that smacks badly of bait-and-switch. And I'm having a hard time understanding how stuff like this is supposed to appeal to anyone but grognards and folks who last played 20 years ago.

    At this point, I'm hoping there's some larger strategy at work, but heck if I can see it from here. I do think it would be an interesting experiment, however, for them to make the old stuff available again and then track the numbers on what gets referenced by their subscribers.

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  11. Trollsmyth, i think that was determined to be a fan film a while back. I just read your post, and we seem to be in agreement, other than I think it may go beyond paizo. As you pointed out, the camps are firmly divided now, the lines are drawn, the people are playing the games they are going to be playing. It's not as if selling the 1978 phb on pdf is going to take sales away from WOTC for the Essentials stuff, since that purchaser is not going to buy essentials anyhow. It will be interesting to see where it goes.

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  12. companies do compete with themselves
    the obvious,
    Coca-Cola and Classic Coke ,
    Pepsi and 7-up
    (the cola and the uncola), etc.

    print costs are NOT an issue
    as this could be done under license
    from a third party/ POD (Lulu?)

    electronic versions would have to come from DDI (increased subscriptions ; -)

    as for collectors, no problem
    the value of a book is based upon the Edition or Print Date . . .
    An edition of the Hobbit printed in 1960 is much more valuable than one published in 2010

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  13. I gave a long explanation at my blog here

    http://5stonegames.blogspot.com/2010/12/wotc-and-pulling-of-crystal-keep.html

    but my basic view is that its corporate orders
    to protecting IP and try "edition channeling" Hasbro/WOTC was counting on an upgrade cycle to drive sales, most of the 3.5 players would move on to 4.0 and thus they'd recapture the old play base and gain some new younger players.

    I suspect that sales were not as good as Hasbro wants so they are going after what they can.

    I am pretty certain WOTC does not want to compete with itself which is what a re-release would do.

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  14. Joe, whatever you did will deleting the links in the comments seems to have done the trick.

    I was going to make the same point as clovis. In fact, it even extends to Hasbro itself; they have different versions of Risk being published at the same time. Does Spongebob Monopoly "compete" with classic Monopoly? Are sales of classic Operation down because they have an Iron Man Operation?

    I think if the situation was explained to the suits in those terms, they'd easily see the benefit to keeping everything in print, even if each version was done with much more robust branding specific to that edition.

    For instance, I think they'd do great if they re-issued 2E and linked it with Forgotten Realms, 1E with Greyhawk, etc. I'm sure there's some marketing terminology for doing that, but I can't say I know what it is.

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