As anyone who reads the RPG blogs knows WotC pulled all of its pdf products from every online distributor with almost no advance notice. To make matters worse, fans who previously bought WotC products as pdf's have lost the ability to redownload their books from the sites where they bought them. Though pdf's can technically last forever, as they only exist in digital form, this decision means that if your hard drive crashes and you didn't back up your pdf's, they are lost forever and you wasted good money. WotC cited piracy as the basis of the decision but some think it was, as Geek Related put it, just a "dick move" by the industry giant.
While it has been said that this decision may benefit brick and mortar stores, which is a good thing, it has also further lessened the image people have of the company. Because WotC has seemingly shown little regard for its partners and fans with some of their choices over the past few years (lying to fans, laying off good employees, cease and desist letters to fan sites, suspending publication of magazines, pulling licenses, etc.), their image has been tarnished substantially in the eyes of many. This is just another reason for fans to turn to some of the other companies that put out quality products
As one of the companies affected by WotC's decision, the former publisher of 3e products, Paizo, is offering 35% off Pathfinder pdf products in retaliation, according to ICv2. White Wolf, who some consider to be #2 in the RPG industry, is offering the second edition of Exalted free through RPG now and if you use the code, wwlovesyou, (expires April 12) you can also get a one time, 10% discount on any White Wolf pdf. Green Ronin, makers of the Mutants & Masterminds RPG, are now offering their True 20 pdf for $9.99, likely in an attempt to take advantage of fans' response to WotC's decision.
WotC, and by default Hasbro, may hold the license to the biggest name in the RPG industry, but with so many complaints arising since the announcement of 4e, I wonder how long before a competitor steps into the top spot. Right now any lessening of the brand is detremental to the industry, since a very large portion of new rpg gamers get their start playing Dungeons & Dragons. If long time fans begin turning away from the game that started the hobby, and a lesser known brand takes top spot, will the new top dog have what it takes to draw in new players? Or will D&D remain the game that brings in the ever dwindling new gamer, while experienced players support another system? I almost hope that Paizo, Green Ronin, Kenzer or one of the many other quality game producers does have what it takes to knock WotC down a peg of two, draw in new gamers, and hopefully breath new life in to the hobby.
While WotC says they are not abandoning the idea of digital distribution of their products, they will be doing it on their terms from now on. Given the companies near inability to follow through on any digital initiative they have attempted, DDi still isn't what they promised and it's been almost a year since 4e's release, I tend to think they may have bitten off more than they can chew once again. However, this time the fans may not be as forgiving.
For a list of other pdf deals from some of the other great RPG companies out there, in response to WotC's decision, check out the great post over at Mad Brew Labs.
I also recommend reading the 10 Theories About WotC's Bonehead Decision as well as this post from RPGpundit