Monday, January 17, 2011

A completely personal opinon about the direction of D&D

Since WotC's recent announcements regarding D&D the blogs and message boards have been buzzing with everything from idle speculation to doom and gloom for the most well known RPG. As someone who has given up on 4e the changes don't really impact me, but I still care about what happens.

Maybe my concern is just because I know that D&D is still the RPG that represents the entire hobby for non-gamers. Perhaps it is just nostalgia and maybe a little brand loyalty, but it actually bothers me that I don't like 4e. I know there are a ton of great RPGs out there and I play and enjoy some of them, but it sucks that I don't like the newest edition of the game I've been playing for over 20 years.

I have several opinions about the direction the brand will take but it is just idle speculation as I know jack shit about what is going on inside the company. A lot of the other bloggers are much more closely linked to the actual RPG industry so when it comes to what might happen, their opinions and speculation are probably much more informed than mine is as an outsider. However, that has never stopped me before.

Personally I think that Hasbro just doesn't care if D&D survives. They won't let the brand go since it is recognized by gamers and non-gamers alike and can be placed on a variety of other products.Even if they never produce another D&D book, the D&D brand will continue to bring in some kind of revenue. At least for a while.

I often wonder why Hasbro/WotC doesn't produce or license more D&D items such as action figures, Hot Wheels cars(everything seems to have had its name/logo stamped on a Hot Wheels at some point), video games (there could be a lot more of them than there have been), D&D versions of nearly every Hasbro game, a D&D expansion for Magic: the Gathering or even a separate D&D CCG (just not another Spellfire, though you had to love the cheesy cards for that game. I bought a ton of them back then)

I see D&D going all digital (video games and DDi) at some point in the future. I personally think D&D as a printed RPG will begin to disappear.  I don't think this will happen in the near future, but it seems to be going this way.

Between Magic and D&D, Magic is likely the money maker and the reason Hasbro even cares about keeping D&D alive is the name. Even people who have never seen an RPG book or held a d20 know the name Dungeons and Dragons. There is money to be made off that name and it is unlikely they will let it go. Which is why my dream of Paizo or Green Ronin buying D&D will never happen.

So while I have absolutely no idea what will happen with D&D there are several things I'd like to see happen. In my opinion printed RPGs may not be the biggest money makers, but I think that the printed products could still be viable. Maybe they won't produce as much money as Hasbro requires, but possibly enough to make keeping a small RPG team around to produce a small amount of product for us to enjoy worth it.

First, I'd like to see WotC renew support and publication of revised versions of all older editions. Doing so would expand the D&D brand by having each edition as its own brand. Classic D&D, Original D&D, Advanced D&D, etc. Each of them could be done by a small team that produces a few supplements each year and they could even allow limited 3rd party support. The money coming in from these may not be huge, but doing so could create a consistent stream of cash by producing products for all editions instead of letting them abandon D&D and play Pathfinder or retro-clones. Bring those gamers back by producing new product for them.I love my Pathfinder and hope Paizo becomes the the premiere rpg company, I also am very fond of many of the OSR publishers, but if I were WotC I would be doing whatever I could to crush them. Pissing off and then throwing away such as large portion of your customer base just seems counter productive to me. Of course I'm not a business major so maybe there is a sound business decision behind this move. I can't imagine what it is but that's just my POV.

Second I'd like for them to keep 4e alive. I may not like the game but there are enough people that do to keep some product moving. Even if only 3-4 new books get produced each year, I don't want the system to die. Since D&D minis is pretty much dead they should license the name to another minis producer like Reaper.

Third I think they should pursue the DDi. I think it is a waste of money but I know plenty of people that like their DDi

Lastly I'd also like to see both a print & digital subscription for Dragon magazine. If they start supporting older editions of the game, the magazine would be able to appeal to a broader range of gamers. I could be wrong, but I don't think that Dungeon mag would be worth bringing back. Not because it would have no use, but because it was too specialized with too narrow an audience.

All of this is just my opinion about what I'd like to see happen with D&D and isn't meant to upset anyone.


The Red DM said...

With regards to your first point - not that long ago I would have considered this crazy, but as the retro movement grows, Wizards best chance is to hop on board. They hold the ultimate trump card in retro gaming - the rights to TSR's vast library.

With regards to the second, I don't think 4E is going to go away. If Wizards truly has come to regret 4E then I would expect it to last another 2 to 3 years. But I think Wizards is just rethinking their business strategy, not the rules themselves.

On the third, I feel certain that DDi is here to stay.

Finally, with regards to some of your earlier musing. You make a very valid point that Hasbro has the muscle to bring more players to gaming than we could ever imagine. But they haven't, and probably won't, which is sad.

I know if D&D action figures hit the stores tomorrow a lot of gamers would buy them for their kids.

Greg Christopher said...

I have to agree with Red DM. The volume of 2e materials is staggering, if they could repackage them somehow as purely source-material documents it would be incredible.

Geek Gazette said...

I'd really like to see WotC/Hasbro exploit the interests in old school gaming to revive older editions. I also think it would be nice to see them revised. A lot of us like those editions, but all of us have to admit they had their problems.
I definitely agree that DDi is not going anywhere. I'm inclined to think that it will be around even if print versions of the books disappear.
I don't think that WotC regrets 4e. I do think they have realized some mistakes they made with PR and they may even regret driving so many fans away. I also think they regret underestimating the OSR and Paizo.

I still have my old D&D figures and I'd buy new ones in a heartbeat.

Shinobicow said...

Talking on Twitter the other day, it would seem like a great idea to me to put out a limited edition collectors series of some of the older editions of the game; if they did these like Fantasy Flight did their awesome Death Watch book which cost about $200, but is sold out, then they could easily make a little bit of cash. That product would be awesome to have for any gamer.