September 23, 2008

Cashola, WotC Corporate Amnesia, and a big disorganized rant...

This post was prompted by a post over at The Geek Emporium, "The Evils of Making Money?", where I was going to leave a HUGE comment - but then decided to politely leave it here instead. And then.. it turned into this big rant.

In his post, Tomcat says:
"The term “sell out” is always a problem for me. Companies exist to make money. We all need to step back and stop criticizing the companies that succeed in that goal. Instead, we need to criticize with our wallets when we disagree with a company’s practices. Really, that’s what they’ll listen to anyways. Wouldn’t you?"
Personally, I don't have a problem with a game company trying to make tons of money - I mean.. they are a COMPANY, it is what those entities DO. Of course, market forces will always push and pull - and our money is our vote.

In this regard - I think this will be the last version of Dungeon & Dragons that WotC produces. The changes are too great, they have lost a huge part of their fan base to their own Frankenstein (d20, OGL, and 3E). The company, in my opinion, is addicted to publishing new shiny things that were already printed before. After all, PUBLISH OR PERISH is the mantra for people in my field and for publishing companies. They HAD to make another edition of D&D to stay profitable - otherwise they were just going to run out of expansion products and ideas.

What they really need to do is completely change their business model (DDI doesn't count - that's vaporware). More and more gamers are turning to the internet and not to published hardback books for their materials. The RPG bloggers network alone provides me with enough material for more campaigns than I could ever run in my lifetime! And then.. there's bittorrent. Come on, how many of you have REALLY paid for all your 4E books? But i digress...

While I'm ranting, I figured I should throw these other things out on a separate note: The following things can be very annoying about said company (WotC):
  1. Making and hyping a new revision of a product simply because the old revision has saturated the market and you need new buyers to stay in the black (4E D&D)
  2. Ignoring a 30 year tradition of game rules and making new ones simply to sell the new product to the old audience (4E D&D; ok.. i like 4E - but it should have been called something else like "LaZzors & Clerics" or something)
  3. Killing a product with a 30-year tradition (or two), then rewrapping them as a new product while hyping a third product that will never see the light of day and charging people more for it (Dragon, Dungeon, DDI),
  4. See #3 and add in that the RPG community is doing it without them (Kobold Magazine; and see Mad Brew Labs recent post)
  5. A company that thinks it can control a market (the fan-base) for a product that is based on creativity and rule bending. Good luck. (the new GSL)
I believe the #1 biggest problem with dungeons & dragons products is that there is a revolving door of developers on the payrolls at WotC - and in any organization that has revolving door of core staff members there is always a major problem is a loss of corporate knowledge (and I do not mean corporation knowledge; I mean organizational memory).

The current DDI debacle is one prime example - do the current developers even know what happened with FLUID and the previous attempt at "shiney new cool software for D&D that has laserbeams"? Anyone else remember "Master Tools?" IT FAILED and should have been listed on the failblog.

I will leave you with a few more questions:
  • How many of the current people who work on the development of 4E D&D worked at WotC while 3E was in development?
  • How many worked there while 2E was still around?
  • Is there anyone there who used to be a TSR employee?
  • Any 1E developers still involved with D&D?
I think not.

I believe Wizards of the Coast suffers from corporate amnesia - can someone please help them?


  1. Well... for one I paid for my PHB. And I was then given the 3 set box set as a gift fro my birthday so while I didn't technically buy them, they were paid for. And I bought the first module. And one friend bought the box set, and another just the PHB... Which is just me and my experience which is rather insignificant to the general scheme of things, but there are those of us that have bought the books...

    I just don't have the energy for the level of vitriol tossed at WotC and 4e. I don't think it's the best thing since sliced bread, necessarily, but it's a decent game. I think it did some good things... ehhh... it's your blog, and its' your rant... I just...

    Alright, here I'll just address number 5. While I don't like the GSL, and think it's so restrictive they'd have been better off just not having one than having the one they put out... it's not aimed at controlling the /fan base/. It's aimed at controlling companies attempting to make a profit off their base stuff.

  2. I think every company eventually reaches the "sellout" stage. They probably need to if they are going to survive as a money making entity. I just find the next new, innovative company and dig their stuff till they reach the sellout plateau.

    Oh, and I can never find what I need on Bittorrent, so I use other "channels".

  3. I pay for all my game books.

    Writers and editors in the RPG field are paid poorly enough already without me stealing their work, I think.

  4. tell me how you REALLY feel ;)

    Seriously, you've got a good point, and I wasn't specifically defending WotC. I personally feel that a company needs to put out a quality product or it deserves to die a horrible death. DDI is a prime example of WotC not doing that and they deserve whatever happens.

    The great thing about a free market economy is that you're free to get your stuff anywhere, and it sounds like you already do that. So the big boys have to produce even more quality to get your dollars...something they may or may not do.

    But at least I got some discussion going :D

  5. While I admit to liking the 4e system and originally being excited about the DDI. I have never been a fan of the transition of Dragon and Dungeon magazines to the online only format.
    I now like the 4e system on its own merit but have no interest in the DDI. I have no intentions of subscribing as I see it as a complete failure. The hype and poor planning has been a slap in the face to D&D fans. I still think it is a good idea, but I don't think WotC is capable of following through with much of anything.
    This may be wishful thinking on my part but I can see the D&D brand falling into the hands of another company within 10 years. That is unless there is a major overhaul to how things are handled and developed.
    I agree with the idea that D&D/WotC has reached the sell out point. WotC, more likely Hasbro, and their idea of success has tarnished the brand and turned long time fans against them. They are recreating the mistakes of TSR and likely will eventually suffer the same fate. I just hope the brand doesn't die with them.

  6. Luckily the RPG world is vibrant and alive with new systems and ideas. A few years back I started to experiment outside of D&D and found that the other systems are great too. So, now it doesn't bother me too much that they monkeyed so much with 4E. I'll just play 3.5 or some other system.

    Remember: It's all in our heads anyway!

  7. Th GSL is being edited. I think WotC realizes that retaining the right to yank the GSL puts 3rd party publishers in a difficult position. WotC could pull the plug, and everyone would go down. It's not that WotC would do that, but years from now the ownership might change. Anybody who's followed TSR, knows how badly this can go.

    As for 4e print products, you missed the poster maps and miniatures appeal. Sure I can get everything I need for 4e online, but not material objects like maps and minis. I tell you what. I'd take the adventures as a download PDF, and pay more for a fully battle-mapped adventure. Heck, I've even suggested boxed adventures that include all the battle-maps and minis.

    But yeah, I can't see another paper version of D&D. I will always be around in some incarnation. maybe barely recognizable, but the Dungeons & Dragons brand is powerful.

  8. Heya everyone! Thanks for stopping by today!

    For the record - I too paid for my core rules. Funny how one little comment about bittorrent makes everyone go "Bittorrent? Not me!" heh...

    anyway... also for the record: I too happen to be really enjoying the new 4E rule system. Don't get me wrong - its a fun game; it is however VERY different from 3E. What makes me annoyed is the perceived motivations behind why WotC produced 4E - i really don't think it was becuase 3.5 was broke. I think it was becuase people stopped buying their PHBs, MM, and DMGs becuase the market was saturated. Then the rest follows.

  9. I admit it, I torrented my 4E pdf's. After seeing that they weren't inked with the blood of the unborn, I went to amazon and bought a core set.

    I've also torrented PDF's of all my print 3.5 stuff. Am I a bastard? No. I don't feel bad at all. I just refused to pay more oney for something I already own, and wanted to see a "controversial" product before shelling out 100- for it.

    As to the rest. I too am too busy and tired to sustain my vitriol @ WotC. They screwed up. They know it. They figure if they ignore it and push on, it will go away. We'll see how that goes.

    IMO, they deserve all the criticism - good and bad. Blaming marketing for overhyping the fan base is only an excuse when a major selling point (DDI) is apparently DOA. After getting F*cked royally for shelling out over 150 bones for E-tools and all the freaking add-ons, they have a LOT of convincing to do if they want me to pay ANYTHING for their digital products.

  10. The WotC booth at GenCon sold out of PHB's (yes, the core book that had already been out for almost 3 months) on the first day.

    I think the question "how many of you have really paid for your 4E books" has been answered, a huge majority.

    A lot of what you're saying boils down to rampant fanboy-ism vs. 4E. You're deriding a company for wanting to expand not only their market base / potential customers, but ALSO for attracting more people to the hobby which is something we should all be 100% behind.

    You repeatedly mentioned the 30-year tradition of D&D, but you haven't gone into any specifics of this or how it has been killed. Until that happens I can't really take any of this argument with any sort of weight or reason to it.

  11. @ jonathan
    I have feeling you may be right about WotC's motivation. There are only so many players and after a certain number of years they are likely going to see an incredible drop in sales of core material. Of course this goes back to a post I did about the fact that they never did really try to expand their customer base. At least not in good way. WotC should have spent a little more time trying to bring in new players by putting the game into places where new players shop. While I have heard that it happened, I never saw D&D in a Toys R' Us, Wal-mart, or any other outlet of that type. Borders doesn't count because it is a book store, not the place to draw in younger gamers. Even the products offered in books stores was pretty limited. Add to that the fact that FLGS are hard to come by in most areas, we have none locally, and that CCGs, and sometimes minis games, are found everywhere from Department stores to your local convenience store. Which game has the most chance of reaching new players? WotC and most RPG companies don't seem to work that way. I would love to walk into my local Rite Aid, CVS, or Jay C(grocery) store to pick up a new RPG supplement the way I can pick up Yu gi oh, Pokemon or Magic cards.
    They kept the market small and saturated it. In essence killing the product themselves.

  12. BTW, I bought my core books as well. Actually I got them as a gift, but you know what I mean... they were paid for.

  13. @ Bartoneous : Your level-headed responses to rants here and elsewhere always leave me thinking: Yeah.. you're probably right. As for attracting more players - sure, of course I'm 100% behind it, but they didn't need a new version of the game to do that. I think Noisms said it best in his post-reply to this post:
    I really wonder where WotC will go from here. I'm nowhere near churlish enough to argue that they couldn't continue to make fun versions of D&D from here until kingdom come if they had the money to. But there are only so many times you can say "Here's a new better version than the one you've been enjoying for the last few years!" before your customers start to smell rats. Role playing games are not like computer games, where graphics and processor speeds are continually evolving: there is a point at which a set of rules are good enough and require no more refinement. (Which is why nobody has successfully produced a new version of the Monopoly rules, for example.) This is especially true of rules for role playing games, whose point is not rules at all, but the concept of a shared world, which is free.

    On another note: are you 1/2 vulcan? =D

    @ geekgazette : i agree. if WotC was trying to expand their fan-base then they should have marketed the game in places other then... gaming stores. Its like preaching to the choir : "Look folks! I rewrote the Bible! ... Again! Lemme tell you what Jesus said this time!"

    ok.. i jest.. i jest...

  14. It's rare (almost never) that I'm known for my level-headed responses. So thanks, gives me some hope that I'm actually getting better. :D

    I think I may have to head over to Noisms place now, to discuss universal BAD ideas such as using Monopoly as an example of GOOD rules design. I'll just say this here: It's rare that anyone actually enjoys finishing a game of Monopoly. There is no fun end game, it's terrible. No one's remade it because marketing a competitor to that game would take a miracle!

  15. I purchased the gift set of all 3 core books and plan to continue to buy other core books that I find interesting. One way of determining if I will buy them is to preview them at the store or via pdf files. If I own the physical book, then I have to qualms downloading the pdf. If I do not own it, then I download to preview it and then delete it. Although not rich, I can affrod to buy the books that I like even thogu I work at a public library and have access to these books for free
    As for pdfs, I think paying for a different format of the exact same thing is robbery so I refuse to be baited about the legality of downloading from torrents and the like...especially when I can do this on my own with my physical copy.
    As for the rest of the comment, I remember the failed products and think nothing wrong with it. They don't support it properly at all levels, it will fail and they will have wasted lots of developer cash that went into it. It is as simple as that...and I have no problem with the wait and see attitude by reading reviews of a product before I buy into it.


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