Jan 202011

Well if you’ve been paying the least bit of attention to the RPG scene, you’ve probably heard that Ryan Dancey has made another gloomy prediction for the RPG industry. Basically, the chances for D&D remaining a table top game are pretty much dead in the water. Despite the chant of “So goes WOTC so goes the hobby” I really don’t think that WOTC is all that important any more. Yes, WOTC is the 800 pound gorilla but Paizo is like a 600 pound gorilla. Pathfinder has pretty much tied or surpassed 4th Edition D&D depending on what stats you happen to believe. I find it really amazing that a company the size of Hasbro could have missed so badly so many times on marketing the world’s most popular role playing game. Remember the brouhaha with GSL and the Edition Wars? The mixed reception of D&D Insider and the virtual tools? And even more recently the whole “Is Essentials 4.5?” debate. What all this says to this little guy is that the people holding the purse strings just didn’t understand their market. I don’t blame the talented crew of designers. I blame the suits and the bean counters at Hasbro who marketed D&D like it was Clue or Risk.
But if WOTC fell flat on its face would it really be that bad? Sure they would probably sit on the license and milk it for all it is worth through electronic games, board games, films and whatever other merchandise they could sell. What would it mean for the RPG hobby? I think there would be some dark and difficult days. But in the end the hobby would endure by going back to its roots. The exact thing that grew the hobby in the first place. Small groups of friends huddled over a table having fun. Remember this hobby actually started pre-Internet. Yes, youngsters there was a time when there was no email, no facebook, no twitter nada. I think the hobby has a much better chance of surviving and thriving now than if TSR had totally crashed and burned and Wizards had not stepped in and taken over.
But this is my blog and its OK for me to dream. What in my crazy dreams would be the prefect outcome for everybody? WOTC/Hasbro wants to make money. I have no problem with that. Let them. They can have the D&D license and make as many board games, video games, comic books, movies and whatever that they want. Let another publisher take of the RPG license. I wouldn’t want it to be Paizo. Yes, I do like Pathfinder but I don’t consider myself a Paizo cultist. Paizo has a solid game and market with Pathfinder. If they got the D&D license too, it would just muddle the waters. At the very best in my dream world, they’d merge the two and take the best things from Pathfinder/3.5 and the best ideas from 4th Edition and merge them. And resurrect the OGL. But that’s just crazy talk isn’t it?
There’s one other path that WOTC still might take. Look at the time between the release of various editions. I’ll dare to say it. It’s about time for the announcement of 5th Edition and a chance to undo many of the crazy things they did with the launch of 4th Edition. Mark my words. Late this year or next year, there will be at the very least a major announcement from WOTC that will change the game in a major way again.

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 Posted by at 10:10 am

  5 Responses to “Ryan Dancey: You made me think scary thoughts”

  1. Since we’re fantasizing a bit, I’d love to see HasbroWoTCTSR take a good long look at the roots of the game (OD&D/B/X or AD&D 1st) and instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, look at worked and what didn’t for each edition after that then make a *true next edition” to to the original system. Ditch the crazy “buy more, buy more” gimmicks (Fortune Cards? Please.) Then market it as the “revised” Basic and Expert sets again, with an emphasis on “You don’t have to have everything to have fun with this.”

    I think going back to basics is the only way to avoid losing the property again or worse RD’s prediction of a wholy virtual hobby.

  2. I tend to feel that there will be a big announcement regarding D&D in the next year, but I’m not sure the suits at Hasbro are inclined to believe that they were wrong about the direction of D&D. They are more likely to put on blinders and believe that the entire RPG industry is dead, rather than admit they were wrong. If that does happen D&D will probably move in an entirely new direction.

  3. I honestly believe that Hasbro’s greatest problem in regards to D&D was not sitting the WotC brass down with the Hasbro marketing people when the acquired the company and havng them work out the details on the obvious way to exploit the D&D brand. An example would have been a D&D cartoon to act as a gateway to getting more people (read: kids) into D&D.

  4. I agree with both Kenneth and 8one6.
    I would add that I think they should keep 4e alive, for a while at least, and have it be the physical counterpart to the digital D&D. I also think they should do as Kenneth suggests and make a true next edition that incorporates everything that fans say was “right” about all of the other editions. I also think they really need to playtest the heck out of it.

  5. I’ll admit that I’m no big fan of 4E but I will admit that it does have some good points. But if WOTC does move on I doubt that they would still support 4E. It just doesn’t make good business sense. I doubt the Marketing department would also admit that they are wrong. Let’s face it. In most markets their job it is to tell consumers what they want but in the RPG market the consumers are a bit more knowledgeable and passionate.

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