RPG Blog Carnival: The Future of Gaming


The following is utter crap, and the opinions of a mad man. You have been warned.

The RoleplayingPro has the blog carnival, and the topic is The Future of Gaming. As a total outsider, and the marketing sense of anybody else who never went to collage, I still have an idea of where I would like the company of Wizards of the Coast to go. Currently I do not buy any of their products, as none of them are marketed towards me as an individual. I will do my best not to knock 4e or its users, because quite honestly a good portion of my readers don’t even play 2nd Edition, most play older editions or more modern editions of the game. While I do respect their feelings and attitudes, I do have my opinions which no doubt will leak out of this post like a crack in the dike which is the internet.

As I see it, Wizards of the Coast is absolutely insane and sailing their ship directly into oblivion. Their latest marketing tactic of pulling all PDFs off of the market because of piracy has temporarily crippled them. As an outsider, I believe that they have crippled themselves.

I will leave the future of 4e and 3e to people who know what they are talking about, but I think that Wizards of the Coast was first injured by the old TSR, and forced to walk with a limp from the get go. As this happened, I was upset, I trusted TSR and wasn’t aware of their business morals (or more appropriately, the lack of said business morals), nor the messy devorce between the company and its creator, the late Gary Gygax. All I knew at the time was that some card game had bought them, and anybody who has played D&D for a long period of time can tell you straight out that D&D is not a game, it is a hobby. All of this stuff is more work then just picking out who is banker and dividing up pieces and money. That said, I was deeply disturbed by the invention of some card game which was not D&D, but now, looking back, the marketing plan of TSR enjoyed being a fat and happy cow on a lone horizon and, sadly, started competing with itself.

There is a big difference between OD&D, D&D, and AD&D 1-2e, and the later products which came out, starting with 3rd edition. As a user of 2nd edition, I use only the core rules, and ignore all of the modules and game worlds, preferring the previous editions works. I can take a module written for OD&D and play it under 2nd editions core rules, but if I look at 3e or above I honestly have no idea what half of that stuff means. This is more then just a fracture of the bone, this is a completely new animal. Then you have all of the d20 stuff, and all of the 3.5 stuff and it just gives an old fart like me a headache. It is too different. Too rules heavy. Not to say that it is wrong! God no, it is just too different to me and I am just assuming that I’m not the only one.

The point isn’t which edition is best, the point is that each time TSR (and later Wizards of the Coast) created a new edition, it caused a fracture. Now, they had no way of knowing, or even imagining that in the future that everybody would have an instant publishing device in their homes (better known as the personal computer). I think that the release of D&D and later, AD&D, were embraced more then the other editions because it actually saved work, and compiled the works from many different scattered sources. It expanded on things which a DM had to do, and the DM honestly had no points of reference to work off of, thus being a Dungeon Master prior to the release of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was seriously hardcore geek work! 1e cut down on lots and lots of paperwork and guesswork. The true fracture happened when 2e was released. This marked a big change, the game itself became less powerful, and the modules became little terrorists which would highjack all of the DMs plans and introduced the world to hardcore railroad jobs.

This fracture was just as loud and just as frightening as any fracture in the company. Folks got mad, insults were thrown, people got hurt but it was a local war which took place in specialty shops in every city. Suddenly your magazines started talking about Nonweapon Proficiencies, Weapon Specialization, and crazy talk about Priest Spheres. If you weren’t finished playing your old D&D games, TOUGH!!!! This is the future, and this is the way. We are going to take the information from the AD&D core books and make you buy 15 to get the same information, but more long winded and with pretty pictures.

THAT is a fracture, but eventually this fracture seemed to heal . . . but not really. Sure, tons of people bought into 2e (myself included) not because it was a better game, but because it was available. Yes, there were odd games such as Trolls & Warlords or what have you, but nobody wanted to play them because you never knew if they were any good or not. I remember buying a copy of Call of Cuthulu and to this day I’ve never played it simply because everybody wanted to play D&D. We all knew those rules. It is a name brand, and that name brand is important. Dungeons & Dragons is the holy grail of tabletop Role Playing. But for some reason, TSR nor Wizard of the Coast have been happy with this fact, and always threw wrenches in their own marketing plans.

It has been several years since the original fracture, the loudest and most bloodiest fracture taking place with 4e because NOW, it isn’t just little local wars scattered across the country, but one giant war which involves all of the players in the world. The sad thing is that this is Wizards marketing plan. Make fun of their former products, separate from them and alienate the players of them. This to me is just stupid!

If you look at the numbers, and at the numbers alone, it will look like Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition is a successful product, but think about all of the money which is leaking out.

There is a demand, if Wizards wants to believe that folks upgrade like good consumers they are on crack! We don’t, nor have we ever simply upgraded. By fracture marketing you are only marketing towards a completely different group of customers. The equivalent of Mars candies discontinuing plain M&Ms because they invented ones with peanuts in them. People are going to play the older editions of the game, and in todays market, WIZARDS can’t get away with lying about it anymore.

Earlier this year WIZARDS tactically errored by pulling all out of print PDFs off of the market. This was the only source of income that they were making from these products. Now people are forced to either pirate them or buy them from garage sale markets like Ebay and out-of-print bookstores.

This was stupid, but perhaps they have a plan. I hope they have a plan. If it were up to me, which it isn’t, but if it were, then I’d break them all up into their formor editions, and create pay-per-view sites. Sell the PDF’s at home, this way you can keep all of the money and also see what products folks are wanting. If the numbers justify it, then REPRINT THE PRODUCT.

I have some fat for you folks to chew on here, just to show exactly how much money Wizards is loosing out on. Last month I purchased an out-of-print copy of the original World of Greyhawk box set. Now this box set didn’t come with a box, the map had a couple of holes in it where some DM marked cities with pins, but the two books that came with it were pristine. I found this on ebay, and a bidding war started over this thing that isn’t fit for collectors but for players who want to use the game to play it. Thank god my wonderful wife who I love very very much was spoiling me by monitoring this thing all day until she won it for me. I had originally halted my bidding at $25, but finally paid almost $60 when all was said and done with.

Sixty bucks, and how much of that goes to Wizards of the Coast? NOT A DIME!!!! The bidding war was mean, and furious. There is a demand for products like this and the people who want them are willing to pay for them. This exposes something to me! The future, or at least the future if Wizards stops acting like a corporation that doesn’t know what it is doing. A corporation which makes money instead of spending it on lawsuits which end up hurting the hobby and them more then helping anybody.

REINVENT THE BOXSET

Looking at the DVD marked, and just judging about how many times I have purchased Star Wars films, we can learn something from this. Especially by looking at LucasArts marketing department. This company is a marketing genius! They know exactly who buys their products, and keeps creating products which we want and wish for. I mean, they are marketing toys for a movie that came out in the 70’s and they are doing it successfully! That says something about it. Lucas Arts can be a trademark nazi, but they let the little stuff go, and encourage the fans to create. Granted, currently WIZARDS is allowing us a lot of leeway, if they wanted to they could shut all of us old farts down because they have enough money to claim to own all rights to words like DUNGEON and DRAGON and we cheap bums don’t have the resources to formally tell them that their buggers in a court of law. THAT IS GOOD!!! They are finally recognizing the power of written words and that sites like this one and many others are still helpful to their bottom lines.

But . . . lets take this one step further. I just spent 60 bucks on a box set, and I’m betting you that if WIZARDS puts out a box set, mark it for 60 bucks, they can include things which may make me spend even more money on it. Take the World of Greyhawk Box Set, throw in reprints of the original 2 books, maybe errata them, it doesn’t need much, but keep them “as is.” The map in the old box set was vinyl, hand-drawn, and a true work of art. Truth be known, I paid 60 bucks for the map itself, the two books were perks, but the map to me is worth more then just 60 bucks. Reprint it on vinyl. Hell, if a map is popular enough, such as Forgotten Realms or what have you, PRINT IT ON VINYL! If it is a piece of history, then folks will pay for it!

Special Features are good to. Throw in another book, a new one, written about the behind the scenes history of what went into the box. This box is a classic! Folks are interested in it. Even folks that already have a copy will want a copy! Hardcore folks would buy one to play with, and one for the shelf. Drops some toys in there, limited edition dice, whatever you can think of, and you can set the price as high as you’d like. If you make it special enough, and make the buyer happy you can’t go wrong!

RELEASE THE CORE HANDBOOKS

Again, the only place to purchase these things are used bookstores and ebay. Some books are easier to find then others, and you can print them in both soft and hard-bound editions. Soft-bound is fine! Print-on-demand. PDF’s are fine, but next to a hardcopy and folks will take the hardcopy hands down. Older gamers are having a hard time right now, our books are so old that they are falling apart. This is a perfectly expectable marketing tool! Look at the light bulb. We can send man to the moon, and travel to the other side of the world in a day, but we can’t invent a light bulb that don’t burn out? Give me a break! Books wear out, especially books which are used as much as players handbooks are, help us replace them and you’ll get the money instead of some guy from Minnesota who found a good copy in his attic.

USE TSR’S ARCHIVES

The very idea that Wizards of the Coast purchased all of the rights and products of TSR and chose to just sit on them makes no sense what so ever. Who does that???? I bet you that if Coke finally forced Pepsi out of the market and purchased them, Coke would then start selling Pepsi products without a care in the world. USE THE ARCHIVES!!!!!

The internet killed the Magazine star. That is FACT! Dungeon Magazine, as well as Dragon are now irrelevant, the audience is more splintered then ever, quit fighting it and just except it as reality. Pulp Fiction has made a big come back. The surviving stories are being reprinted and sold to a knew audience who enjoys collecting them. Pulp Art is another big selling point. These magazines are so brittle and worn that most don’t exist anymore, the originals are treasures, the authors who in their own times were considered hacks are now getting the respect that they deserve.

If WIZARD played their cards correctly, they could make a killing on the book market. Going through their magazine archives and reprinting the best stuff, the stuff that is system neutral, and you can resell it either as a legitimate book series, a seasonal or annual magazine, or both!

USER CREATED MATERIALS

Unfortunately, I don’t think that the bigwigs up at HASBRO or whoever now owns the property even have an inkling of what kind of potential goldmine that they are sitting on, nor what to do with all of that information. I’m afraid that until they do, then it is up to US, the tabletop hobbyists to make the products that we wish to see. There are some excellent resources out there now, from blogs to hand-made modules which are printed to order, PDFs both free and original, tools which aid our creativity. In some ways, gaming has never been better! Groups around the world are still getting together to share their time throwing dice and having a great time, new folks who are interested in the hobby are showing up in groves, Dungeon Masters are at a premium, and entire networks have been created to make finding the information out there that much easier. It’s a good time!

WIZARDS OF THE COAST

It is the attitude of the folks above that is an important factor, even to guys like me who hasn’t purchased a product from them in over ten years. If they decide that it is time to pull the plug on the entire thing, shutting websites down for plagiarisms, going after fan sites, and in other ways choosing to eat their young, then the good time will be temporary, but, if instead, they begin nurturing the scene their own future, or at least the future of the franchise we call D&D will shine on for as long as our sun continues to burn.

I would like to see products out there that makes our jobs simpler. I know a CD of royalty-free Clip Art would be fantastic. While personal publishing is cheap and easy, creating art is not! TSR had the rights to millions of pictures (at least I am under the impression that they have), I would sleep a lot better at nights if I could buy a copy of clipart free and legal to use. I am not sure who owns these pictures, if it is the artists themselves or WIZARDS OF THE COAST, nor do I have any idea how one could go about gaining permission to use images.

There is a lot to say about computers at the gametable as well. An idea that I resisted for a long time, but now that I have been using it for homemade maps and such, I can see a spot for the old books to be written onto CD and made searchable. I know that TSR did this with 2e, but this program has never been re-released, nor updated in any way to support current operating systems. I use to own a copy of the program but like many treasures we once had, the CD ROM has disappeared.

I am still pretty resistant about virtual gaming tables, but that is just because I don’t believe that the technology is quite there yet. A map which can be updated instantly for all characters to see would be great, but I still don’t know if this is more of a distraction or not yet.

Is there a future for Table top gaming? YES!!! Parents are teaching their kids how to play, the actual playability for computer based games is severely limited, once Wizards realizes that they don’t need to compete with programs like Worlds of Warcraft, and just focus on what one can and can’t do with tabletop gaming the better. Dungeons and Dragons is unique, and it’s own creature. I would like to see it going back to its basics, becoming more sketchy, leaving the actual game-play up to individual hobbyists themselves. Returning to its roots and celebrating its own birth is reason enough to exist. D&D has a place in history, I am just glad that I am here to take part in it.

4 comments:

Welleran said...

Wow...quite the all-encompassing essay! I really like the idea of CD's with legally usable artwork...that would be awesome.

allandaros said...

I'm a hybrid player - my go-to game is AD&D 2e, but I'm currently enjoying the 4e campaign I'm in, so place whatever valence you will on my post from that.

I definitely agree with the POD for earlier edition corebooks and the sale of PDFs. PDFs are essentially free money for WotC, and their pulling them was an utterly boneheaded decision.

I am far more dubious about the boxset idea, though. While I personally love boxsets, I've seen far too many industry folks over on RPGnet saying "They're cool, but the overhead is too high." Yes, people will buy a $60 boxset - but probably not enough to make the entire printrun worthwhile, and I think that POD boxsets aren't really realistic here. With a $30 boxset, you might get enough to make it worthwhile, but even then I'd think it was dubious. This makes me sad, since (like I said) I love boxsets. They're great, self-contained, with all sorts of opportunities for separate maps and so forth.

But not economical, I fear.

Ripper X said...

Thanks for commenting guys!

About the Boxset issue. I don't know if you are a comicbook reader or not, but there is a connection. Darkhorse comics is much much smaller then either of the giants that rule the marked, DC & Marvel. The cost of a Darkhorse comic is much higher then either of the established name brands of the industry. THE QUALITY IS BETTER! But because they aren't as well known around the world, nor as established and don't sell as many comics as the two giants do, they spend more on printing, which is reflected in the consumer cost.

Dungeons & Dragons is the biggest kid on the block, they can publish a box set cheaper then anybody else & still expect a return on their investment. Besides, this would be leveled at a collectible market, the problem being, would this collectible we worth money in ten years? That I can't say, since it would be a reprint. I suppose that that is always the gamble that one takes when collecting memorabilia. A World of Greyhawk box right now, I would say, YES! Yes a reprint would be good and it would be worth money down the line. I am not aware of any true reprint of this product.

Brooze the Bear said...

Personally, I don't see a need for Wizards Of The Coast. Everytime I open one of the 4th Ed books, I can't finish reading a page. All the Jargon, the awful rtwork, and worst of all, the dumbed down writing for an 8-11 year old vieogame player. My game is AD&D 1Ed corebooks with AD&D 2nd supplements and skill system from Runequest. BTW Rip, I got a folio and a boxed set version of the World Of Greyhawk and paid $15 and $25 for it on ebay. I own the entire TSR AD&D Catalog through the Complete Book Of series, and I bought for pennies on the dollar on ebay. Never paid more that $8 for any book. The stuff is out there. Why do I need the ubercool nerdos from WoTC working the muchkin set?

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