Thursday, January 13, 2011

WotC scaling back D&D output

The news from this Ampersand article has been lighting up the gaming blogosphere. WotC is cutting back on D&D production on a few fronts.

No more minis. WotC is ending production of its pre-painted plastic minis line. Minis may continue to be a part of board game products and there may be special releases. While that doesn't affect me much, and I think WotC bungled the way they sold minis, I could see this being a disappointment to those who liked having minis on the table but didn't have the time, talent or resources to paint up minis. In fact, I expect WotC to switch to counters like those used in Monster Vault to replace minis for tabletop.

Three books canceled. This is the "uh-oh" to me. The only reason to cancel these books is if WotC didn't think they make a profit, which means sales are decreasing. While I'm sure some will point to this as evidence that 4e "sucks", there are other factors besides the edition wars. WotC cranked out a lot of books early on, and now the market is saturated. There is also attrition due to people going to competitors like Pathfinder, the various home-brew clones, video/computer games, or leaving the hobby in general.

It also looks like WotC is abandoning the digest format used in the Essentials line, as an upcoming release has switched from digest to hardcover. The reasoning could be negative feedback regarding the new format or they will make more profit with a higher priced hardcover.

Finally, I assume the pulling books off the release schedule will fuel the fire of 5e conspiracy theorists.

No more Dragon or Dungeon compilations. To me, and I've read others express this, Dragon ceased when it went digital. So this change isn't a big deal to me, especially since I'm not a subscriber to D&D Insider. And based on the promise to continue the same digital output, it's not a big deal. I do wonder why, is there a cost associated with compiling the digital articles into monthly downloads? I would think this would be almost automated and would be worth keeping if it improved the satisfaction of a few customers.

While I find this news slightly concerning, mainly dropping books off the schedule, I also noticed hints that WotC will be putting more energy into other gaming products like board games. It reminds me of a FLGS that moved to a location in a fashionable mall. All of the RPG product was shoved to a back corner so the front of the store could feature board games and puzzles. Has WotC discovered there is more money in cardboard than books?

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