Wednesday, January 19, 2011

RyanD on 4e

Now this is interesting. There's lots of interesting thoughts here from the man who gave us the OGL. First, on the red box:

I have no clue what Wizards thinks it is doing with the "red box". The Intro product for D&D has one, and only one purpose: To introduce 12-14 year old kids to the roleplaying hobby and start them on the path to become purchasers of the core books. That product must be designed to sell in mass market stores where it can get the widest possible distribution outside of the hobby core (where you can safely assume that gamers are teaching gamers without the need of a special product to do it). It must be priced correctly vs. the other games it is shelved with, and it must be packaged and presented in a way that a mother would be comfortable buying as a gift for the son or daughter of a friend.

The "red box" looks like a nostalgia product designed to be sold to 40 year-olds who want to relive a moment of their childhoods. I don't get the art or the font - neither will appeal to either kids or moms in CE2011. It doesn't look like any other products in the 4E line so how will people know that it connects? Doesn't even matter what's inside the box - this is one of those things that has to sell on its presentation on the shelf.

I really think Oddysey is on the right track here. The red box is aimed at young gamers, but by way of selling to their parents. It may be an odd direction to take, but it does, in a clever sort of way, outflank the whole "isn't that the game my dad used to play" issue.

The really interesting part comes at the end:

Three years ago I told people that it didn't matter if 4e was successful or not, because it was likely to be the last version of D&D that would be based on paper based tabletop gaming. I've seen nothing so far that changes my opinion about that. How it can become a digital product and still compete with MMOs is something I'd be happy to have Wizards pay me a lot of money to research but again, nothing I've seen yet shows me that they're on the right path so far.

Before he says that, he spends a lot of time talking about why the digital initiative doesn't really seem to work. He's got a lot of good points there. Like Mr. Dancey, I also assume that the end goal is a D&D built around a subscription model and with dead-tree paper books as loss leaders. It doesn't appear that WotC has the tools in place to make that happen yet, but if they build the digital tabletop correctly (and, unlike Mr. Dancey, I see this as an excellent idea) it could serve as the tentpole for a series of fifth edition online tools that will themselves form the core of a new digital offering.

This is all commentary under the first of a new series of articles the Mr. Dancey will be writing for ENWorld. The theme is going to be expanding the infamous "20 minutes of fun crammed into four hours." Considering previous topics he has been exploring lately, it'll be interesting to see what sort of suggestions he makes.

7 comments:

Greg Christopher said...

Ryan is always interesting, even when I don't agree. I put my own thoughts up only to find your post went live while I was writing it.

Robert Fisher said...

It is kind of amusing to watch Wizards flail around like this with D&D. They’re so worried about the business side that they’re losing sight of everything that made the game special. Their future of D&D may even be successful, but it looks like it is going to be a completely different beast. If it isn’t already.

And Dancey may sing a different melody, but he’s doing it to the same drummer.

trollsmyth said...

Robert Fisher: That's not too surprising. When your business model is based on books, you simply can't sell the same book to the same audience over and over again. Too many people are willing to live with little more than the core, and you can't build a career (forget a dozen) on something like that.

If you just want to sell more books, you'll need to transform the game into something different. If you want to escape from the book-selling model, you'll need to transform the game into something different. Transformation is unavoidable at this point.

Robert Fisher said...

A lot I could say, but I’m going to try to be brief.

Trying to build a career (at Wizards) on D&D is simply crazy. Everyone can see that nobody stays on the D&D team that long.

Wizards business model was never based on books. D&D has never been their primary product.

“Transformation” is simply risking a valuable brand on an unproven product. Much smarter to have R&D products build a new brand.

And, honestly, I thought I’d be done spending money on RPG products at this point, but the spirit of the old game (now divorced from its name) has managed to inspire some products that have won some of my dollars that Wizards hasn’t been winning. And it isn’t because they’ve discovered a novel way to transform or monetize D&D.

The sad part is that all of this just causes a lot of confusion. Among fans of both the spirit of the old D&D and whatever this new thing bearing the name becomes. At this point, though, my attitude has become more amused than sad about that.

velaran said...

WOW is 'D AND D'(Superficial and limiting as it may be) online! The sooner the people at WOTC/Hasbro realize that, the more likely they'll be able to get their house in order.

They can compete with PC and console games, their past products were considered very good and sold well.

Virtual Tabletops are only for those people who are dead set on gaming with other 'gamers' or who have severe problems with health or extra demanding work schedules, in my opinion.(Or some other exigent circumstances, or just to help a player isolated from a group play at the last minute or something, etc...) If I were WOTC, I'd offer them cheap as a bundle with the books.

In the Digital Age, face to face RPGing is different from CRPGs, and has strengths largely variant from its electronic counterpart. This should be exploited, especially with more campaigns to introduce players to the hobby outside of game stores, without cutting the game store out of the loop.

Plenty of people who never palyed before will, if they are aware of the game, and have a supportive set of 'sponsors'! It worked for me, and I'm no magnetic personality, I'd say...

Just my opinion, though.

Antonio said...

A recent anecdote about the 4e Red Box: a newbie I met lately had bought it and tried to play it. Then I setup a group to play a Mentzer D&D campaign, and she is part of this group. Her reaction after the first session "These are different games." Then looking at my Mentzer Red Box: "Where can I buy this version of D&D?"
I wonder how many people had the same reaction, and how many would toss the new Red Box out the window if given the choice with the old Red Box.

trollsmyth said...

Antonio: I'm curious: did you send her to eBay or Labyrinth Lord to get her own copy?