So let’s take a look:
That 4e is a vehicle to sell expensive, pre-painted minis is an article of faith among some. They’re going to need to get a new religion, because WotC ain’t gonna be in the miniatures business much anymore:
We have made the decision to depart from prepainted plastic miniatures sets. Lords of Madness stands as the final release under that model. We will continue to release special collector’s sets (such as the Beholder Collector’s Set we released last fall), as well as make use of plastic figures in other product offerings. Check out the Wrath of Ashardalon board game next month for the latest example of this.From now on, if you want a bunch of critters for your dungeon, WotC will sell you die-cut tokens, but not actual miniatures. Apparently, there wasn’t much gold in them thar hills. I can kinda understand why that didn’t work. It works for Games Workshop, but they are very up-front about being in the miniatures and models business. Everything they do is about selling those plastic and metal bits.
WotC isn’t quite like that. They’re into selling books, primarily.
Um, well, maybe…
And Bye-bye Books?!?
The Heroes of Shadow product, originally scheduled for March and presented in digest-sized, paperback format, is moving to April to accommodate a change to hardcover format. Additionally, three D&D RPG products have been removed from the 2011 release schedule—Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, and Hero Builder’s Handbook. While this means fewer books, we plan to deliver just as much great content for players this year through other formats, including board games, accessories, and digital offerings.
Honestly, I don’t have enough of a finger on the pulse of their publishing schedule or their player base to really understand what this means. Clearly, the paperback format of the new Essentials books isn’t a winner, but that’s fine. It was intended to make the books cheaper and friendlier, and I can only see the shift to hard-back as a promotion for the line.
Cancelling three books is harder to wrap my brain around. Were these also-rans in their publishing schedule this year? If so, we might simply be looking at a cost-cutting move, the results of past or potential layoffs. Or were these core offerings, books that were highly anticipated by players? In either case, it’s obvious the brand is diversifying into “board games, accessories, and digital offerings.”
Stepping back and looking at this as a whole, it really looks like fewer resources are being devoted to D&D as an RPG. More are being disbursed towards managing the wider brand. The best example of this is probably the latest iteration of Neverwinter:
Neverwinter for PC is scheduled to release in Q4 2011 and is part of a multi-platform event, including a book trilogy from New York Times best-selling author R. A. Salvatore and a tabletop roleplaying game from Wizards of the Coast.I’m assuming the “tabletop roleplaying game” is simply going to be some 4e setting info, adventures, or maybe splat books for the Neverwinter setting. If it’s an actual boxed-set like what they did for Gammaworld, well, that’ll be a whole ‘nother story, won’t it?