Thursday, January 31, 2008

Does WotC Need to Reroll Their (Digital) Initiative?

Faerie Dragon over at the Velvet Dicebag isn't happy about what's happened to Dungeon magazine since WotC took it back from Paizo.

I'm really getting concerned. If the magazines don't stop completely sucking really soon, I may have to abandon Dungeons & Dragons Insider completely. I don't want to be the crazy conspiracy theorist, but some of the anti-4e crazies are beginning to make me think twice about even buying into the new core books. The dismal failure of the online mags to shine only reinforces that. I hope Chris manages to turn these publications around soon.

I have to agree with Faerie Dragon. So far, WotC’s digital initiative has been an unmitigated disaster. They are not selling 4.0 very well. They’re selling D&D Insider with even less skill. Frankly, the entire situation has me scared spitless.

Let’s be honest here: where goes D&D, there goes pen-and-paper RPGs. It’s the 500 lbs gorilla that dominates this market. It’s also the public face of the hobby. D&D has far more name recognition than any other game out there, or even the term “roleplaying”. And yet, turning that command into steady income seems to be beyond most people. TSR even managed to drive themselves deep into the red while owning this most powerful brand in the hobby.

WotC’s digital initiative is an attempt to break free of the publish-or-perish trap the entire industry is mired in. Trying to squeeze a few more pennies out of your market every month, after they’ve bought everything they need to enjoy playing for the rest of their lives in your core rule books, is a losing game. A D&D Insider with a $10 US monthly fee would allow WotC to break free of that trap. They could transform themselves from a publishing company into a service company, which would not only free them from the compulsion to bury their game in an endless stream of new rules and settings, but would also realign their interests with the interests of their customers. Right now, WotC wants to sell books. Their audience wants to play games. With D&D Insider, the WotC focus moves from selling books to getting more people playing the game more often.

It’s clear that Dragon and Dungeon are not getting the resources they need at this critical time when they should be migrating the dead-tree audience over to the digital media. They’re not getting the word out about how the new edition of the game is going to knock everyone’s socks off. And nobody is being convinced that D&D Insider is going to be a vital part of their games in the future. So far, we’ve been promised a fancy version of OpenRPG, and we’ve seen an anemic Dragon and a shadow of Dungeon. If things don’t turn around soon, GenCon ’09 might open with the announcement that D&D is up on the auction block.

1 comment:

online pharmacy said...

Indeed WotC needs to roll their their initiative once and for all!