Friday, April 10, 2009

Update, uh, what, 6? The WotC PDF Mess Keeps Rollin' On

ENWorld has posted an interview with President of WotC, Greg Leeds. The topic, of course, is the recent decision by WotC to yank their PDF offerings from online retailers. I can understand the impulse, but unfortunately for poor Mr. Leeds, he's been pushed out to placate the pitchfork-wielding mob with nothing they haven't heard before.

First, let's start with the only bit of "real" news in the piece, which is this footnote:

The 10:1 ratio that Greg references is for PDFs only – it has nothing to do with the physical books. For every one PDF purchased legally, there were at least 10 downloaded illegally. And yes, we can track it.

*snicker* No, you can't, and everyone knows you can't. Saying otherwise just makes you look silly.

But not nearly as silly as the line of reasoning. Because people were pirating WotC's latest release at a ratio of ten pirated for every one purchased, WotC decided to yank their entire catalog of PDF offerings.

First, why is Mr. Leeds being shoved out the door to explain this situation days after the event itself? Did they not understand how the PDF market works? Did they not understand that people who had legitimately purchased PDFs would now no longer be able to download the product they had legally bought? When the event itself happened, the only official word from the company itself was posted on bulletin boards, leaving understandably shocked and angered customers to speculate wildly on the reasons.

Granted, this explanation, even if it had been announced in advance, wouldn't have helped much:

The piracy of our products was increasing at an alarming rate, and we felt that it could have a negative impact not only to Wizards of the Coast, but to the hobby industry as a whole...

The piracy became a substantial concern when we saw thousands of copies of our recently released Player’s Handbook 2 being downloaded illegally within hours of its release. We cannot share sales figures, but I can tell you that we conservatively estimate the ratio of illicit downloads to legally purchased copies was 10:1.

I'm still having trouble wrapping my mind around a world where this action makes sense. First, if it's true that the folks at WotC "do not have any plans to resume the sale of PDFs, but are actively exploring other options for the digital distribution" of their texts, what possible good was achieved by shutting down the legitimate sale of PDFs? The digital copies were already out there, and apparently there are 10 cracked copies for every legitimate copy of the PHB2 already loose on the net, where they can be reposted to torrents or made available through other means. Stopping the sale of any more digital copies of PHB2 can't have much of an impact on this.

It gets even worse when you look at WotC's out-of-print catalog. Even if the pirated-to-purchased ratio of these texts was a billion-to-one, WotC was still selling that one at almost no cost to themselves. Whatever their volume of sales was on these products, it's now zero. This is the very living and breathing definition of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

If piracy was, in fact, the reason for ending the sale of their PDFs, it would have made more sense for WotC to announce a six-month delay between the release of the dead-tree and PDF versions of their books. As it is, all they appear to have done is annoy their customers while denying themselves income from the sale of PDFs.


The_Myth said...

They learned nothing from the music industry mess of less than a decade ago.

taichara said...

There are no words. Truly.

... No, wait, I think I can find a few after all.

One could almost think they were doing all this deliberately, in some bizarre attempt to turn a goodly chunk of the gamer population against them. Not simply the yanking of the pdfs to begin with, but the utter backhandedness and disdain with which the entire situation is being communicated and handled.

Greg Leeds, poor gentleman, smacks rather of having been thrown to the wolves with little more than a script and a prayer. He's coming across as a bloody idiot, sure enough; but a bloody idiot with someone else's hand up his spine and moving his mouth.

And in the midst of all this other rpg publishers are gleefully promoting their own pdfs. Why even Palladium has announced they will be starting pdf sales of their catalogue -- Palladium!

My eyes, was that a flying pig that just flew by?

I tell you, it all truly makes the conspiracy theorist in me want to leap to the forefront ...

thekelvingreen said...

And yet again there's no mention that the illegal 4e pdfs were printer proofs, and thus had nothing to do with the online stores.

thekelvingreen said...

By which I mean that WotC's piracy excuse still doesn't cut it.

Anonymous said...

The infuriating insanity continues.

In another thread at Enworld poster "Vicar in a Tutu" proclaims all recent bad news and opinions,including the DEATH OF DAVE ARNESON as a type of "doom and gloom" that needs to be repelled by everyone blindly proclaiming their love for D&D.

He was then rewarded with an enhanced account by Piratecat and the offer of free D&D from Scott Rouse.

This type of thinking, coupled with the "all customers are idiots who believe anything I say" posting of Greg Leed's "interview" has me convinced that there is a total disconnect from reality happening.

Would someone please tell the captain that he's steering the boat straight at the rocks again.

- BC

RipperX said...

I can track this sales figure now. # of pirated PDF's is now at 100%

Brilliant! That'll teach us.

Anonymous said...

"And yes, we can track it"

That is without a doubt the funniest thing I've read online this year.

E.G.Palmer said...

I don't know how you guys view the value differance between a pdf and a real book, but in my mind, a cheap, or free pdf is really advertising for the real game. The book. I can't understand cutting off a revenue stream that consists essensially, of getting people to pay you for your adds. There is probably something of a generation gap in my view of pdfs though, I just cant see them as other than ephemeral and untrustworthy vs a physical object.

trollsmyth said...

E.G. Palmer: Well, I'm not that much younger than you, but yeah, there's a pretty wide gulf there. I actually prefer PDFs for most things. Don't get me wrong; I adore books. I have a small but growing collection of antique books, my oldest being just over 150 years old. And it's difficult to stretch out under a tree and read a PDF.

But there are all sorts of things I can do with a PDF that I can't with book. Making backup copies, for instance, or transport on a floppy or CD. The best thing about PDFs is that they can be modified. I'm slowly creating a version of the Labyrinth Lord rules that incorporate my hacks and house rules. When I'm done, I'll have my own book, that I can then print if I wish, and share easily with my players.