Friday, August 19, 2022

The Return of Gleemax!

So if you watched the trailer for the next “edition” of D&D, now called One D&D, you’ll have noticed that half of it was devoted to their upcoming virtual tabletop.  (For those of you playing developer-speak bingo, it was described as “robust” but they did not actually use the word “scalable.”)  With DRAGON emagazine vanishing once again, you’d be forgiven for thinking this feels awfully familiar…

I, for one, welcome our new digital overlords!  One of the big disconnects in the RPG hobby has been that the publishers are called publishers for a reason; they make their money selling books, not necessarily by getting people to play the games.  Appealing to the collector/completist has been a financially superior strategy over people actually playing the game.  

That this is a horribly bass-ackwards way to run an industry should be obvious.  If WotC can pull off the VTT this time, it might not revolutionize the industry, but it ought to revolutionize the publishing plans for D&D.  We might even see the books become loss-leaders, funneling people towards the monthly subscription of Gleemax 2, where the real money will be made.  

In addition, while One D&D might smack of the same sort of marketing BS as D&D Next, Ben Milton thinks they may mean it this time.  The more they integrate the rules of D&D into their VTT, the more expensive it will be to change those rules.  They’ll also avoid bifurcating their audience (which, according to Ryan Dancey, was what happened every time they released a new edition during the TSR era).  And, as Milton points out, if Curse of Strahd is still a viable adventure in 30 years, they can release a big, deluxe anniversary edition for the nostalgia sales with little effort or expense.  

However, just launching a successful VTT won’t be enough.  Lots of groups have already invested the time and effort to learn how to play via Roll20TaleSpire already has the 3D virtual minis thing going strong and has alliances with virtual market heavyweights like Heroforge.  I am absolutely certain WotC can lean into D&D’s domination of the TTRPG market to overtake those competitors who’ve already stolen a lap from them, but I suspect it won’t happen overnight.  

I just feel really sorry for One More Multiverse, who just announced full integration of the 5e rules into their VTT the literal day before this all dropped.  The timing on this has got to smart.  


JB said...

Who the heck is Ben Melton?

trollsmyth said...

JB: that Questing Beast/Knave guy.

jedavis said...

It seems to me that tweaking the rules will get easier/cheaper if they're primarily served through digital platforms with books as second-class sources. Small code changes are probably easier than getting people to actually check for, print, and integrate errata into their games.