Monday, October 27, 2008

It's all about $

A business seeking a profit should be about making money, of course. So we can't blame WotC when they discontinue a game line because it isn't making any money. Or more accurately in the case of D&D, when they create a new edition because it will make more money than the current version.

Consider this quote from Andy Collins, D&D rules manager:

"Nothing is forever. Any expectation that the debut of a new game (or TV show, or comic series, or brand of dog food) also includes an implicit promise that it'll be supported ad infinitum is simply unreasonable.

All we can keep doing is making games & accessories that we believe are worth you, the customer, paying for. Enough folks told us (by their absence) that the current model of D&D Miniatures didn't meet that criteria that we had to make a change."

Now of course he's talking about the miniatures game, but the same is true for D&D proper. When he says that, "All we can keep doing is making games & accessories that we believe are worth you, the customer, paying for," it is a politic way of saying "we make games for maximum sales."

And that's OK. We all know how it works, it's business, no big surprise there. Also consider another of Andy's quotes regarding the minis and why not publish stats compatible with the old ones:

Every minute that a designer, developer, editor, typesetter, graphic designer, or web specialist spends getting a set of stats to the website is a minute they're not spending on another product.

If those minis stats are going to make the company more money than that other product, it might well be a good idea.

But if I can use those folks on a different, more profitable project--say, a D&D sourcebook, or an RPG-focused minis product--I'm obligated as a responsible member of WotC management to support their reassignment.

Yup, that's cold and heartless. But any other decision leads to me AND those folks looking for new jobs when the company's bad business practices leads to layoffs or bankruptcy. I'm not particularly interested in exploring that eventuality.

So for those of you out there who keep asking why WotC won't republish old editions of D&D, I think you have your answer right there. It's not that they have some secret agenda. It's nothing personal against AD&D, OD&D, Basic D&D, etc. If they thought they would make money hand over fist on any of those you can bet anything they'd have published them a long time ago. Again, it's about the $.

The point of all of this? This is why hobby publishing is so important. The biggest goal of hobby publishing is not to make money. OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, Mutant Future, Swords & Wizardry, those of us who produce these games do so because we enjoy the hobby and want to see these rules carry on.

So when Andy says, "Any expectation that the debut of a new game... includes an implicit promise that it'll be supported ad infinitum is simply unreasonable." He's wrong. It isn't unreasonable depending on the publisher's goals.

5 comments:

Zachary The First said...

Well said. And that type of support is why I'm supporting old school hobby publishing with my wallet (when possible).

Joseph said...

Good as far as it goes, but it does not seem to explain their unwillingness to license the older game systems. Such doesn't tie up any WotC resources other than their legal department to negotiate the licensing agreement. That, I think, is a direct effort to bring about an "only game in town" mindset, even when they would be receiving money from the licensing fees (and in fact if it was structured properly, they would have an incentive for such a thing to do well).

I happen to think a licensed and faithful version of AD&D (for example) would do quite well commercially, compared to OSRIC and even Hackmaster (which itself did quite well, albeit with the KOTDT push to help it along).

Dan of Earth said...

Good as far as it goes, but it does not seem to explain their unwillingness to license the older game systems.

Well, I suppose it takes man hours to set up even that, which they don't want to do. They might also fear that whatever they make in licensing wouldn't cover potential loss in sales by people that might switch over to the older game. Keep in mind they only licensed AD&D 1e and 2e to KenzerCo to use with Hackmaster as part of an agreement so Kenzer wouldn't sue them for reprinting material they owned in the Dragon Magazine archive. And even then, they could only make the material wacky and silly.

Olman Feelyus said...

You do Hackmaster a disservice. Though there was wackiness there, that game is built solidly on a profound love for 2nd edition and is a valid and fun game that maintains a lot of old school purity.

Dan of Earth said...

Olman, sorry if I sounded flippant about hackmaster. I've no beef with it at all, I bought the core books and actually like them. I was glad when Kenzer picked it up because they were the only ones there for a while who were keeping old-school gaming alive and in print.