As a long-time gamer, I am deeply concerned with the direction your are taking with the “Dungeons and Dragons” franchise.
“D&D” is the first role-playing game I played. As such, I feel somewhat invested in the franchise, both for emotional and practical reasons. Emotional reasons based in franchise-nostalgia and practical because “Wizards of the Coast” expends significant time, effort and money on marketing the game. Marketing efforts which often lead young players from a “D&D” beginning into the greater role-playing community. Simply put, WOTC is not only marketing its own products, it is marketing the hobby and for that I am thankful.
It is for these reasons I hope that Wizards continues to be successful in its endeavors. However, WOTC’s recent business decisions leads me to believe that the franchise is in danger. It is not an immediate danger, but a serious threat to both your sales and the franchise as a whole.
4th Edition was very successful and clearly sold very well. Then the various supplements started coming out in short order, Player’s Handbook 2, Monster Manual 2, Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 and other sequels planned for the future. This business model seemed familiar and after a little thought the answered occurred to me: TSR, inc..
TSR went on a publishing spree with D&D that provided short-term gains, but long-term damage to the franchise. Supplement overload simply burned-out their customers and the reduced sales combined with poor management lead to a takeover by Wizards of the Coast. The franchise suffered. I see this happening again with 4th Edition. I fear that the reduced sales will result in a diminished D&D presence and reduced marketing will impact the entire industry.
Please do not assume that there is an endless demand for “D&D” supplements. Reduce the number of supplements, but increase their size and content quality. Innovate. Raise the price if need be, but make each release an event, keep excitement for the game high. I know this will lead to a longer lifespan for the game in its current incarnation and drive interest in the hobby as a whole. Look beyond short-term gains and strive for a steady, long-term return from your franchise.
Supplement fatigue is but one issue that worries me. I am far more concerned with the lack of innovation going forward in the franchise. Gen Con 2009 saw the release of several new games from various companies and Wizards of the Coast proudly announced their new world book.
WOTC spends more money on coffee and donuts than most RPG publishers have in their entire budget. You employ talented game designers, excellent artists and produce some of the most elegant books in the entire RPG industry. For all that, WOTC chooses to dredge up a long-dormant world from an extinct company as its “new” release.
Nothing against “Dark Sun” per se( I rather like the setting), but this is the best you could muster? For all those resources you took the easy, safe route and strip-mined gamer nostalgia for guaranteed sales. You have the resources to accept more risk than any other company. Try something different. Stretch those talented writers and artists to create something innovative. Perhaps a D&D book written for adult gamers? Include some rules crunch, but allow your writers to really push the envelope in storytelling in an original world without worrying about a 12-year-old boy understanding it. Yes, this approach risks money, and some failures are certain. That said, it might also produce the “next big thing” and that is a gold mine. I cannot guarantee this approach will work, but one thing I can promise is that the “Player’s Handbook 4″ will not be “the next big thing.”
Complacency is an insidious threat to any successful company. After a string of wins it becomes increasingly difficult to justify change when doing the same thing over and over again still sells. It is an easy trap to fall in to and the only solution is innovative content and an awareness of market demand. Please do not repeat the mistakes of the past to the detriment of Dungeons and Dragons.
Thank you for your time.