“Dungeons & Dragons” is one of the oldest, most famous and valuable game trademarks in existence. Even non-gamers instantly associate the game with dice, dragons and gaming in general. Often , D&D is the gateway game to the entire RPG hobby for players. That level of name recognition and market penetration has tremendous value and Wizards of the Coast knows it. The regular release of supplements and “D&D” branded products provides revenue to Wizards. This is all well and good, but I think the endless editions, supplements and ancillary products threaten the brand.
Look at the current D&D landscape; 4th edition sold well, but divided the gaming community. Many longtime players ignored it or launched into endless edition wars in forums. Others embraced the new version. Wizards recently made changes to the line and moved to the “Essentials” edition geared towards beginners. More infighting began and the community fractured again. If that was not enough, now there is a push to use CCG booster packs in the game (Fortune Cards). More fracturing and angry words resonate across the internet at the announcement.
Infighting aside, Wizards has D&D branded products everywhere, including:
Novels, too many to count
Pillaging old campaign settings and repackaging them for a new edition(Dark Sun)
It all needs to end…for a while.
I absolutely want Wizards to make money with D&D. Profits equal more product, marketing (such as sponsored conventions, online events, etc) and a thriving RPG community. That said, Wizards pushes the brand too hard, too often and too desperately for my taste. Brands require management and excessive exposure and licensing leads to the brand deteriorating. A famous example of this is “Star Trek.”
Star Trek rose from the ashes of cancellation in the late 1980s with “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” It was very popular and it spawned “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” DS9 did very well and along came “Star Trek: Voyager”. Still pretty good, but relied a bit too much on Jeri Ryan’s ass for its ratings. Still “Voyager” limped to a completion and did well enough for another series: “Star Trek: Enterprise.”
May Gene Roddenberry forgive their trespass.
Awful does not come close and horrific is inadequate. Enterprise flat-out sucked. Sucked so badly it killed Star Trek as a television franchise. So Trek rested and rose again with new vitality with the “Star Trek” movie, created by a new group of talented writers. Writers without three TV series worth of baggage. Trek endured.
It is this same death spiral I see with D&D today. More and more product pushed to a very loyal consumer group without regard to the consequences. I think WOTC’s brand management is more interested in short-term profits than long-term health of the brand. It is my assumption that pressure from Hasbro to wring more profits out of the brand during the recession is part of the reason, but I may be wrong. Regardless, I want D&D to endure and the best way for that to happen is a hiatus.
Two years, bare minimum of no new product. Nothing. No board games, no comic books, no releases of any kind. Shut it down. Move all the existing staff to new projects. They did a great job, but you need to drill new wells before the old one runs dry. After one year, hire a group of talented writers from outside the company and start building a new version of “D&D.” Call it “5th Edition,” since everyone will call it that anyway and let your new writer’s stable go crazy. Nothing is off the table except what came before. Stop pandering to 40 year-olds that want more “Forgotten Realms” material and start pandering to 13 year-olds! Stop revising 2nd Edition campaign settings and create fresh, original worlds to play in. Be original!
My rant is at an end. I love D&D, but too much of a good thing is still too much. A hiatus will breathe new life into the brand and guarantee its survival for years to come.
Trask, The Last Tyromancer