Monday, February 2, 2009

If Wizards Dropped D&D....

OK, let's say, just hypothetically, that in a few years Wizards of the Coast decides that D&D, the tabletop roleplaying game, just isn't making money the way they want. Maybe it isn't even that--for whatever reason, Hasbro sends down the word that they're gonna just sit on the D&D IP--they'll license some video games, authorize some more really bad Forgotten Realms novels, but they won't be doing anything more on the pen n' paper RPG side of things for the forseeable future.

My question is, what do you think would happen to the current pool of D&D players? Would a large chunk stop gaming? Would they keep on, bereft of DDI, using their 4e books until WotC or whomever came along and revived things? Would there be an online "4e Simulacrum" movement? Would any return to earlier, OGL-derived games? What other gaming companies might see boosts if that were to occur?

I certainly don't wish or even suspect this will happen; I'm just interested in hearing how folks think such a momentous event for our hobby would unravel. If you're a dedicated 4e player, I'd also be interested in what you would do, if such an event occured--business as usual, or a sign for a big change?


Viriatha said...

What would happen in a few years, is that gaming would once again become the truly fringe hobby it's been for so long. What Hasbro and WotC do for it isn't make a great game (god knows there's enough debate on that one), it's that they MARKET the game and make it accessible to more people.

The loss of that ability to market and get the game out to people who wouldn't otherwise bother (Penny Arcade anyone?), that is what would be the real loss.

Chgowiz said...

There is enough publishing and brain-power involved in the RPG industry that I think it would be "opportunity", not "famine" for the hobby. It would be a huge reboot, but it would also allow for the OGL games to thrive and grow. I think you would definitely see 2E/3E/4E simulacra spring up as well as new games appear.

D&D has become a 'theme' as well as a brand and I think that it has a life beyond WotC. Would it affect the marketability in the short term? Oh yes, but as they say, there's opportunities everywhere if you just look for them.

Wyatt said...

As my website and I prove, you don't really need 4e books beyond the Core 3 if you have a good imagination. In fact, I rather do not like what I'm seeing beyond (not that it's bad, but I found 4e core to be pretty much perfect). I would keep homebrewing for 4e, putting out free stuff on my site and gaming. I don't need WotC. They put out 4e, that's all I need out of them anymore.

Psynister said...

People who love the game are going to continue playing the game even after the product is no longer made. Take a look at the huge following that previous versions of D&D still have today and you'll see that the game isn't going to just die out because there's no new material for it.

I think overall it would definitely kill some peoples' interest in the game, but primarily that would be those who are new to playing it and they could easily adapt to a different game instead.

I wouldn't bother picking up any other systems myself as I have yet to find one that I enjoyed nearly as much as I have D&D.

Competition would obviously see an increase in sales simply because they now have the only product out on the market. But as for who would pick it up, you really can't say as everyone's preferences differ.

greywulf said...

I think it's more than hypothetical - it's downright possible. But that's by-the-by.

Me, I think that D&D & M:tG will merge in some way and become a marketable brand that's bigger than both are right now. D&D is destined to become more of a CCG while M:tG has developed into more of a campaign setting. Combining the two would make (from Hasbro's perspective) a compelling idea, and breath life back into both. And "D&D:The Gathering" just screams, doesn't it?

As regards role-playing, I wouldn't be surprised if 4e gets a fan-made version at some point in the future using the same OGL license and justifications that are used for Osric and other (A)D&D retro-clones.

What I think will decline though will be pure pen-and-paper gaming with computers (and especially laptops) taking more of a central role in our gaming - until pen-and-paper gains yet another retro-revival. Again :D

Bonemaster said...

@Viriatha - I don't know anyone that's gotten into gaming from WotC/Harbo's Marketing. So, I'm afraid I can't agree with you on that they had great marketing. I do agree that this is a fringe hobby. But to be truthful, all hobbies are fringe hobbies. How many of you do model trains for example? Yet that fringe hobby somehow survives.

I suspect that RPGs would survive. I don't think a large group would stop gaming. I think some would continue on, just like those that continue on after no more 1st edition, 2nd edition, or 3rd edition material. They might be a "4e Simulacrum" movement, but not being a 4e person, I would not be in that one. Some would turn to other games, not just OGL-derived ones. As to companies, that would be a hard predictor. I think that a new company might even be formed to acquire what rights they could for 4e. I wouldn't be surprised if Hasbro/WotC sold the engine and kept the name.

Olman Feelyus said...

Viriatha is dead on. The hobby would survive, but we'd lose a huge chunk of players who stay in it because they are constantly marketed to with new product and corporate interaction. Wouldn't hurt my gaming a bit but the Living games would certainly shrink significantly. Cons would be hurt too.

Gleichman said...

IMO, i think it would open up a window of opportunity last seen when 2nd edition 'failed', perhaps even more so.

We'd likely see another Whitewolf appear, a new approach and maybe even a new setting.

I seriously doubt it would come from any existing company, and I doen't see D&D copies of any sort making any splash. If anything, I think the failure of WotC will take them down as well.

For my own part, I'll be unaffected.

Parvati V said...

That wouldn't stop me from playing D&D or any other RPGs, but I would probably pull out free games if I were to introduce new players to the hobby. Sheer fame wins over freely available, but only as long as it stays famous, and there's some brilliant and easy stuff out there.
If I were to play D&D, though, I would still choose 4E - it's my favourite edition so far.

Dead Orcs said...

I'm not sure that the hobby would die, but I believe it would become a more "isolationist" activity. Large group events would eventually die without the sponsorship and marketng Wizards provides; and I think large cons (like GenCon) would vanish. I also think fans of whatever system they play (from 1st to 4th edition), would simply keep playing the game; creating their own material for it.

Unlike software MMO's, that DO die without ongoing support; a table-top game will continue because as long as there is someone willing to write the story (the DM), there will be those that play it. (Star Frontiers, anyone?)

Johnn Four said...

Great comments! Very interesting read. I speculate another company will see the opportunity and fill the void with professional product and marketing, taking tabletop on a new vector.

Tom said...

Well, 1st the question is moot since it's not going to happen. You might as well ask what would happen to computer industry if Microsoft stopped making Windows.

That said, what would probably happen is another big player would step into to fill the whole. I bet Paizo et al could gather some serious investors if it no longer had wizards to compete with.