The Future of WotC

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Yesterday I heard that Wizards of the Coast planned to shut down their forums, including those for Dungeons and Dragons. The cited reason was basically that other versions of Social Media were so prevalent that the forums were essentially redundant and that sites like Reddit were handling discussions of the product better than the WotC forums could. So basically, “Why are we paying all these costs associated with running the forums when people can just chatter about our stuff elsewhere?” Does that seem like a cold reason to shut down a place that’s been around since the early 2000’s? A little bit, but given the current course of the most popular Tabletop RPG out there I really don’t find it surprising.

Everything about the Dungeons and Dragons brand of late has been a consideration for the almighty dollar and less about anything resembling community involvement. Oh, Mike Mearls gets out there and does an “Ask Me Anything” once in a while but that’s about it. The level of desired feedback from us that we saw in the “Pre-5e” days is simply gone for the time being, and I don’t know if I blame them completely. The hard truth is that this model appears to be working for them. By all reports they are selling well.

Currently we see a model that slims down the internal content creation and farms out the bulk of it out to 3rd party groups like Kobold Press (Tyranny of Dragons) and Sasquatch Game Studio (Princes of the Apocalypse) for its product line post the core three books. In such an environment the removal of the costs associated with running forums on the site is hardly surprising. Unless you are a handpicked content creator, your voice is only mildly important to them. Keep in mind I speak in generalizations when I say this. I refer to the company as a whole, not individuals who may actually care a ton.

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Comic on loan from Steven Joy’s site “From the Whiteboard” http://www.fromthewhiteboard.com

 

The problem is this. Wizards seems to be Hell bent on being a company that simply sells a product, with no real community involvement on their part within a hobby that really thrives on community involvement. When you consider the fact that, with very little exception (the fact that I and other bloggers receive review copies), their entire advertising model depends on word of mouth from their own customer base retreating into a shell is frankly a dangerous long-term proposal. How do they plan to bring new people into the fold? Currently they rely on us to do so, there is no push for new players on their end, the impetus to create players and DM’s lies solely with people who already play the game.

Granted there is the Adventure League, that’s a bit of an advertisement where game shops are tasked with selling the idea to their customers to play D&D. Of course that’s like advertising a new fish in a fish market, everyone’s already there for fish, it’s not going to endear the beef lovers because they aren’t at the fish market that day… or any day.

The bottom line is that Dungeons and Dragons is a community driven product, it always has been and I can’t see a day where it won’t be. Sadly Wizards just doesn’t seem to know how to manage a community driven product line, or they don’t want to and they are content to see how long they can survive by being “the one and only D&D”.  Other RPG companies don’t get to do that, they have to actually endear players to them because they aren’t riding the coattails of being the first in the business. Only time will tell if Wizards can survive on its printed content alone. I mean, thus far 5e stuff has been excellent.

I doubt there will be any further push by WotC to foster more community development, they didn’t even have a booth at Gen Con there’s a ton of hubris there. Maybe I’m wrong and Wizards will do just fine becoming a printing press for its content, and maybe it will survive perfectly well relying on us to spread the word. I mean, look at me. I run Dungeons and Dragons for kids at the library despite receiving nothing in return for it beyond the satisfaction of spreading my love for the game. Maybe I’m the schmuck? Maybe the folks at WotC are nodding their heads sagely at each other saying “another one of our minions has brought in more sires!”. Good lord…maybe D&D is a cult…

I'M SO SORRY KIDS! ;P

I’M SO SORRY KIDS! ;P

-Melvs

P.S. If forum users are looking for a new place to hang out EN World has extended an invitation.

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Melvin Smif’s Geekery 2015 Contest Winners

Roughly a month ago I celebrated my birthday, and the successful funding of AcadCon, with a contest. I tasked folks with an adventure write-off seeking two concepts, one for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition and one for Savage Worlds (originally just the Deadlands setting, and then later any Savage Worlds setting).  After numerous submissions and two weeks to review them all I’ve chosen the winners! A big congratulations Garrett Weinstein and Aaron Tudyk.

Garrett  is the proud new owner of a copy of the Savage Worlds Explorer Edition, signed and personalized by Shane Hensley. Garrett brings us a Deadlands adventure that caught my attention namely with its initial hook, see if it catches yours – “A woman stumbles into town, half-dead from thirst and exhaustion, and shackled to a pine coffin that she’s dragging behind her. She has a rather fresh-looking bloody scar on her forehead that has been bleeding into her left eye, and an empty holster at her waist. Her gun-belt is also empty of bullets.”  Tell me that doesn’t grab your attention, make you want to saddle up, and save the day?

Aaron’s entry was by far the most involved. While it doesn’t lay out any of the adventure itself but it did come with an incredibly detailed backstory leading up to the beginning where the players would first encounter the issue at hand. Starting with the common trope of a small village besieged by an unknown threat the concept makes for a great adventure that will flip some expectations on their ear.

Now I can’t go into great detail because I plan to run at least one of these at AcadeCon, both if I have time. After that, with the authors’ permission, I’ll be sure to post both to the site with my full write-ups on each. Hopefully my changes won’t rankle too much ;).

You can find Garrett at his site Ninjas Riding Dinosaurs and Aaron on Twitter @Skydut. Me you can find here of course or on Twitter @SharnDM

-Melvs