D&D 4th Edition WotC to publish D&D PDFs again?





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    WotC to publish D&D PDFs again?

    OK, so this isn't much to go on. However, if you listen to this podcast (All Games Considered) at the 18.30 minute mark, Sean Patrick Fannon of DriveThruRPG and RPGNow says:
    Certain people who thought, maybe, doing PDFs wasn't the best choice and decided to stop doing PDFs through us, there's a chance they may have changed their mind.
    He doesn't actually mention WotC specifically, so he may be referring to someone else. But it does sound to me like that's who he's getting at.

    As you may recall, WotC used to sell PDFs of older edition products via third-party outlets, but stopped, citing piracy as the main reason.

    Thanks to @darjr for the scoop!

    As a side note, I've seen a few people in the forums float an idea which I think sounds pretty cool. When it comes to D&D Next specifically, the idea of an Apple-style app store whereby third-parties could sell content which plugs into WotC's own online tools would be pretty awesome. Not only does WotC make money directly off a OGL/GSL style license, but those publishers don't have the barrier to sales that "it doesn't work with the character builder" has often caused.

 

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    The app model is a way cool idea!

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    The App model is cool, I agree, although it would have to be managed pretty carefully. I think it can be done, and it would be a good way to make sure 3rd party products are a revenue stream for WOTC, too.

    Having such a highly variable database of options available for each user would be a pretty big challenge, compared to the single master DB model. You're talking about adding an order of magnitude to the number of requests sent to the DB for every search a user makes so the results are filtered to the appropriate values. At the scale people are using DDI, that's going to mean a pretty big jump in infrastructure costs, I'll bet. And the tools are already not the fastest tools available.

    Having said that, what we've seen so far of DDN is that it's a much simpler set of options -- which might mean that the tools required to build characters, for example, could be much simpler -- so you might win back some of the performance costs by having a simpler set of options.

    So, the idea isn't trivial, but I think it could be pretty powerful if they're willing to make the investment.

    -rg

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    Assume that WotC wants to do online tools for D&D Next.

    If D&D Next is "modular", then the online tools would also have to be modular - a given GM would need to be able to turn on and off various features to tailor his or her game. So, if you have half a brain when you are designing the tools, being able to accept modules is baked into the system from the get-go.

    Extending this to third party publishers then becomes much easier - you still have to QA what they give you to make sure it conforms to your methods properly, but it isn't a developmental one-off each time. It would still be non-trivial to do, though, and non-trivial things have costs. The question is if it profits WotC enough to make that investment in effort.
    Last edited by Umbran; Thursday, 3rd May, 2012 at 06:15 PM.

  • #5
    The App model definitely has its strong points, and might be the best option for a long-awaited comprehensive digital aide. However WoTC would have to allocate resources to monitor/supervise/improve the core tools along with 3rd party apps. This is no mean feat for a Fortune 500 company, let alone WoTC which seems to constantly be going through cutbacks/layoffs.

    It could take off if done correctly (and become a welcome stream of revenue and innovation), or it could be bungled and rest at the top of the Master Tools/E-Tools/D+Di trash heap.

    I think WoTC would still need to provide the backbone apps (Character builder, Monster builder, Campaign manager), and let 3rd party apps take it from there.

    This could go from being a 'sidenote' to a central point of WoTC's survival and D&D Next's Success. Although I would love iOS/Android integration--it is probably more realistic for some sort of mobile web interface (thus avoiding Apple and Google's tight/changing regulations for operating system based apps)
    DnD Next will survive or die on its mobile apps.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
    I've seen a few people in the forums float an idea which I think sounds pretty cool. When it comes to D&D Next specifically, the idea of an Apple-style app store whereby third-parties could sell content which plugs into WotC's own online tools would be pretty awesome. Not only does WotC make money directly off a OGL/GSL style license, but those publishers don't have the barrier to sales that "it doesn't work with the character builder" has often caused.
    I think the app store model is discussed often because it would serve two goals: one, to ensure some revenue is being received at all times. Two, to ensure some quality and rating control.

    I think there needs to be a quality control step before something should be available from a third party. This was sorely lacking for d20. I love innovation, but I also hate seeing stores filled with crap and companies later finding they lost their shirt because a possibly great idea didn't pan out (or for an actually great idea not to be discovered because it is lost in a sea of stuff that outwardly seems the same).

    As that Eberron slip back at Gen Con revealed, they've come close to implementing the idea even during 4E. (During a seminar James Wyatt mentioned a digital release of various old Eberron books, then it was said it hadn't been announced, later it was rumored to have not been announced because they had decided against it).

    Edit: Another point was the initial vision for 4E where the Virtual TableTop was meant to release right at the launch of 4E, and organized play Living Forgotten Realms content would be fed right into the VTT. That vision was really interesting, and could have had tremendous digital potential. The LFR content (new monsters, etc.) was being added into the old Monster Builder and the Compendium in preparation for that. Eventually they stopped the process (it was surely a waste of time) and even removed it. The removal points to an issue: it was perceived that the content was often problematic. Having 6 entries for a single orc because it was re-leveled for various LFR adventures was potentially confusing and user-end database clogging. It was decided this was lower quality (I disagree) and removed. They also vastly reduced the number of times they allowed a reskinned or re-leveled monster in Dungeon adventures. I think for the future any non-WotC-core content needs to be tagged. If an RPGA/organized play monster where a different shade of green, or had a border in a certain color, or had an icon on it, a user could easily tell where it came from. If you could filter, then a user could search for an orc and, not finding the right level, turn on LFR as an option and perhaps find a better match.

    I've had the fortune of speaking to a number of WotC employees about supporting digital products. They all love the idea as fans of the game, just as so many of us do. They all also recognize the business barriers (we've discussed them on the forums before). I'm pretty sure it will happen some day, though I have no idea if it will happen for D&D Next. A new edition is a great time to try a new model.
    Last edited by Alphastream; Thursday, 3rd May, 2012 at 06:40 PM. Reason: Added more info on digital initiatives, content glut/filtering

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    Quote Originally Posted by iwarrior-poet View Post
    I think WoTC would still need to provide the backbone apps (Character builder, Monster builder, Campaign manager), and let 3rd party apps take it from there.
    I don't think the 3rd party material should come in as actual applications, but as data sets that can be bought and used in the WotC backbone apps.

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    I've said it often, but I'll say it again: I think it was a big mistake for WotC to pull those pdfs from sale. It couldn't have stemmed the tide of piracy; that will go on without the pdfs being available for sale, maybe even more so. So all it did was deprive people like me who are happy to buy the pdfs from having them, and took away a good chunk of the feelings of good will generated by their sale. Bringing them back would help restore some of that, and be a source of free money for them.
    "Illegitimis non carborundum." - General Joseph Stilwell

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    I never purchased a WotC pdf mostly because I refused to pay the same price for a digital copy as a hard copy. If they priced them like Paizo does, at a significant discount off the hard copy price, I'd be more receptive. Even if digital books are more convenient (and they are by vast amount) the tactile nature of a book is still worth something to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Son of Meepo View Post
    I never purchased a WotC pdf mostly because I refused to pay the same price for a digital copy as a hard copy. If they priced them like Paizo does, at a significant discount off the hard copy price, I'd be more receptive. Even if digital books are more convenient (and they are by vast amount) the tactile nature of a book is still worth something to me.
    I'm talking about their back catalog stuff, from OD&D through 1e and 2e. Most of those were going for $5 each, which is usually a lot cheaper than you'll pay for vintage copies on eBay or Amazon.
    "Illegitimis non carborundum." - General Joseph Stilwell

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