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D&D 4E A thought on WotC's imperative to continue to digitally support 4e.

Aeolius

Adventurer
Thing is, I can reasonably expect 4e D&DI to be supported for 50 years.

If you look at DDI as software, I'm betting a year's worth of support would be pushing it, after 5e arrives. I'd expect after the release of 5e, there would be no more development of the 4e DDI. Instead, WOtC would encourage players of 4e to use the new and improved character builder, VTT, etc, that support the current edition.
 

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Aberzanzorax

First Post
I agree that there'd be no more development, but do you think it would be costly (or otherwise resource consuming in a meaningful way) for them to keep the static product going?
 

ferratus

Adventurer
I don't the OP means continued support in terms of new content. I think he is just speaking of the existing online 4e adventure tools (character builder and monster builder) vanishing into the ethereal plane.

There is of course an offline character builder which most 4e players still have, but that runs out of content in April 2010. Some of the best stuff has come about in the past year for 4e (such as Themes). I don't think the essentials classes are on the offline character builder either.

Putting the 4e character tools in the archives would cost WotC essentially nothing in terms of server space, so I don't see why WotC can't keep it up there. Now if Silverlight doesn't get continued support from Microsoft... well you can't blame WotC for that. ;)

I just thought I'd pipe up, because it seemed like people were talking past each other.
 

Iosue

Adventurer
I don't think anyone can say what WotC will do with the 4e materials on DDI; there's never been quite an edition like it before. Canceling print support for an old edition is a no brainer -- the lingering market simply wouldn't be big enough to justify the expense. But here WotC has a population of 4e players who subscribe to DDI. When they release 5e, they'll undoubtedly release 5e tools on DDI. Some, if not most, of the 4e population will go over 5e. If they kill the 4e tools though, the holdovers cancel their subscriptions. Maintaining the current 4e tools would cost them no extra money, particularly since they wouldn't be adding material to the compendium or character builder. The VTT will have 5e functionality added, but by design it's already being developed to work for all editions. So they would simply lose that 4e holdover revenue if they killed the builders and compendium.

Of course they want people to buy print books, and maintaining 4e tools may disincentivize some 4e players from buying 5e. But, 4e already has this model: no DDI subscriber has any need to buy any 4e print books. A year's subscription to DDI is $71.40. 3 core books for 5e will probably run to $105 (not all of which will go to WotC). By killing the 4e tools, WotC would be risking a renewable $70 a year for a one time sale of $105. Whereas if they keep the tools, they get the sure $70 a year, plus maybe even the $105 if the 4e playing subscriber remains a happy camper. (Edit: And of course, those who don't DM have no need for the DMG and MM, so really for many subscribers they'd be risking that renewable $70 for a one-time sale of $35 or so.)

Not to mention, it gives them the chance for "premium" subscriptions: 4e tools for $6 a month, 5e tools for $5 a month, and then premium subscriptions of $10 for both 4e and 5e.

I suspect they'll keep the 4e tools up as long as they bring in money. If their usage plummets after the release of the 5e tools, they'll probably pull the plug to focus on 5e. If a lot of subscribers continue to use them, they'll probably keep them going for a while.
 
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Ahnehnois

First Post
As much as I personally dislike it, I'll echo the sentiment that 4e tools should be kept running for those who want them. It's not some great moral imperative, it's just good business and good for the community.
 

Number48

First Post
I don't think anyone is thinking there will be new content, just wondering how long support will be continued. The question, I think, is how much does bandwidth cost? Does supporting grognards slow down the site for the real customers, especially as things like VTT are implemented? Trust me, the service will be stepped down little by little. I know they hope that there will only be trivial amount of 4E players in a year who still want DDI. If that is true, then they cut support. If the number is non-trivial, then they'll try to throw a carrot. Maybe a conversion module or a softbound for adding elements to 5E for 4E fans. But if the carrot doesn't work, then it's time for the stick. My prediction is that 4E will lose DDI support within 2 years of release, 3 at the outside.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
We constantly make purchasing decisions based on our (hopefully) reasonable expectations of the future behavior of the seller- particularly including matters like continued support for the product.

"Forever," is not a reasonable expectation, in my opinion.

This is not to say that I want or expect them to shut off the power the day the first 5e book hits the shelves. That's not necessary from a business standpoint, and would be a horrible PR move. But, eventually it won't pay to keep the support running.

The DDI is software. It will have been written assuming some infrastructure underlying it (hardware, operating systems, browsers, and so on). As time goes on, those infrastructure bits become obsolete, and slip into non-supported states themselves. So, maintenance of a system requires either occasional porting to new infrastructure, or ever-increasing fees to try to keep a legacy system alive*. The population of subscribers is going to decrease, and eventually drop to a level where the support isn't an economically sound proposition.

Realistically, then, it isn't a question of if they'll end support, but when they'll end support.

Well, I agree, to a point. However, it would definitely sway my decision as to whether to subscribe to a 5e subscription or not.

And, I am sure there are folks out there with a wide range of expectations.

I, personally, am not a "one game, for all time" kind of gamer. While I like my campaigns to be long, that's in terms of being a couple or a few years, but not decades. If I were playing 4e, and they gave me a year or two to wrap up my game, I'd find that eminently reasonable.

But then, currently, I run Classic Deadlands, which is only in print in PDF, and is getting no further support. I play in a Star Wars Saga Edition game, which isn't supported even that well. Playing without official support is what I normally do anyhow.





*This is ignoring the security issues legacy systems present, and those can kill a system faster than the compatibility issues do.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Does supporting grognards slow down the site for the real customers, especially as things like VTT are implemented?

Okay, two things:

1) If they are paying subscription fees for DDI, they are real customers.

2) 4e is not old enough to have "grognards".
 

bss

First Post
As some of the above posts already indicated, that's the thing --- if they keep 4e support in DDI, they keep me as a customer. They keep me as a customer. That means I'm more likely to watch 5e and see if it immediately/eventually catches my interest. Maybe there's a process to wean my game onto 5e and the tools help with that.

Turning off 4e is a "you agree with our vision, or hit the bricks" move. Binary. If I don't like 5e at that point, Wizards has nothing to offer me and I stop being a customer. I'll find other ways to keep playing 4e if that's what I choose, be it reverting to pencil and paper only, using other third-party character builders, writing my own, or breaking into their office and stealing their 4e databases (that's a joke). The point is, I've stopped giving Wizards money.

There's a dollars and cents way to justify that decision ("this has become too expensive to maintain for so few people") and a vendor fiat way to justify that decision ("if you don't like 5e, we don't care about your money"). Which way Wizards goes will impact many 4e fans, and again citing Pathfinder, they have seen what happens to a disenfranchised customer base --- their money goes elsewhere.

And yes, when I speak of 4e support, I mean merely keeping the lights on and having the tools and content on "4e's final day" stay in their same state. Though it'd be awesome, and not necessarily an impossible idea, if they started releasing content that worked with either 4e or 5e (and that could even fit 5e's design mantra, if the 4e ruleset turns out to be that compatible).
 

Aeolius

Adventurer
As time goes on, those infrastructure bits become obsolete, and slip into non-supported states themselves. So, maintenance of a system requires either occasional porting to new infrastructure, or ever-increasing fees to try to keep a legacy system alive

Agreed. It was my understanding that DDI relied on Silverlight, to which Microsoft has yet to formally commit future resources. All it would take would be one OS update, to potentially kill any current software offerings. I would be wary of any online tools unless they were based on HTML5.

That being said, iTunes has spoiled me. I don't care for subscription-based services. If I purchase rulebooks, errata, fanzines, or the like I do not want them to disappear, simply because I cancel a subscription.

The same goes for a VTT. I should be able to purchase the software required and use it freely on my own network. If I want to connect with other players, however, and make use of more powerful tools, I fully understand a monthly subscription.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
I agree that there'd be no more development, but do you think it would be costly (or otherwise resource consuming in a meaningful way) for them to keep the static product going?

There are always costs.

Software licensing, storage, hardware refresh, systems to validate that the servers are running and the applications are responsive, operations staff to monitor, adjust, and repair the inevitable failures all come with a cost.

Is that cost high? Probably not since WotC runs a larger farm for its Magic side, but it does exist.

Likely, they'll keep running 4e DDI so long as the subscriptions are high enough to offer enough of a premium above those costs and then they'll announce a future date shut down.

If 5e flops and DDI subscriptions don't warrant keeping the whole digital initative alive then it'll get pulled faster as the whole cost is certainly much higher than the portion that would be charged to 4e life-support.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
Agreed. It was my understanding that DDI relied on Silverlight, to which Microsoft has yet to formally commit future resources. All it would take would be one OS update, to potentially kill any current software offerings. I would be wary of any online tools unless they were based on HTML5.

That being said, iTunes has spoiled me. I don't care for subscription-based services. If I purchase rulebooks, errata, fanzines, or the like I do not want them to disappear, simply because I cancel a subscription.

The same goes for a VTT. I should be able to purchase the software required and use it freely on my own network. If I want to connect with other players, however, and make use of more powerful tools, I fully understand a monthly subscription.

Although MS hasn't discussed Silverlight after 5, the browser for Windows 8 Metro interface (used for tablets, phones, and such and available for PC installations) won't allow plug-ins like Flash or Silverlight.

HTML5 is the only really option for browser-based stuff going forward.
 

CAFRedblade

Explorer
Windows 8 Metro won't allow plug-ins, however, the Silverlight framework is supposed to be baked in, from what I've read. And you can easily close/move aside Metro for a more familiar version of Windows on regular PCs. Plug-ins aren't quite going anywhere quite yet. Whether or not Silverlight as a plug-in will continue past version 5 hasn't been revealed. But with the push for HTML5, is unlikely.

As to Wizards online support, I think it'd be bad business to eliminate the online 4th ed tools for the time being.

I think that once 5th ed comes out, and regular product support for 4th ends, so will full development for the software, except perhaps for bug-fixes here and there. But as a final product, that entices continued subscriptions for those still playing 4th ed, it's a no brainer to me for them to keep it available.

I'm curious, and hopeful that whatever 5th ed tools are developed, that they've learned some hard lessons on the 4th ed set, and have a proper launch, whenever that is..
 

Jan van Leyden

Adventurer
Does supporting grognards slow down the site for the real customers, especially as things like VTT are implemented?

If enough future-grognard 4e players subscribe to DDI that the service slows down for other customers, their numbers would be big enough to generate some substantial income for WotC. Why should they shut down a money-earning service?
 


Ratinyourwalls

First Post
Don't worry. No one from WotC is going to show up to take your 4e books away. You can keep playing 4e for as long as you like.

Hey people said that about 3.5 too. Guess how that turned out? If WotC isn't going to show us any loyalty, why should we show it to WotC? It's condescending and patronizing comments that led to the rift between Pathfinder and 4E fans in the first place. So please if you feel like making comments like these, stow them, the fanbase is fractured enough already.

And TBH that's exactly what taking down D&D Insider would be doing.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Please note that the first use of the word "forever" was yours.

The OP did not put any time limits on support, or even imply any. My point is that it *will* end. The question is when.

Hey people said that about 3.5 too. Guess how that turned out?

With me having a good bunch of 3.5e content I can still use - that I would use, if I were running a D&D game currently, as Pathfinder turned the dials up a bit too much for my tastes. Did it turn out differently for you?

If WotC isn't going to show us any loyalty, why should we show it to WotC?

I don't think anyone suggested you show anyone any loyalty. As I see it, about all that's been asked is that folks not become actively antagonistic in the face of change. Between "loyal friend" and "enemy" there's this vast stretch of neutrality, ambivalence, and not-giving-a-hoot open to you.
 

Stoat

Adventurer
I run a 4E game using a 3rd party VTT (d20 Pro). I game with my browser open to the Compendium. It's early, but based on what I've heard so far, I'm fairly meh about 5E.

I think it would be a good move on WotC's part to keep the 4E DDI stuff archived and available to subscribers, I have no real expectation that they'll do so. If they pull the plug, and I haven't switched over to 5E, I'll probably drop my DDI subscription.
 

Roland55

First Post
Okay, two things:

1) If they are paying subscription fees for DDI, they are real customers.

2) 4e is not old enough to have "grognards".

True, true.

But, young man, some day ... there WILL be 4E grognards.

Personally, I look forward to that day. Though I'll probably not be around to see it.;)
 

Number48

First Post
First, about loyalty. You want WotC to show loyalty to the 4E fans. From their perspective, they are showing you loyalty by designing a new game for you. They want to please you. If you don't play 5E then that's on you, not them. From their perspective, at least.

I've also thought of another reason that DDI will drop 4E eventually. Because the people paying for DDI will get sick of paying for the subscription every month for so little. People are going to put up/use alternatives online, create their own programs, pirate the information. If they refuse to move on to 5E, many are eventually going to refuse to pay the monthly subscription. In that scenario, WotC ends 4E support because the 4E players simply move on.

Really, how many years are you going to pay for your subscription after 4E is no longer a living game?
 

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