D&D 4E Ben Riggs' "What the Heck Happened with 4th Edition?" seminar at Gen Con 2023

Kannik

Hero
Right, but why? Why could Paizo make that model work – getting over a decades' worth of additional life out of 3.X – where WotC couldn't?
....
The second possibility (and, I think, the much stronger one) is that the revenue brought in wasn't sufficient for what WotC wanted. The salient point here is that there was still enough money to be had to keep the lights on and everyone paid, at least for a company Paizo's size (which then leads us to ask whether or not the D&D part of WotC is comparable to Paizo in terms of employees, space, resources, etc. that they need to pay for). Rather, the revenue issue is less about solvency than it is with hitting Hasbro's target numbers; remember that according to Ryan Dancey, this is back during the era of "Core brands" that Hasbro wanted to earn at least $50M, and preferably $100M+, per year. Earning less than that doesn't mean that a venture isn't profitable (i.e. makes more money than it spends), but rather means that it isn't profitable enough.

All of which is to say, the idea that a Paizo-style subscription model for 3.X was "unsustainable for WotC" means (as I see it) that it likely never would have been able to meet Hasbro's demands. Whether or not it could have been sustainable in terms of keeping the D&D section of WotC in the proverbial black strikes me as a very different consideration.
I concur that Hasbro is a/the big answer. The "50M or die" dictum and that WotC was being led by someone who wasn't a gamer (and instead came from boys toys) was not a great combination for an RPG maker. Especially when it drove unfriendly fan policies (a repeat of TSR's foot shooting, in many ways). Plus, IIRC, I read somewhere that when WotC was purchased, Magic and D&D were considered separate divisions -- had they not been, Magic alone would've carried the division, and WotC could've let 4e's modest (by comparison) revenue continue indefinitively, and let passion rule the day rather than "profits".

As for book sales, one thing that skews numbers are the digital subscriptions -- I bought a bunch of books early on (by my quick count I have 12 on my shelf), but later relied on my DDI subscription to get all the bits that I wanted.

And as for page counts, don't forget to include the monthly Dragon and Dungeon issues. A good and sizable chunk of game material (class options, feats, and more) came from Dragon!
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Well...no?

First, based on the sales dat Ben Riggs has shared, the audience for that material was always somewhat limited.
And…?

Did I say it was the entire D&D fan base? Nope, at the 1E peak there was hardly any lore really.
Second, based on the sales data we have for 5E, they are buying books like Spelljammer and Planescape now.
No, they’re the grognards complaining about how anemic those releases are. The market for 5E settings mostly weren’t born in the TSR days.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
And…?

Did I say it was the entire D&D fan base? Nope, at the 1E peak there was hardly any lore really.

No, they’re the grognards complaining about how anemic those releases are. The market for 5E settings mostly weren’t born in the TSR days.
Well, sure, the market is younger...but the grumbling isn't necessarily everyone who is older, either.
 


Right, but why? Why could Paizo make that model work – getting over a decades' worth of additional life out of 3.X – where WotC couldn't?

I can only think of two possible reasons:

One is the subscription model was of paramount importance and WotC couldn't/wouldn't make use of such a sales mode. Which isn't surprising, since that's why they offloaded the magazines to Paizo back in 2002. I'm still curious if it was a lack of means or a lack of will, but those are really the same thing, since you need both to make something work.

The second possibility (and, I think, the much stronger one) is that the revenue brought in wasn't sufficient for what WotC wanted. The salient point here is that there was still enough money to be had to keep the lights on and everyone paid, at least for a company Paizo's size (which then leads us to ask whether or not the D&D part of WotC is comparable to Paizo in terms of employees, space, resources, etc. that they need to pay for). Rather, the revenue issue is less about solvency than it is with hitting Hasbro's target numbers; remember that according to Ryan Dancey, this is back during the era of "Core brands" that Hasbro wanted to earn at least $50M, and preferably $100M+, per year. Earning less than that doesn't mean that a venture isn't profitable (i.e. makes more money than it spends), but rather means that it isn't profitable enough.

All of which is to say, the idea that a Paizo-style subscription model for 3.X was "unsustainable for WotC" means (as I see it) that it likely never would have been able to meet Hasbro's demands. Whether or not it could have been sustainable in terms of keeping the D&D section of WotC in the proverbial black strikes me as a very different consideration.
100%. TSR could have been profitable if it was smarter about its releases (basically like D&D under pre-Hasbro WOTC) but I can't imagine it would've satisfied Hasbro.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
100%. TSR could have been profitable if it was smarter about its releases (basically like D&D under pre-Hasbro WOTC) but I can't imagine it would've satisfied Hasbro.

Not to be pedantic, but just a brief refresher on timing.

WoTC acquired TSR in the spring of 1997.
Hasbro acquired WoTC in the fall of 1999.
3e was released in 2000.

There has never been a WoTC D&D that has been in official release when WoTC was not owned by Hasbro.
 

Hussar

Legend
And…?

Did I say it was the entire D&D fan base? Nope, at the 1E peak there was hardly any lore really.

No, they’re the grognards complaining about how anemic those releases are. The market for 5E settings mostly weren’t born in the TSR days.

To be fair, the overwhelming majority of gamers weren’t born in the tsr days. Or were just at the tail end anyway.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I concur that Hasbro is a/the big answer. The "50M or die" dictum and that WotC was being led by someone who wasn't a gamer (and instead came from boys toys) was not a great combination for an RPG maker. Especially when it drove unfriendly fan policies (a repeat of TSR's foot shooting, in many ways). Plus, IIRC, I read somewhere that when WotC was purchased, Magic and D&D were considered separate divisions -- had they not been, Magic alone would've carried the division, and WotC could've let 4e's modest (by comparison) revenue continue indefinitively, and let passion rule the day rather than "profits".
That would have been 3e's revenue continuing indefinitely, as Hasbro bought WotC right around the time 3e was released.

Under your hypothesis, 4e (and, for that matter, Pathfinder) would never have had a reason to exist as 3e and its modest revenue could have just kept on chuggin' along.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Not to be pedantic, but just a brief refresher on timing.

WoTC acquired TSR in the spring of 1997.
Hasbro acquired WoTC in the fall of 1999.
3e was released in 2000.

There has never been a WoTC D&D that has been in official release when WoTC was not owned by Hasbro.
While true, Hasbro's influence over (or some might say, meddling with) what WotC was doing took until about 2002-ish to really make itself felt.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top