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Pathfinder 1E Publishers of D&D: from past to future. Paizo and Wotc.

xechnao

First Post
Gary Gygax stressed the need of a unified standard, so that the player base could grow in numbers. D&D's players would transcend from their houserules to the quality products of a publishing house. But in the age of internet and free online applications, is this still necessary and/or feasible?

Does D&D playtesting and editing need a publisher like Paizo or Wotc? There are thousands of fans that invest many hours in D&D free of charge.

One could say that the content publishers can provide outpaces and exceeds what fans could produce. But one could reply about unnecessary and unneeded bloat regarding rules and this seems to be a good point.
Could they say the same for quality adventures?

And here seems where Paizo's success lies. It makes sense for modern fans to support a dedicated team of people that produces interesting adventures. It does not make a lot of sense to be developing adventures in public and by the public. Focusing on producing adventures seems to be a safe and secure method to remain relevant as a publisher. If your adventures are top notch you will remain relevant in the market even if your game rules are not.

What about the future of Wotc as THE publisher of D&D? Where should Wotc as a publisher focus its rules to secure its success and why? Could it be about tournaments where you buy cards to compete? Is there a needed online service that one could pay money for it? If not then what? Can Wotc succeed without focusing its resources so to excel in a relevant market need or will it be doomed to be outpaced by modern realities?
 

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Henry

Autoexreginated
And here seems where Paizo's success lies. It makes sense for modern fans to support a dedicated team of people that produces interesting adventures. It does not make a lot of sense to be developing adventures in public and by the public. Focusing on producing adventures seems to be a safe and secure method to remain relevant as a publisher. If your adventures are top notch you will remain relevant in the market even if your game rules are not.

In my opinion Paizo's success doesn't stem from this -- it stems from Paizo being small, nimble, and very customer-focused. WotC has none of these qualities, and while they have dedicated designers and developers, the rest of the organization does not seem focused on these goals. I know Lisa Stevens credits Ryan Dancey as inspiration for a lot of their business wisdom in various seminars and intervews she's done.

Personally, I think that D&D as an RPG is just too small of an audience to make a company of a hundred people or more economically viable.

What about the future of Wotc as THE publisher of D&D? Where should Wotc as a publisher focus its rules to secure its success and why? Could it be about tournaments where you buy cards to compete? Is there a needed online service that one could pay money for it? If not then what? Can Wotc succeed without focusing its resources so to excel in a relevant market need or will it be doomed to be outpaced by modern realities?

If they want me as a customer, they won't focus solely on any of the above. I can't speak for anyone else, but none of those as an endpoint for the rules interest me personally.
 

Vascant

Wanderer of the Underdark
My view on this is probably very simple...

Paizo's success is because how they engage, respond and communicate with their customer base. If their customers sounded off tomorrow and said all books need a pink stripe on the cover, it wouldn't shock me to see that being put on the cover. There might be a pole first, then some threads for comments and discussions but if it turned out this is what they wanted, guess we would be seeing a pink stripe on covers. Even if I was one of those in the minority who did not agree I do respect and applaud the fact they listen to their customers.


WotC succeeds merely because they own the brand. They clearly are not the best nor only show in town anymore, just the owners.
 

GMforPowergamers

First Post
My view on this is probably very simple...

Paizo's success is because how they engage, respond and communicate with their customer base. If their customers sounded off tomorrow and said all books need a pink stripe on the cover, it wouldn't shock me to see that being put on the cover. There might be a pole first, then some threads for comments and discussions but if it turned out this is what they wanted, guess we would be seeing a pink stripe on covers. Even if I was one of those in the minority who did not agree I do respect and applaud the fact they listen to their customers.


WotC succeeds merely because they own the brand. They clearly are not the best nor only show in town anymore, just the owners.

wow...one sided much.

I agree with Paizo is a success becuse of there communication, but they also had half there work done for them by another company... and by the way that company is WotC, remember Path finder is in a LARGE part based on 3.5 D&D.

WotC is not the only show in town, but I disagree about best, I think that is a race still being run. WotC has a much more balanced system with WAY more inovation and forward thinking, well Piazo looks to the past WotC is looking toward tomorro.


Now having said that I want to make sure everyone realizes that BOTH Complanies have there pro and cons, and neither is perfect (neaither game eaither).


[sblock=My personal thoughts]
of the two companies I like Piazo more, they are the small independent RPG I use to support even if I didn't play (and I have atleast 2 dozen systems I have bearly touched) but my economics on a personal level are low.
However of the systems, 4e is my game, 3.5 stoped being my game pre 4e being announced. I like balance, and martial kick but swordsmen.
[/sblock]
 

Gary Gygax stressed the need of a unified standard, so that the player base could grow in numbers.

Gygax was wrong. Almost nobody ever actually ran AD&D without at least some houserules (or 'unspoken' house rules where they weren't using the RAW but maybe weren't conscious that they were "doing it wrong"). Both 3e and 4e are much closer to Gygax's "unified standard", but neither is even close to being the only game in town (or even the only D&D in town).

One could say that the content publishers can provide outpaces and exceeds what fans could produce.

The big problem here is not "rules bloat", but rather that published material too often does not exceed what fans can produce.

But one could reply about unnecessary and unneeded bloat regarding rules and this seems to be a good point.
Could they say the same for quality adventures?

Yes. At this point I have ten distinct Adventure Paths that I have never run. Each of these is good for at least a year of play. I have to question what use there is in continuing to buy even high-quality adventure material.

This is especially true when you consider that actually the format of published adventures doesn't really suit my game structure. We play for 3 hours every 2 weeks. Existing adventure paths, with long sequences of encounters, really don't work for us - there's too much 'filler' material designed to give PCs Xp/treasure, bogging the story down. I'm better served homebrewing my own adventures.

And here seems where Paizo's success lies.

Nope. Paizo's success is that they produce uniformly high-quality material, they listen to their fans, and, crucially, they're small enough to thrive in the current environment.

Focusing on producing adventures seems to be a safe and secure method to remain relevant as a publisher. If your adventures are top notch you will remain relevant in the market even if your game rules are not.

Paizo have certainly hit on a great strategy for them, using adventures initially to detail the world, then detailing the world in its own right, and only then selling the rules (and that only because of issues with 4e and the GSL). And selling everything via subscriptions was a very wise move.

However, as time goes on they may find that they run into problems. People only need so many adventures - once you have a bank of 10 adventure paths waiting to be run (not to mention half a dozen of your own campaigns), what need do you have of more adventures? How many words can you write about a game world before your only left with niche topics?

So we'll see.

It's also worth noting again that size is a huge factor. If WotC were doing exactly the same things Paizo were doing then they would probably fail and be gone within a year. Adventures and settings sell, but they only sell a certain amount, and considerably less than rules (especially player-targeted rules). They sell enough for Paizo, but they almost certainly don't sell enough for WotC.

It makes sense for modern fans to support a dedicated team of people that produces interesting adventures. It does not make a lot of sense to be developing adventures in public and by the public.

I disagree. That creative aspect of D&D is a big draw for a lot of people. And for all their quality, Paizo's adventure paths have a nasty habit of feeling a bit same-y. They've done ten paths now, and while they're all high quality, there is a distinct pattern to them.

What about the future of Wotc as THE publisher of D&D?

The dirty little secret is that we don't need the publishers. I have the 3e Core Rulebooks; I never need to buy anything ever again and I am sorted for life.

That's a problem for both WotC and Paizo - they can't sell me things I need for their games, because I already have them. If 5e requires too much of a buy in, I can just ignore it. And I won't suffer for it, because I'm already set for life.

That means that they have to work hard to make me really want things that are not necessary. (Either truly necessary, or even necessary in terms of the game.) I have to want to pick up the latest splatbook, or the latest adventure, or the new campaign setting. I have to want to update to 5e, and then I have to want to stay current.

Where should Wotc as a publisher focus its rules to secure its success and why?

They should work to make core 5e a sleek, elegant system that is manifestly better than 3e, 4e or Pathfinder. Keep it simple in the core, keep the buy-in fairly low, but make damn sure it's better. Make people want to update.

Back that core rulebook(s) with a really strong Starter Set. I've described my ideal set in the past; the new Pathfinder Beginner Set is almost exactly what they should be looking at. But there should be no mistake: the Starter Set is the single most important product in the entire line. It is not an afterthought; it is the single thing they should be sure to get right.

Once they've got the core down, they can start expanding. Here, the focus needs to be on products that make the game play better. Whether that means splatbooks, adventures, settings, or whatever is another debate. The answer is probably 'yes'.

Could it be about tournaments where you buy cards to compete?

Ick. D&D isn't Magic.

Is there a needed online service that one could pay money for it?

No, but a good online service can certainly be a massive boon. The existing DDI has huge flaws, but it's a massive boon for those running 4e. The concept is absolutely sound, even if the implementation leaves a lot to be desired.

And in the future, the vast majority of support for D&D is almost certainly going to come in the form of the DDI or similar.

Can Wotc succeed without focusing its resources so to excel in a relevant market need or will it be doomed to be outpaced by modern realities?

Honestly, I think they're doomed. I'm inclined to think that there will be a 5e, but that it won't last long (regardless of quality). I strongly suspect that D&D (as an RPG) is just too small to be worth Hasbro's while, but that the D&D IP is too valuable for the licensing rights for them to consider selling (unless Bill Gates decides that he simply must have it).

My guess (and note that this is a guess) is that the DDI represents something of a last throw of the dice for D&D - that the books were judged to be insufficiently profitable, but that someone sold management on the idea of an online subscription service to bring in the money. However, the investment required has been much higher than was anticipated (we know this to be true). My guess would be that the subscription numbers, while decent, and while they would absolutely delight any other RPG company, may well not be the WoW-like numbers that were projected (again, this is a guess). And so D&D limps onwards, but is just never going to meet the expectations that are held for it.

But that it very much a guess. I hope I'm wrong, because while I'm set for life, I would rather see D&D continue than not.
 

Hussar

Legend
Del said:
No, but a good online service can certainly be a massive boon. The existing DDI has huge flaws, but it's a massive boon for those running 4e. The concept is absolutely sound, even if the implementation leaves a lot to be desired.

And in the future, the vast majority of support for D&D is almost certainly going to come in the form of the DDI or similar.

This I agree with 100%. And, IMO, why the OGL has a problem going forward. You cannot make an online DDI for a d20 product and make it profitable. Remember when the Character Builder first came out? One of the first things to hit was an Italian website known as Emma's which allowed you to have virtually all the functionality of the DDI Character builder, for free.

They got slapped down by WOTC and rightfully so. They were way, way in violation of copyright.

But, if 4e was OGL, then there's nothing stopping anyone from doing it. Heck, look at the d20 Hypertext SRD. That's easily as functional as the Rules Compendium in the DDI and it's free. Free beats pay most of the time. And you can pretty much guarantee that if the game is popular enough, people will put out free tools if they can.

So, let's move forward five years. The DDI is (hopefully) complete, along with integrated VTT and Rules Compendium. Pathfinder is likely looking at doing a 2nd edition by then (8 years is a healthy run by any stretch). If Pathfinder stays with the OGL, you won't get a Pathfinder DDI. It's that simple. No one in their right mind is going to invest the kind of money it would take to make a Pathfinder DDI and not control the content.

I think the next five years is gong to be very, very interesting in RPG's. Honestly I think that 4e, while struggling now, will continuously gain steam, particularly through the DDI. From all appearances, the DDI seems to be gaining about half again to double in size every year. While it might not be WOW sized, a subscription in the mid 100 thousands will keep WOTC bean counters happy for a long, long time.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
WotC should do what every company does.

- hire employees
-produce product
-sell product
-take incoming money to pay employees
-make more product
-repeat

They do that... that's all that matters.

All these flights of fancy people seem to have about 'maintaining the stewardship of Dungeons & Dragons' or 'raising the popularity and influence of the greatest roleplaying game in the world' is a bunch of overly fanciful hogwash.

So long as product is being produced that is worth being bought... it doesn't matter who does it, where they do it, why they do it, or how it's done. Do we get this worked up about Fruity Pebbles? No. And that's all D&D is. It's Fruity Pebbles. So long as I can buy myself Fruity Pebbles when I'm in the mood for some Fruity Pebbles... then the company who makes Fruity Pebbles has done its job.
 


This I agree with 100%. And, IMO, why the OGL has a problem going forward. You cannot make an online DDI for a d20 product and make it profitable.

But, if 4e was OGL, then there's nothing stopping anyone from doing it. Heck, look at the d20 Hypertext SRD. That's easily as functional as the Rules Compendium in the DDI and it's free. Free beats pay most of the time. And you can pretty much guarantee that if the game is popular enough, people will put out free tools if they can.

All true. In any case, I don't think any RPG company other than WotC have the resources to do something like the DDI.

However, there are ways and means. What Paizo could do is identify the best fan-made tools for Pathfinder and make an agreement with them - the makers of the tool will use Paizo's official logos, and provide them with advertising, while Paizo will link to them as a semi-official Character Builder (or whatever). Eventually, once the tool reaches a suitable level of maturity, Paizo could then even buy the completed tool.

That way, someone else puts in all the development work as a labour of love, they end up getting paid for it, and Paizo get a cheap software tool to use. Provided the tool is good enough, everyone wins.

Couple that with a pay-for subscription to the ongoing development archive of the world (and possibly the Adventure Paths if they move online only in a few years), and you may well have something you can sell. After all, Paizo's customers are already used to paying them subscriptions; all this does is replace the physical product with the electronic archive.

It might work. On the other hand...

So, let's move forward five years. The DDI is (hopefully) complete, along with integrated VTT and Rules Compendium.

I kind of hope the DDI is never complete. Not in the sense that "the long-promised tools don't get delivered", but rather in the sense that "we've always got something more to add". But that's an aside.

Pathfinder is likely looking at doing a 2nd edition by then (8 years is a healthy run by any stretch). If Pathfinder stays with the OGL, you won't get a Pathfinder DDI.

I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Pathfinder 2e be a non-OGL game. One of the major selling points of Pathfinder had to be "backwards compatible", which severely constrained their ability to change the game. It also meant that they were stuck with some of the systematic flaws of the 3e engine.

I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them move away from that with 2nd Edition. And I think they could carry their fans with them; it's a matter of how they do it rather than just what they do, and Paizo's relationship with their fans is such that I think they could carry it off. Maybe.

(Otherwise, there seems little point in doing PF 2e at all, since there's not actually much they can do to clean up the system further while retaining that backwards compatibility.)

But in any case, I very doubtful we'd ever see a Pathfinder equivalent to the DDI, at least as we currently recognise it. I would expect more a subcription for access to content, rather than tools, being the main thing (with tools acquired opportunistically, as discussed above).

I think the next five years is gong to be very, very interesting in RPG's.

I agree with this. The rest of the paragraph (that I snipped)... well, we'll have to wait and see. You might be right.
 

Just two short notes...

I don't think Paizo is doing much in the way to bring new gamers into the fold

With luck this is changing. The new Beginner Set looks exactly like the product they should be producing for this purpose. The big question, of course, is how it sells (and where).

You want to know what I think really sends a message about WotC and yet has nothing directly relating to the gaming table. They layoff employees right before the holiday, now that is bad enough to do anyways but necessary at times but they consistently do it at this time period as if some cruel joke. You can't tell me they can't change the time of year on that.

While this really sucks, it's actually something WotC have always done. So, even when 3e was at its highest of heights, it seemed WotC could do no wrong, and every product was better than the last... they would still lay people off at Christmas. So it's not really a reflection of any change with 4e, or any change in the company.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
Do we get this worked up about Fruity Pebbles? No. And that's all D&D is. It's Fruity Pebbles.

But it's not. I've bought more GURPS 4e then all but maybe a thousand people. Industries that sell to a few thousand people work differently then industries that sell to a few million. It's more like airplanes then cereal; and I bet Boeing, who has built 1,400 747s over the lifetime of the model, has long talks with each customer about what they want to see in their planes.

Not only that, it's different from the other side. A box of cereal is an ephemeral thing; I open it, I eat it, and it's gone. I then go to the store, and I can buy any cereal I want, and it will go well with any milk I buy and the spoons and bowls I already own. RPGs aren't like that; if you're doing more than reading them, all but the shortest adventure will last longer than a box of cereal. Once you've bought ten books at $30 a piece, that's $300 you've invested; if you play PF, you can't buy a 4E book and expect it to work with what you've got, and vice versa, and changing systems implies at least a $40 investment, without figuring in buying new splat books or adventures. It's like gaming systems or OSs, both of which very heated flame wars.

And like gaming systems or OSs, major changes are dangerous for the company. Done right, they can bring in big money; done wrong, you can alienate a lot of your audience. You'll note that most OSs and gaming systems are providing complete compatibility with previous games and programs, something gaming companies can't (and depending on the business model, won't) provide.
 


Henry

Autoexreginated
So long as product is being produced that is worth being bought... it doesn't matter who does it, where they do it, why they do it, or how it's done.

Here's the sticking point... making D&D collectible-element focused, making it tournament-only, neither of those I consider "worth being purchased."

Do we get this worked up about Fruity Pebbles? No. And that's all D&D is. It's Fruity Pebbles. So long as I can buy myself Fruity Pebbles when I'm in the mood for some Fruity Pebbles... then the company who makes Fruity Pebbles has done its job.

And if fruity pebbles flavor changed to wheat grass, olive, and feta-cheese flavored?

I agree, getting two worked up over the exact form of D&D as an RPG is non-productive, but to say "as long as they turn out product" is being too simplistic. They need to respond to what the majority of a customer base wants. (Not even their existing customer base -- a customer base sufficient to engender sales.) But speaking as one-six-millionth (or whatever the nunmber) of the current customer base, there are certain behaviors that keep me from consuming -- and I haven't "consumed" from WotC in exactly a year this November, because of their poor customer service, their locking up the mechanical IP, and even pulling the only two products I was interested in from the schedule early this year!

If there's one thing that defines WotC's course for me, it'll be being more responsive to their customer base, and finding some way to be more nimble and able to respond to market demands -- as it is, they're so large they have to respond to the demands of present market 12 months prior! In the modern day and age that's too problematic to drive business effectively. I'll give Mike mearls credit: He's been working on this very thing since taking Slavicsek's post, and at Gencon admitting the company's prior failures to respond in such way. I'm enthused to see what results in the next 6 months -- It'll be that long before we see any change I think.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
And if fruity pebbles flavor changed to wheat grass, olive, and feta-cheese flavored?

Then it's no longer worth being purchased.

There's two separate points here that my post was meant to illustrate. The original post was about WotC's duties and responsibilities as the publisher of Dungeons & Dragons. And my contention is that their duties and responsibilities are to one thing, and one thing only-- producing a product that people will pay money for (with all the details that involves, like making the product fun to play etc.) They do that, and they bring money into the company... which then allows them to pay their workers so that they can produce more stuff for people to buy.

But within threads like this, invariably people bring up completely separate things... like making sure the people involved are being true to the "spirit" of the D&D game by doing X, Y or Z (whatever list of things they feel makes the game 'D&D' to them). Or the company being really strong and emphatic communicators so that the hardcore playerbase gets to feel like they can speak out on their opinions and those opinions will not only be heard, but that the course of the company will actually change based upon their whims.

It has always been very difficult for us here on ENWorld to accept that what we feel about the game is not only NOT what the game is about, nor is what is best (because quite frankly every single opinion any of us has, has an exact 180 degree different opinion by someone else here, so that there's NO consensus on anything that WotC could actually take from us). But we still keep trying to either prop WotC up or tear them down... as though they are doing God's (or the Devil's) work. When in actuality, all they are doing is producing product. Product which is no more or no less important than anything else you might buy... Fruity Pebbles or a Ford Mustang.
 

ahayford

First Post
The question is, how can a RPG company continue to be profitable once they cover all the bases so to speak without releasing a new edition? I had thought Paizo had hit the nail on the head with their Adventure Paths....But the point about having 10 years of campaign material is a good one. I guess the key here is to keep things interesting. Release different genre's of campaign that appeal to different people....And failing that, release a new campaign setting with a different look and feel.

Other then that, I'm not sure. Rules bloat is definitely a problem games have suffered from in the past. You really only need so many classes/powers before it starts getting silly and hard to keep track of. What type of things should an RPG company be trying to release to support their game that doesn't cause bloat of one kind or another?
 

Dausuul

Legend
It has always been very difficult for us here on ENWorld to accept that what we feel about the game is not only NOT what the game is about, nor is what is best (because quite frankly every single opinion any of us has, has an exact 180 degree different opinion by someone else here, so that there's NO consensus on anything that WotC could actually take from us). But we still keep trying to either prop WotC up or tear them down... as though they are doing God's (or the Devil's) work. When in actuality, all they are doing is producing product. Product which is no more or no less important than anything else you might buy... Fruity Pebbles or a Ford Mustang.

Except that we're dealing with a market so small, and of which D&D commands such a huge share, that WotC's decisions have ramifications beyond their own bottom line. If Fruity Pebbles loses popularity and gets canceled, it doesn't hurt Rice Krispies. If D&D got canceled, it would be a heavy hit to all the other RPGs that draw their player pool from those who came in through D&D. Is Paizo ready to step into WotC's shoes if the giant falls? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm sure they would try, but those are some very big shoes.

Moreover, the very nature of RPGs is such that players get deeply and emotionally invested in them. I think D&D has done best when its publisher recognizes the existence of that investment--that D&D isn't just a cereal brand. There's a community aspect to this game, and supporting that community is an important part of what WotC does. It isn't just a matter of making a product and putting it out there.
 

Gary Gygax stressed the need of a unified standard, so that the player base could grow in numbers. D&D's players would transcend from their houserules to the quality products of a publishing house. But in the age of internet and free online applications, is this still necessary and/or feasible?
I think Gary was mistaken about the importance of a unified standard set of D&D rules. That might be good for tournaments, and it might be good for the company selling the game, but I don't think it's critical for the game or the hobby.

Does D&D playtesting and editing need a publisher like Paizo or Wotc?
I can definitely say that *I* don't need a publisher like Paizo or WotC. I haven't bought anything from either of them in years, and I'm playing D&D just fine. Paizo and WotC are irrelevant to my D&D gaming, and have been for quite a while.
 

JeffB

Legend
At the time AD&D was being written Gary felt strongly about unification.

Over the years he saw how much trouble it actually was/had become- in his later years he preferred to use/play his original game system (the LBBs) as well as his other systems LA He discussed it here as well as on Dragonsfoot, IIRC.

IOW- he felt it was the right thing at the time, but experience changed his mind.
 

xechnao

First Post
When in actuality, all they are doing is producing product. Product which is no more or no less important than anything else you might buy... Fruity Pebbles or a Ford Mustang.
Yeah, but what you say here is kind of...redundant? Nobody believes that Wotc is supposed to not produce product.
The question is if there is this kind of product they can produce that enough people will buy it.
 
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prosfilaes

Adventurer
Or the company being really strong and emphatic communicators so that the hardcore playerbase gets to feel like they can speak out on their opinions and those opinions will not only be heard, but that the course of the company will actually change based upon their whims.

Strong companies listen to their consumers. Strong companies with big hard-core player bases leverage that to their advantage.

Product which is no more or no less important than anything else you might buy... Fruity Pebbles or a Ford Mustang.

Huh. And I thought that nobody just went to their supermarket and picked up a Ford Mustang as an impulse buy.

Again, Fruity Pebbles is a terribly unimportant buy. You buy it, and you're stuck with it for maybe a week. If you don't like it, you can throw it away and you're only out $3. If they stop producing it, you can pick from a number of similar overly sweetened cereals.

PF or 4e is about $70 for the basic books, with a complete set of main books running up to several hundred dollars. If you're running it, it has quite an effect on what you'll be doing every week, and it will define what material you can easily use with your game and what's not so easy. If you're looking for a game, what game you play may end up defining who you play with. If they stop producing it, you have a tough choice of writing off your existing investment in books and going forward to the new edition or staying with an edition that will have no more material written for it.

A car does not have the network effects of a game, or the cumulative effects, but is way more expensive and has way more concrete effects on your life. A car probably doesn't usually get the clan effects an RPG does because the type of car a friend drives has no effect, unlike the RPG they play, nor does it have dramatic effects on what car you can buy next, but it really is a more important purchasing decision than an RPG. Either of them stomp the Fruity Pebbles into the ground.
 

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