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Pathfinder 1E Question for the Paizo folks regarding D&D's state of today

xechnao

First Post
Some time ago Erik Mona insinuated over here that the strong and healthy presence of the D&D brand in the market was fundamental for the well-being of the tabletop rpg industry.

I am curious if Paizo retains the same opinion as of today.

I am also curious what would they think for that matter if D&D's rpg business shifted to a mostly digital affair.
 

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kitsune9

First Post
I read an article that Steve Jackson a couple of years ago that said kind of the same thing--that a strong D&D presence is essentially good for the rpg industry. The rationale is that with the large audience for D&D, sooner or later some will become disenchanted by the brand and switch to other games.
 



Votan

Explorer
Some time ago Erik Mona insinuated over here that the strong and healthy presence of the D&D brand in the market was fundamental for the well-being of the tabletop rpg industry.

I am curious if Paizo retains the same opinion as of today.

I am also curious what would they think for that matter if D&D's rpg business shifted to a mostly digital affair.

I would be surprised if that opinion changed. In most of the cahin bookstores (like Barne's and Noble), the D&D books are the "anchor" of the RPG section. Having a strong line to justify the existence of this section makes the possibility of other RPGs (mlost notably Pathfinder) being present for discovery by the general public.

I suspect that the subscription models (digital or not) are actually going to be a challenge to the growth of the hobby. After all, seeing cool looking books in the store was the way that I discovered non-mainstream role playing games.
 

Jeffrey

First Post
While a healthy D&D is beneficial to the industry, I don't think it is fundamental to its health any longer.

And unless WOTC gets it together soon, we might all be in the uncomfortable position of putting the above theory to the test
 

Erik Mona

Adventurer
Some time ago Erik Mona insinuated over here that the strong and healthy presence of the D&D brand in the market was fundamental for the well-being of the tabletop rpg industry.

I am curious if Paizo retains the same opinion as of today.

Yeah, pretty much. To the great unwashed, D&D and tabletop RPG is synonymous. I suspect more people come into the hobby because they want to play D&D (or have simply heard of D&D) than come into it because they like the idea of pretending to be a hero, or to play any other game.

It's the acquisition arm of the RPG industry, essentially. It's also a major anchor of the RPG business in hobby shops. It's kind of amazing, but if you go to any of the distributor open houses you'll run into tons of stores that _only_ carry D&D (usually in addition to cards or comics). So if D&D were to dry up, I suspect stores like that would just use that shelf space for something else. Which would mean RPGs are available to fewer people in fewer markets, which means fewer players across the board.

Take a look at the RPG section in Barnes & Noble. Over the holidays, D&D books filled more than a single shelf in that "section" at several stores I visited. If that goes away, leaving only the more marginal brands, you're in trouble. I think B&N does a generally pretty good job of stocking Pathfinder, for example, but more often than not a given B&N has one copy of the Bestiary, two random AP volumes, and nothing else. It's not that they never stocked the other stuff, but they probably ordered one or two copies per store, and it's a crapshoot whether those items will ever be restocked. D&D, on the other hand, has multiple copies of numerous books, including one or two different ways to get into the hobby (say, an unsold 4e PHB, all of the Essentials books, and maybe Red Box or earlier "starter" set). If one of those sells, there are still some ways to get into the game. Plus they seem to be restocked with greater frequency than similar books by smaller publishers. Not a lot of Pathfinder fans start with the Bestiary and two random AP volumes.

So take away the D&D "shelf" in the RPG section at B&N and you're left with a random smattering of core rulebooks and assorted supplements, usually stocked about 1 deep if you're lucky, and that's it.

I doubt that's enough to keep B&N investing an entire section to a given subject matter in almost all of their stores. Either some other folks "step up" and fill that D&D space (very, very difficult, as almost no RPG publishers are as well capitalized as WotC and few have long-standing relationships with buyers and distributors like they do), or the space probably goes away.

Which is bad. Essentially, that leaves the wide-stocking FLGS retailers and the internet. Decent for getting books into the hands of the die-hards, but not so great at exposing the hobby to new customers.

I am also curious what would they think for that matter if D&D's rpg business shifted to a mostly digital affair.

See above. I suspect that would be very challenging for the hobby retailer business and very challenging for the hobby. But it might be necessary to meet the kind of profit goals Hasbro likely has for WotC, so I wouldn't find it a terribly surprising development.

--Erik
 

xechnao

First Post
Thank you for your answer Erik.

But it might be necessary to meet the kind of profit goals Hasbro likely has for WotC

Could you elaborate on this a bit more please?
I mean, could you develop your thoughts as you did with the previous question? How and why do you think shifting the D&D business to the digital realm would help Hasbro achieve higher profit goals?
 

Erik Mona

Adventurer
I have no more insight into the current workings at WotC than any member of EN World, so I have ZERO info on what Hasbro expects from Wizards of the Coast. I do know that Magic is tremendously successful and tremendously lucrative, and that in recent years Magic The Gathering Online has been a growing part of that revenue. They make money on that game and get people collecting electronic cards that WotC doesn't have to print. It's all direct to the consumer, so there are no middle men like retailers and distributors.

That's got to look very attractive on a balance sheet, and corporations are not known for lots of sympathy for underperforming brands. (I'm not saying D&D is underperforming, because I don't know that either.)

I suspect that the amount of money brought in by, say, 12 employees working on Magic dwarfs the amount of money brought in by 12 employees working on D&D. That just seems irrefutable to me based on the associated printing costs, profit margins, etc. Magic is simply a better business, in pure dollar terms, than D&D.

From running my own publishing operation, I've come to appreciate the concept of "opportunity cost" more acutely than ever before. Let's say I have 1 employee. I can put that guy to work on a Pathfinder book, and let's say that book makes Paizo $200 of profit.

The same guy could also work on a Planet Stories mass market pulp reprint, which takes about the same amount of time and effort and has somewhat similar costs. But because the margins are nowhere near as good and the audience is much, much, much smaller, let's say that Planet Stories book makes $2.

My job is to make money for the stakeholders of my company, so no matter how much I personally love pulp fiction, and no matter how strongly the folks who love it with me love it, there aren't as many of them as there are Pathfinder players, and from a purely objective point of view, I'm making a sub-optimal decision by focusing on products with the lower margin and the smaller audience. That 1 man-effort would be more profitable if put to work on a Pathfinder book, or on something with an equal or better profit potential.

You can make sub-optimal decisions for a long time for a lot of different reasons (strategery, love, because it's the "right" thing to do, stupidity, etc.), but you can't make them forever, especially if you work for a publicly traded company.

From my perspective, it all comes down to opportunity cost.

But again, and I think it's important to stress this, I do not have any inside information on Wizards of the Coast, how it deals with its parent company, the fate of D&D, etc. I'm just as in the dark as everyone else, so please take my observations with a grain of salt.

I don't know what's going on either.

--Erik
 

xechnao

First Post
Ok, but couldn't the second idea get in conflict with the first one?

I mean, if D&D can become more profitable by going fully digital it is obvious that Wotc should act so.

But if at the same time D&D needs a retail presence to remain relevant as a tabletop rpg, Wotc should have to cover for this too. Unless, D&D does not need that to remain relevant.

So, what I take from your answers is that while the industry needs D&D, D&D does not need the industry. I most honestly believe that in today's world this is categorically wrong.

Now, that may not be necessarily what you are saying here, if what you are thinking is that Wotc could manage a specific balance of operations that could let it achieve both of the above goals. And perhaps this is what you are truly thinking.

But honestly I find this highly ambitious. I find it hard to believe that mass market retailers and hobby stores could constantly keep on their shelves high numbers of the same evergreen D&D products and the casual D&D supplement that would hit the market every couple or even three or even four months or so. Simply because of their own opportunity costs.

So, whatda you say?
 
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nedjer

Adventurer
Browser-ready tablet at most every table inside two/ three years. WoTC already gone html and just waiting for platform to capitalise. Scary bit is what they could do with it if they torpedo a few holy cows. Only question there is how many torpedoes they've got in stock.
 

Erik Mona

Adventurer
So, what I take from your answers is that while the industry needs D&D, D&D does not need the industry. I most honestly believe that in today's world this is categorically wrong.

I am saying that if you consider "D&D" a business that includes lots of different expressions (tabletop RPG, boardgames, movies, comic books, novels, etc.), the "tabletop RPG" category is not necessarily the most profitable, or the aspect with the lowest investment.

Even beyond that, "tabletop RPG" is not intrinsically tied to "paper books," so it might be possible to separate the "D&D experience" from the low-margin standard distribution "book" method to the high-margin direct-to-consumer subscription-based "content" model, which seems to be at least a part of what they are doing.

My guess is that this transition is well in progress, and is behind a lot of what has been going on with the brand lately. I don't think D&D is going away or anything crazy like that, but I think a lot of it is going to go behind an online paywall, and eventually I think a great deal of D&D play is going to take place online.

--Erik
 

xechnao

First Post
My guess is that this transition is well in progress, and is behind a lot of what has been going on with the brand lately. I don't think D&D is going away or anything crazy like that, but I think a lot of it is going to go behind an online paywall, and eventually I think a great deal of D&D play is going to take place online.

--Erik

The thing is that D&D to remain relevant as a brand needs constant retailer presence. Perhaps, the minimum of what it needs to achieve that is a monthly magazine in paper format like what Dungeon and Dragon used to be.

It is rather telling that the video game and software industry make sure to get some real world exposure that way.
 
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Korgoth

First Post
and eventually I think a great deal of D&D play is going to take place online.

I wonder how much actually constitutes "a great deal", however.

I can safely say that throughout my entire lifespan, 0% of my D&D will be played online. If I can't get people to sit down at a table and play D&D with me, we'll play Savage Worlds or CoC or Traveller or something else. And if the day comes that I can't get anybody to sit down at a table and play a role playing game with me, I'll just play a minis wargame or a boardgame instead. And if the day comes when tables themselves are abolished and no one will ever sit down with me to play anything, then I'll just do something else with my time.

But I refuse to play D&D or any other tabletop game online. I'll play in my gf's freeform forum game and I'll play WoW or the equivalent, but I won't take something that is made of reality and trade it for something made of electrons. If it's already intended to be made of electrons, then fine. But I'm not trading down. That would be like using Skype with someone who was in the same room with you... just turn around and look at them! It doesn't make any sense.
 

richtrickey

First Post
The thing is that D&D to remain relevant as a brand needs constant retailer presence. Perhaps, the minimum of what it needs to achieve that is a monthly magazine in paper format like what Dungeon and Dragon used to be.

I don't know that the game needs constant brick and mortar retail presence, at least in the form we've grown used to. Think about WoW. You've got the starter disk boxes and prepaid reload cards, that's about it (not counting themed swag that doesnt really affect the game, but keeps the brand publicized, D&D could use more of that too, but its another issue).

So if Erik Mona's correct, and I think its a strong possibility, given WotC's actions and stated intent of bringing the game to a virtual tabletop over the last decade, all they really need to have in stores is a product like the Red Box Essentials to get you started. Prepaid booster cards for your DDI membership would work too. There's also the strong possibility of more random card packs, like the player cards they're doing now. Random monsters, spells, items, etc. The model works well for them with M:tG, no reason to think they won't finally confirm the fears some of us had in 1999 and "magicize" D&D.

Let's also not overlook the introduction of products like the Castle Ravenloft boardgame. If the core D&D game is going online, these kind of products would be good gateways for the tabletop gamers, especially if, like the Dungeon! and Fantasy Forest games TSR put out in the late 70s and early 80s, the games contain a set of "dummies" rules for using the product without knowledge of D&D 4e. Dungeon! and FF both had a feeling of being "just D&D enough" to get players interested in the genre, and the related RPGs, but were easily playable by family game night type players with no wargame or rpg experience.

Later accessories for D&D, like the Dragon's Den adventure set for Cyclopedia era Basic D&D (early 90s) also included similar "dummies" rules, that let you introduce new players to the ideas in D&D without forcing them to learn the rules and role up a PC.

As the complexity of the game increases (again, not trolling for a basic D&D vs 4e flamewar, but there is no arguing that 4e is more complex), the need for intro products like these is even greater now than it was in 1980 when we all grabbed up a copy of Dungeon! And if you can bring in the new players with a product that will also appeal to the established customer, even better. Meaning, those who have played 4e since day 1, and aren't rabid collectors like me, aren't all that likely to keep buying D&D Essentials Red Box type products (unless the products remain high value with limited edition minis and dice and durable dungeon tiles etc), but almost all players will at least consider a boardgame/uberadventure like Castle Ravenloft (especially if it also, as it appears to, includes a bunch of high value swag)

We don't need to get into comparing the actual gameplay of 4e with WoW, it's flamewar bait, but noone can deny that WotC has been envious of WoW's huge success and wants to emulate some of it. It's also foolish to think that, as Erik pointed out, a paperless or lesspaper publishing model isn't something to strive for, from the publisher's point of view.

Aside from the speculated revamping of the business model and new approaches to marketing D&D, the other real possibility presented in the changes at WotC is that Hasbro is finally cracking down and D&D's days are numbered.
 

Transbot9

First Post
You can't just slap something behind a paywall and expect it to work. DDI needs to provide value that people want, and so far (for many) it has fallen short.
 

xechnao

First Post
I don't know that the game needs constant brick and mortar retail presence, at least in the form we've grown used to. Think about WoW. You've got the starter disk boxes and prepaid reload cards, that's about it (not counting themed swag that doesnt really affect the game, but keeps the brand publicized, D&D could use more of that too, but its another issue).

WoW is to be eclipsed by some other product and most probably the same will happen to the brand name in the end -although it is not a given regarding the last one. Blizzard operates with this in mind.

If they intend to keep the brand name of Warcraft relevant after WoW has been eclipsed, well at that point they will have to support this by various means.
 

richtrickey

First Post
If they intend to keep the brand name of Warcraft relevant after WoW has been eclipsed, well at that point they will have to support this by various means.

Of course, no product reigns forever. But. Warcraft was around for a long time (20 years?) before they turned it into WoW. That transformation, and the timing of it just as Everquest was fading, kept Warcraft alive and even launched it to unimagined heights. Blizzard has shown innovation (and a bit of luck), and since WotC really hasn't since the revamping of the game in 2000 and the introduction of the OGL idea, they could do worse than try and emulate Blizzard's approach.
 

Hussar

Legend
I wonder how much actually constitutes "a great deal", however.

I can safely say that throughout my entire lifespan, 0% of my D&D will be played online. If I can't get people to sit down at a table and play D&D with me, we'll play Savage Worlds or CoC or Traveller or something else. And if the day comes that I can't get anybody to sit down at a table and play a role playing game with me, I'll just play a minis wargame or a boardgame instead. And if the day comes when tables themselves are abolished and no one will ever sit down with me to play anything, then I'll just do something else with my time.

But I refuse to play D&D or any other tabletop game online. I'll play in my gf's freeform forum game and I'll play WoW or the equivalent, but I won't take something that is made of reality and trade it for something made of electrons. If it's already intended to be made of electrons, then fine. But I'm not trading down. That would be like using Skype with someone who was in the same room with you... just turn around and look at them! It doesn't make any sense.

Over on Fear the Boot, they did an interview with Ryan Dancey some time ago. Dancey talked about the market research WOTC did going into 3e and one of things that stuck out was that D&D was largely (at the time anyway) a suburban thing. People, like me, out in the country lack the population base to get a group together and people who live in the city have too many other options competing for their time.

The other big demographic bubble was high school and college ages since these correlate to people having large amounts of free time and have a fairly easy time of finding like minded individuals. Imagine trying to go out and rebuild an entirely new group of gamers of people in their 30's or 40's from your co-workers.

Sure, some people can do that, but, most can't.

The online option breaks that down. Now, you can find a game and a group, that fits with your tastes and, just as importantly, fits with your schedule.

That opens D&D (and RPG's) up to entirely new market areas that have traditionally been pretty closed. I can easily see why RPG companies want to get into a more online approach. It makes too much economic sense not to.

Sucks for those who don't want online stuff in their RPG's though.
 

samursus

Explorer
Over on Fear the Boot, they did an interview with Ryan Dancey some time ago. Dancey talked about the market research WOTC did going into 3e and one of things that stuck out was that D&D was largely (at the time anyway) a suburban thing. People, like me, out in the country lack the population base to get a group together and people who live in the city have too many other options competing for their time.

The other big demographic bubble was high school and college ages since these correlate to people having large amounts of free time and have a fairly easy time of finding like minded individuals. Imagine trying to go out and rebuild an entirely new group of gamers of people in their 30's or 40's from your co-workers.

Sure, some people can do that, but, most can't.

The online option breaks that down. Now, you can find a game and a group, that fits with your tastes and, just as importantly, fits with your schedule.

That opens D&D (and RPG's) up to entirely new market areas that have traditionally been pretty closed. I can easily see why RPG companies want to get into a more online approach. It makes too much economic sense not to.

Sucks for those who don't want online stuff in their RPG's though.

Dunno if this is taking the thread too far off course but:

The mentioning of the online aspect is really hitting home with me right now. I am struggling to keep together a RL group of players with different priorities, schedules and (I am now starting to see) not-so-compatible personalities. Games have been few and far between the last few months. Ever since I got into the D&D VT Beta, I have had the chance to play around 6 or 7 sessions in the last 3 weeks! And tomorrow I am starting a Scales of War campaign with 4-6 other very interested people.

I love playing games face to face, but as one of the aforementioned 30-40 year olds, its becoming harder to find time and players. I think thats what attracted me to WOW years ago (since managed to kick the habit). Before this, I hadn't entered into the online RPG offerings (Maptools, Fantasy Grounds) because of price, learning curve, workload involved or finding players. Even now, in Beta, the VT solved most of these issues in one fell swoop. It still needs some work, but the possibilities are very promising.

A digital D&D would be used by me. It would be nice to still have the books, but that is not my call.
 

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