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"The Future of D&D is International" (Inverse article)

LordEntrails

Explorer
It just seems to me that stating "international" or that they are taking the game "worldwide" is like saying "I put gas in my car" (or charge the batteries).

Of course they are. The only other option is to limit their own profits and profitability. Not that they have maximized their market penetration within the USA, but there is nothing inherent about D&D that is localized to one place. Hence the market has always been worldwide. It's just a matter of funding & managing international expansion.

As for localization, I'm all for D&D in as many languages as possible. But their is a real cost to doing that, whether teh people that are doing it are WotC employees or a third party. Maybe a business might be willing to subsidize such a cost, but apparently WotC is not. That leaves 3 choices; 1) pay the higher price and show that translations are a good business investment and provide justification for more products to be translated which will drive down the price as the risk becomes less and competition arises. 2) Don't pay the higher prices and justify the high cost due to low success and high risk. 3) Try social pressure to get WotC to subsidize the costs and then hopefully justify their investment by helping them to sell lots of translated books.
 

Gadget

Explorer
That is a very interesting article. I remember when 5e first came out, there was a lot of talk about "trans-media" products and business model, which kind of died down after a while. This may be one reason why; they are getting better at reading their customer base and expanding it into new or newer markets. While they have always done some international in the past, particularly Europe, it seems that they have vast, largely untapped, market there that they are taking noticing. Having dealt with internationalization sometimes in the software industry, I would image that this will be a new challenge for them, as their product may be quite expensive to internationalize and market; especially if they want to keep the sticker price down.
 

lowkey13

Exterminate all rational thought
You are right, the focus on International growth does suggest that they have no plans for any edition change in the next few years, as they have consistently stated. While they haven't fully ramped up their media game, they have been quite successful in the comics and casual game scenes so far. They have a promising big video game coming down the tubes, along with a movie and who knows what else. I think we are not even half way through 5E, maybe much less.
Wait ... are you saying I should believe what they say, instead of my own fevered hopes and speculation?

DRAT! That takes, like, 95% of the fun out of the internet. :)
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
There are millions of Spanish-speakers, but we aren't enough rich to buy all. You can see in many free-to-play online videogames there are translations to different languages but not for Spanish.

China is a great market, but there the future of the industry of the speculative fiction isn't good. Its censorship doesn't like undeads, supernatural elements nor even their own pre-Mao historical past.

Radio killed books, TV killed radio, Videoclubs killed TV, Internet killed cinema and videoclub and video-consoles killed miniatures and boardgames.

The books are for collectors, and the PDFs are by little third party companies.

* I imagine the future of the storytelling "pencil & dices" RPGs like videogames with a creator of quests/missions/stories.

* For new generations of players WotC needs a boardame with simple rules to be easily learnt by preteens, something like the "Hero-Quest" 90's boardgame. ("Endless Quest" as title was copyright by TSR).
This is 2019, much of this is out of date in the middle of the booming tabletop gaming industry. And you are dead wrong about China: see, for instance, "Ice Fantasy" or "Monster Hunters" among many, many other counter examples. All of the big Chinese movies of recent years are very Sci-Fi/Fantasy.
 

Aebir-Toril

Explorer
It just seems to me that stating "international" or that they are taking the game "worldwide" is like saying "I put gas in my car" (or charge the batteries).

Of course they are. The only other option is to limit their own profits and profitability. Not that they have maximized their market penetration within the USA, but there is nothing inherent about D&D that is localized to one place. Hence the market has always been worldwide. It's just a matter of funding & managing international expansion.

As for localization, I'm all for D&D in as many languages as possible. But their is a real cost to doing that, whether teh people that are doing it are WotC employees or a third party. Maybe a business might be willing to subsidize such a cost, but apparently WotC is not. That leaves 3 choices; 1) pay the higher price and show that translations are a good business investment and provide justification for more products to be translated which will drive down the price as the risk becomes less and competition arises. 2) Don't pay the higher prices and justify the high cost due to low success and high risk. 3) Try social pressure to get WotC to subsidize the costs and then hopefully justify their investment by helping them to sell lots of translated books.
Don't forget that, in addition to translation, re-formatting will be needed in the case of languages like Japanese and non-simplified Chinese.

As someone who loves languages, I shudder to think of the WotC translator who might have to translate every book into Japanese (multiple scripts), Arabic (Abugida), and Russian (Multiple different ways to say one thing depending on context, and I mean a lot ​of different ways).
 
There are millions of Spanish-speakers, but we aren't enough rich to buy all. You can see in many free-to-play online videogames there are translations to different languages but not for Spanish.

China is a great market, but there the future of the industry of the speculative fiction isn't good. Its censorship doesn't like undeads, supernatural elements nor even their own pre-Mao historical past.

Radio killed books, TV killed radio, Videoclubs killed TV, Internet killed cinema and videoclub and video-consoles killed miniatures and boardgames.

The books are for collectors, and the PDFs are by little third party companies.

* I imagine the future of the storytelling "pencil & dices" RPGs like videogames with a creator of quests/missions/stories.

* For new generations of players WotC needs a boardame with simple rules to be easily learnt by preteens, something like the "Hero-Quest" 90's boardgame. ("Endless Quest" as title was copyright by TSR).
So... there is a lot wrong with this post.

First, the argument that translating a book from English to Spanish won't make a profit because Spanish-speakers are too poor is nonsensical. Yes much of latin america is below the poverty line, but translating a book from English to Spanish is also not that expensive. There are certainly enough Spanish speakers who can afford to buy a PHB and DMG. The profit problem has way more to do with whether D&D is interesting enough for Spanish-speakers to actually buy one.

The Chinese censorship question has always been overstated. China has been perfectly fine with the supernatural if you look at their films and video games, many of which are quite popular. D&D may still have trouble there simply for it's old Satanic devils/demons reputation, but even that is unlikely to stop a Chinese release of the PHB which barely mentions those elements.
 

Mistwell

Adventurer
They don't like PDFs because it makes piracy easier.
I disagree, but let me provide some background for other people reading this before I state my disagreement.

BACKGROUND

A little over a decade ago (around April 2009) WOTC mentioned piracy as one of the major reasons for them pulling PDFs that year.

That policy was real, and was part of a crew at WOTC which isn't there anymore. Literally almost a complete turnover in personnel, from the Legal department to the PR department, to the content development department, it's all different people now from those who formulated or supported that policy.

In the past 5 years, WOTC representatives have consistently and repeatedly stated a different reason for not liking PDFs. And it's reflected in this most recent article as well. And that is, simply put, they don't think PDFs provide a good experience. WOTC prefers either hardcopy, OR digital means which are more interactive and allow a user to immediately pull up a cited rule or section of another book on the same page, like a popup or whatever.

And consistent with that stated policy, WOTC has supported DnDBeyond, Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, etc., which all have a much more interactive element to digital content.

As far as I know, not one single WOTC representative has mentioned piracy as a major, or even minor, factor in their approach to digital content, for nearly a decade now. Not since early 2009 have I seen anyone from WOTC (on the D&D side at least) mention piracy.

RETORT

To believe that the primary reason WOTC's D&D team doesn't like PDFs is that they make piracy easier is to essentially claim either WOTC employees are all lying, or at least misrepresenting the reasons they support other forms of digital content and hardcopies over PDFs. It also assumes all the previous people at WOTC who used to work there and have piracy as their major objection to PDFs somehow passed that policy down to their successors, and those successors have for some reason never mentioned that reason again despite their predecessors being rather open with Piracy being their primary motivation for opposing PDFs.

I don't buy it. And without some evidence piracy is a major motivating factor now (as opposed to a decade ago), I think Occam's Razor dictates the stated reasons are the real reasons currently, and not piracy.

If you disagree, I'd love to see some evidence, any evidence from later than 2009, that shows the current employees working on the D&D end of WOTC think piracy is a major reason to avoid PDFs. Because I just have not seen it, and I don't think they're lying or misrepresenting when they say the primary reason is the antiquated static usability of PDFs.
 
I think we can decide for ourselves what we find interesting.
I find it very interesting. I'm fine you don't. But, I am not ignoring the rest as opposed to just focusing on the thing I found interesting.
OK, fair enough. I shouldn't have said it wasn't at all interesting or implied that either of you are guilty of BadWrongInterest, but I was irked in that it is the only quasi-controversial thing in the article, and of course it happens to be the center of discussion. I was concerned that it would be yet another opportunity for people to be offended, feel entitled and/or mis-treated by WotC for not catering to their special needs...thankfully that hasn't really happened in this thread.

Anyhow, I too find it somewhat interesting, but more for the underlying implications - that is, why is their approach so successful? Why is an "old-fashioned" game of books, dice, and imagination so popular in a world of immersive video games and virtual realities? What are people craving for and enjoying that the cyber milieu isn't offering?

What WotC is doing is wildly successful. Would also selling PDFs make D&D even more successful? I don't know, but presumably WotC has made the researched guess that in fact no, it wouldn't - otherwise they'd be doing it.

Radio killed books, TV killed radio, Videoclubs killed TV, Internet killed cinema and videoclub and video-consoles killed miniatures and boardgames.

The books are for collectors, and the PDFs are by little third party companies.

* I imagine the future of the storytelling "pencil & dices" RPGs like videogames with a creator of quests/missions/stories.
Except...no, not really. D&D is proving that the "latest and greatest" technology isn't always the best, or what people want. What the article is saying contradicts your Darwinian thinking: the book was not killed, but has survived and is thriving. People want the tactile experience of books, pencils and paper, dice and miniatures; they want the theater of mind, not another simulative screen. They want the in-person social interaction with actual other, real human beings - not just text interactions with avatars.

Books aren't going away, just as watercolor paints aren't being eradicated by digital art or wooden violins by 3D printers or synthesizers. They are classical cultural artifacts that have lasting perennial value and meaning to the human experience.

I would also add that board games are in a bit of a golden era, for the last decade or more. While the board game experience is not nearly as immersive or imaginative as RPGs, it does share one thing in common: hanging out in the real world with actual real human beings.

If I sound like an unabashed member of Team Meatspace! then guilty as charged.

* For new generations of players WotC needs a boardame with simple rules to be easily learnt by preteens, something like the "Hero-Quest" 90's boardgame. ("Endless Quest" as title was copyright by TSR).
I don't disagree with this, but they've done this with games like Wrath of Ashardalon with (at best) tepid results. As I mentioned elsewhere, I recently played Wrath with my two daughters and was greatly disappointed: it was like D&D but with the best elements taken out. No imagination, no real story - and very repetitive. We actually preferred the much simpler Dungeon game.

But certainly a board game that whets the appetite for more would be nice, but I don't think they've come across the right combination of simple and playable in a few hours, but also with enough of the story and imagination of D&D to give a taste of the actual game. To me that would be the Holy Grail of a D&D boardgame: you get a taste of what makes D&D really special: the feeling that you're participating in a story in a living, imaginary world.
 

Aebir-Toril

Explorer
So... there is a lot wrong with this post.

First, the argument that translating a book from English to Spanish won't make a profit because Spanish-speakers are too poor is nonsensical. Yes much of latin america is below the poverty line, but translating a book from English to Spanish is also not that expensive. There are certainly enough Spanish speakers who can afford to buy a PHB and DMG. The profit problem has way more to do with whether D&D is interesting enough for Spanish-speakers to actually buy one.

The Chinese censorship question has always been overstated. China has been perfectly fine with the supernatural if you look at their films and video games, many of which are quite popular. D&D may still have trouble there simply for it's old Satanic devils/demons reputation, but even that is unlikely to stop a Chinese release of the PHB which barely mentions those elements.
Not to mention the fact that there are Europeans who speak Spanish. /facepalm

As a native English speaker, though, I'm happy that D&D is attempting to expand to other markets.

As for Chinese censorship, the PHB, if released, would probably not have Tieflings, Pact of the Fiend, or Fiend-summoning spells, but would be untouched otherwise. I would imagine that the Chinese government would be more likely to alter content than ban it completely, but I wouldn't know.
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
OK, fair enough. I shouldn't have said it wasn't at all interesting or implied that either of you are guilty of BadWrongInterest, but I was irked in that it is the only quasi-controversial thing in the article, and of course it happens to be the center of discussion. I was concerned that it would be yet another opportunity for people to be offended, feel entitled and/or mis-treated by WotC for not catering to their special needs...thankfully that hasn't really happened in this thread.

Anyhow, I too find it somewhat interesting, but more for the underlying implications - that is, why is their approach so successful? Why is an "old-fashioned" game of books, dice, and imagination so popular in a world of immersive video games and virtual realities? What are people craving for and enjoying that the cyber milieu isn't offering?

What WotC is doing is wildly successful. Would also selling PDFs make D&D even more successful? I don't know, but presumably WotC has made the researched guess that in fact no, it wouldn't - otherwise they'd be doing it.



Except...no, not really. D&D is proving that the "latest and greatest" technology isn't always the best, or what people want. What the article is saying contradicts your Darwinian thinking: the book was not killed, but has survived and is thriving. People want the tactile experience of books, pencils and paper, dice and miniatures; they want the theater of mind, not another simulative screen. They want the in-person social interaction with actual other, real human beings - not just text interactions with avatars.

Books aren't going away, just as watercolor paints aren't being eradicated by digital art or wooden violins by 3D printers or synthesizers. They are classical cultural artifacts that have lasting perennial value and meaning to the human experience.

I would also add that board games are in a bit of a golden era, for the last decade or more. While the board game experience is not nearly as immersive or imaginative as RPGs, it does share one thing in common: hanging out in the real world with actual real human beings.

If I sound like an unabashed member of Team Meatspace! then guilty as charged.



I don't disagree with this, but they've done this with games like Wrath of Ashardalon with (at best) tepid results. As I mentioned elsewhere, I recently played Wrath with my two daughters and was greatly disappointed: it was like D&D but with the best elements taken out. No imagination, no real story - and very repetitive. We actually preferred the much simpler Dungeon game.

But certainly a board game that whets the appetite for more would be nice, but I don't think they've come across the right combination of simple and playable in a few hours, but also with enough of the story and imagination of D&D to give a taste of the actual game. To me that would be the Holy Grail of a D&D boardgame: you get a taste of what makes D&D really special: the feeling that you're participating in a story in a living, imaginary world.
Say what you will about the D&D Adventure games like that (not a big fan myself), they must do very well, as they have been available for years, and they just published another one a few months ago (Dungeon of the Mad Mage), the second or third in that line during the 5E period. Impressive, considering they use the last editions rules.
 

Zardnaar

Explorer
I don't see D&D doing that well in a lot of countries for various reasons.

1. It's an American game. By that I mean you kill stuff and it's kinda violent

2. It's based on European myth, legends and history.

3. Cultural awareness. D&D isn't really a thing in a lot of countries. They won't get references in shows like Stranger Things. Nor will they care.

4. Cultural differences in gaming preferences. Are RPGs and Western type games a thing in other cultures.

5. Cultural differences pt 2. Some things in D&D would be offensive in other cultures. Art, demons, devil's, polytheisism,magic etc.

You also need a middle class and economics to support it. A phb is the equivalent of $300 bucks or so in some countries.
 
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I don't see D&D doing that well in a lot of countries for various reasons.
I agree probably notas well, but considering the large populations of Latin America and Asia, I think it is worth at least sending a line out to see if it catches. To address your specific points:

1. It's an American game. By that I mean you kill stuff and it's kinda violent
We Americans do seem to be obsessed with violence, don't we? I find it rather disturbing how embedded the idea is in media culture that everything can be solved with violence (see just about any action/superhero movie). But this doesn't mean that adventure arcs can't be adjusted slightly, to emphasize the two other Mearlsian pillars.

That said, I know that video games are popular worldwide, and most focus on combat (afaik - not a video gamer).

2. It's based on European myth, legends and history.
Easily remedied. 5E is due for some kind of Oriental Adventures book, and there's no reason why they can't do an "Native American Adventures" that focuses Native cultures of the North, Central, and South America: Inuit/Arctic, Plains/Lakota, Southwest/Hope/Apache, Maya, Aztec, Inca, Amazonian, etc.

3. Cultural awareness. D&D isn't really a thing in a lot of countries. They won't get references in shows like Stranger Things. Nor will they care.
But they might be inspired by shows like Stranger Things. And they can also market it as "The game that inspired World of Warcraft and just about every fantasy video game."

4. Cultural differences in gaming preferences. Are RPGs and Western type games a thing in other cultures.
Again, video games are so why not RPGs?

5. Cultural differences pt 2. Some things in D&D would be offensive in other cultures. Art, demons, devil's, polytheisism,magic etc.
Market research. And I don't see why they couldn't do a "Chinese edition" of the game - a starter box that is tailored to Chinese culture.

You also need a middle class and economics to support it. A phb is the equivalent of $300 bucks or so in some countries.
Well, the middle class in the US is shrinking, and D&D is more popular than ever. The percentage of middle class folks in China might be smaller, but there's also four times as many people. Latin America is obviously generally poorer than the US, but there are middle and upper class people.

Again, I don't think D&D will ever be anywhere as popular beyond the US and the English-speaking world. But it isn't either/or. I would think the best and likely way to go for WotC would be some kind of culturally-oriented starter boxes: A Chinese one, a Latin American one in Spanish and Portuguese. You start with that and see what the response is and have other stuff ready to go if it turns into a hit.
 
It's cool that they're wanting to expand more.

I prefer physical books in general. I also like to have pdfs to go with my books. They are more portable, more searchable (if I don't happen to know it like the back of my hand), and allow me to have multiple rules pages visible simultaneously.

Other digital formats might be better in some ways, but they have major downsides too. Subscription models bug me. Buying content that I can only use with a specific online service bugs me in general--probably because I've lived in several places in the US, and have never yet lived anywhere where the internet is as consistent as the electricity (though I think I may just have bad luck in that regards). And I also like to be able to access the book itself in my digital content, not just the content in it. I like seeing the layout and art. Then I can turn my tablet into a quasi-book. I memorize where stuff is on the page. So I'd rather have a digitized book to supplement my physical book, than just a digital content element reference. Maybe I'm a minority, but I still think they are dismissing the pdf market without sufficient evidence.

I don't buy it. And without some evidence piracy is a major motivating factor now (as opposed to a decade ago), I think Occam's Razor dictates the stated reasons are the real reasons currently, and not piracy.

If you disagree, I'd love to see some evidence, any evidence from later than 2009, that shows the current employees working on the D&D end of WOTC think piracy is a major reason to avoid PDFs. Because I just have not seen it, and I don't think they're lying or misrepresenting when they say the primary reason is the antiquated static usability of PDFs.
Glad to hear it. The previous policy justification was absurd. I certainly hope they aren't considering piracy based on them officially releasing a pdf to be a real issue. Because it's not. There is this amazing newfangled device called a "scanner" that allows people to scan that physical book they bought, borrowed, or stole, and upload it to the internet so anyone who wants to can download it. I mean, it's not a given, of course. Amongst all the millions of physical copies of the books circulating, you need at least one whole person to decide to scan it and upload it. If WotC put out their own pdf, it would entirely eliminate the scanning element, so now you only need one whole person who knows how to upload, but not scan, a book to enable piracy. :rolls eyes:

The books are already going to be pirate-ready almost immediately after release. The question is whether WotC would like to offset the losses incurred through piracy by providing a legal option for those who actually want to buy a pdf to give them money rather than going without (or pirating, based on the individual in question).

I think right now they just aren't taking into account those who are interested in pdfs specifically, as opposed to just having some sort of digital delivery in general. It makes sense for them to go with the angles they are taking based on their perspective on what people want. Maybe it's just me who would like the actual books in pdf (and not at the same price as the hardcopy!) rather than just the content in some other digital format.

As for Chinese censorship, the PHB, if released, would probably not have Tieflings, Pact of the Fiend, or Fiend-summoning spells, but would be untouched otherwise. I would imagine that the Chinese government would be more likely to alter content than ban it completely, but I wouldn't know.
Why in Baator would Chinese censorship care about fiendish stuff? The problem it had in the Western world back in the day was predominantly due to a specific (possibly minority) segment of Christians. That demographic is tiny in China. Is there some sort of tension between Communism and fantasy fiendishness that I'm unaware of?
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
I think right now they just aren't taking into account those who are interested in pdfs specifically, as opposed to just having some sort of digital delivery in general. It makes sense for them to go with the angles they are taking based on their perspective on what people want. Maybe it's just me who would like the actual books in pdf (and not at the same price as the hardcopy!) rather than just the content in some other digital format.
It might not be a question of taking into account, it may be that they weighed the option and decided against that while taking that into account.

WotC runs a pretty robust PDF operation with the DMsGuild, which is how they would sell new 5E books on PDF if they wished to (and they have a large amount of 5E material up themselves). We know from posters here who have top sellers on the DMsGuild (which is all available via DriveThruRPG as well) that a big seller means hundred, if not thousands of copies. Whereas Rll20, Fantasy Grounds and D&D Beyond we know to be servicing hundred of thousands, if not millions, of customers. Certainly millions are using the books.

So, in terms of business opportunity, a few thousand people who like PDF as a format just might not have a good ROI for WotC, if it distracts from more fruitful ventures like Beyond. Even taking that some people would like it into account.
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
Not to mention the fact that there are Europeans who speak Spanish. /facepalm

As a native English speaker, though, I'm happy that D&D is attempting to expand to other markets.

As for Chinese censorship, the PHB, if released, would probably not have Tieflings, Pact of the Fiend, or Fiend-summoning spells, but would be untouched otherwise. I would imagine that the Chinese government would be more likely to alter content than ban it completely, but I wouldn't know.
I'm watching Ice Fantasy on Netflix right now, which was produced in Communist China. I can assure you, D&D should not be a problem (this show's already done it all already).
 

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