Based on everything I’ve seeing and hearing about it, the release of the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons last year appears to have been a huge and total success. Lots of people really love the game and it appears to sell very well. I’ve seen mention that the Player’s Handbook had been on the number one spot for best selling books on amazon.com, and store owners and employees talking about it on rpg forums very consistently say it is selling well.
When the signs were piling up that WotC would end the 4th edition after a relatively short run, I made the prediction that they would be announcing a 5th edition pretty soon (which they did) and that it would be their last chance to revitalize the game. 4th edition was very unpopular with many old fans (though it is a decent game in its own right from what I hear, just not very much in the long tradition of D&D) and when they prepare to abandon ship after just 3 years, you just can’t get around the perception that the game was a failure. With 5th edition they had (have?) the chance to try to get the brand back into the tradition and style that people think of when they hear about D&D. But if that edition also stumbled and didn’t work out as intended, there wouldn’t be any real chance to fix its damaged reputation. Trying to fix things with a 6th edition wouldn’t be really an option, because who would buy a (pretty expensive) game that gets completely new rules every three or four years?
But they were lucky and the game actually was very well received. Disaster averted, brand saved! But everything that has happened since the release of the three rulebooks has been very puzzling to me. Because based on everything I hear and read, the people who are handling the D&D brand don’t really seem to be interested in the roleplaying game. The focus seems to be on licensed novels and videogames, as well as board games and other stuff. But as far as I am able to tell, there are the tree rulebooks and that is it. Everything else there is for Dungeons & Dragons are adventurers, which they want to tie in with the planned novels and videogames. I think because D&D has been a roleplaying game for 40 years and you can not have a D&D brand without it including a roleplaying game. But this game, as well done as it is, really seems like an attempt to do the absolute barest of minimum to convince people “D&D is still a roleplaying game”. They also really seem to have no idea what to do with it.
A few days ago I found this interview, which really is just painful to read. It really sounds to me like that poor guy is trying his best to make it sound somewhat positive when he is still saying “we don’t know yet”, “probably not”, and “we won’t do that anymore”. As I see it, it’s over. There won’t be any Dungeons & Dragons as most people know it for a very long time. Possibly forever. This is it. There won’t be more than perhaps one or two additional books that are not adventures. I highly doubt we’ll see campaign settings as in 4th edition, which consist of just two books, and certainly nothing like in 3rd and 2nd edition, where settings got a dozen or two of books dedicated to them. Maaaybe a Monster Manual 2 one day, but again nothing like the amount of monster books there have been for the previous editions. It’s not as if there wasn’t any demand for them, but really that WotC isn’t in any way interested in making a successful roleplaying game anymore. The four people who are working on D&D might, but that’s not their choice to make.
So yeah, I think this was it. I wonder what Pathfinders plans are for the future. I think there’s a big untapped market opening up right now.