We often make predictions, but how often do we go back to see how accurate they were? Alexis did me a solid this morning by reminding me of this blog post that I responded to way back in 2012. I am pretty sure that wasn’t Alexis’ intention, but let’s treat it as if it were.
My base prediction was:
It wasn’t the fault of fans that a toxic atmosphere was created, nor is it the fault of fans that 4e wasn’t well-received. Nor will the success or failure of D&D Next be due to anything other than the success or failure of WotC to put out a good product, market that product well, and undo to whatever extent they are able the ill-will their handling of the 4e release created.
And they have definitely taken some steps in the right direction, although I think that the NDAs for the beta playtest are a really bad idea (not required by most recent rpgs, including Pathfinder and Dungeon Crawl Classics, despite Mike Mearls’ claim to the contrary), and I don’t think 5e will fly without the OGL.
The systems that are doing well right now have the right combination of “good system + goodwill”, and I don’t think Hasbro is going to allow WotC the leeway needed to recreate the goodwill that was seen with the advent of 3e.
The rest of the discussion is actually, I think, worth reading. You will notice quite a bit of “IMHO” and “I think”, and this is largely because, as is obvious, no one can really be so sure what the future holds!
(1) The success or failure of D&D Next (now 5e) is the result of a combination of the product and of the goodwill WotC can generate.
If comments from Mike Mearls are anything to go by, 5e is a real success, and Hasbro is happy that target numbers have been reached. I doubt that anyone is going to claim that this is the result of “toxic fans” or a lack of good will towards WotC. In fact, between the time that I wrote my responses in the blog post and the release of 5e, WotC went out of its way to address the ill will generated with the 4e release strategy.
It is of interest to me that Mike Mearls continues to hedge in relation to the OGL, or what licensing 5e will eventually have. This suggests rather strongly that, despite 5e materials being created right now under the OGL, the system will have a different licensing arrangement. A return to the OGL would have been announced early, because it would generate interest and goodwill. On the other hand, by deferring the question, WotC can hope to build up enough interest and goodwill related to the system itself that, whatever the eventual licensing, people will be too invested to quit.
And that was, AFAICT, the initial scheme: Play it for a year, and then we’ll tell you the details about the licensing. Maybe.
(2) The NDA was a bone-headed move.
The NDA did was prevent prolific and prominent bloggers from discussing D&D Next explicitly. It was violated almost immediately, and anyone who wanted them could easily obtain the playtest materials.
But, in this case, perhaps that was the point. By making these materials appear hard to obtain (and that clandestinely), WotC may well have raised the interest in 5e in a way that an open playtest would not have.
(3) Hasbro will not allow the leeway needed to give 5e the goodwill seen with 3e’s release.
The jury’s still out on this. Certainly, that 5e is a better system than 3e or 4e has been touted regularly on various blogs and forums. Equally certainly, renewing access to early editions in PDF (and sometimes print) formats has generated a lot of goodwill. There is certainly a sense that WotC is listening.
As an obvious corollary, if 5e is wildly successful, that will be because of Wizards, not because of the fans. They will have produced and marketed a good product, and overcome the ill-will generated around the release of 4e. It will be an achievement.
Yes, I said that. So far, WotC does seem to have managed that achievement. In part, I suspect, by postponing the licensing announcements until player investment is heavy.
For 5e to be “D&D Next” it needs to feel like coming home…like a game that DM’s can take ownership of. It needs to not feel like a game you play only at the whims of WotC’s legal department.
I still hold this to be true. Whether or not DMs will feel that ownership once they discover the licensing terms is a whole ‘nother matter.
Well, I already know my opinions. Please “hijack” this blog by telling me what you think. I promise not to perma-ban anyone for not simply regurgitating my own thoughts!*
*And, yes, Alexis, that is me tweaking your nose. And no, I did not discover your blog post by searching from "searching for a name" on Google to stir up some controversy in order to maintain readership. Your blog is still on my reading list because, despite the many posts about how everyone else sucks, you do occasionally have very interesting things to say.