Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Five Editions

The latest White Dwarf has a history of 40K. It's an interesting article worth reading. For me it explains why the game doesn't have a hold on my imagination, having been published the year after I left high school. It's not a game of my childhood, like it is for so many people I know. It's a game that emerged the moment I began exploring my adult life, the editions marking my beginning of college (1987), grad school (1993), career in IT (1998) and starting the game store (2004). Dungeons & Dragons stuck with me, and mostly 1st edition, which I started playing as a 12 year old. I stuck with that edition, playing sporadically in my adult life, until the twilight of 2nd edition, when I got back into it seriously with Planescape.

D&D is on a path of revisions every 8-9 years, with 3.5 being a blunder which gets pasted over in WOTC marketing materials and will likely be admitted to one day with more time and perspective. Omitting 3.5 would put D&D back on the 8-9 year release cycle, and would have inspired a lot more good will towards 4th.

40K revisions are a bit quicker at 5-6 years. In the White Dwarf article, I found it interesting that customers were disappointed with previous edition codexes because of their small page count. Future editions, we're promised, will be beefier. It sounds like a D&D supplement strategy to me. Bigger books, preferably hardcover, with an obviously higher sticker price.

Both games have accelerated their pace in the last decade. Both are among the handful of game companies that are publicly traded corporations, WOTC being owned by Hasbro. Both companies are under the gun to increase profits in the short term. When you run a corporation, the primary goal, which you can be fired for for not completing or even criminally prosecuted for not executing properly, is maximizing shareholder value. Everything you do is aimed at that bottom line, more so than other businesses.

Is that bad if you're a customer? It might feel like a betrayal if you're under the misguided impression that these companies exist to enhance your fantasy life, rather than maximizing shareholder value. The main thing to remember about hobby games, is that they can only exist if customers are actively engaged in the hobby; buying, building, playing. I can tell you that D&D sales flagged over the last two years, as the writers mined the depth so what was possible with the game. 40K sales are dependent almost entirely on new releases, which are always just a tad better than previous releases (or else they tend to do poorly). Like any product you consume, decide your level of engagement and proceed.

Date D&D 40K
1978 1st Edition -
1979 - -
1980 - -
1981 - -
1982 - -
1983 - -
1984 - -
1985 - -
1986 - -
1987 - 1st Edition
1988 - -
1989 2nd Edition -
1990 - -
1991 - -
1992 - -
1993 - 2nd Edition
1994 - -
1995 - -
1996 - -
1997 - -
1998 - 3rd Edition
1999 - -
2000 3rd Edition -
2001 - -
2002 - -
2003 3.5 Edition -
2004 - 4th Edition
2005 - -
2006 - -
2007 - -
2008 4th Edition 5th Edition


  1. Interesting. I started playing 40K apparently right after 4th edition came out, and I started playing Flames of War right after it's second edition came out. In both cases I didn't know it until after I had bought a bunch of stuff for each. It seems that if you don't already play the game you won't know about these major changes unless someone volunteers the information.


  2. I could go on for a long time about what I feel some of the problems are with the current capitalist system (capitalist in terms of how capital is raised, not Capitalist in terms of ideology).

    The short version is that I think it's a bad idea for hobby companies to go public. The markets don't understand the industry, and for the most part the industry doesn't understand the markets. It's just a bad fit all around.

    The same generally applies to most niche industries in the current capitalist system where maximizing shareholder value is defined solely in terms of growth. Something that niche industries are, by definition, limited in their ability to achieve without leaving their niche.