Saturday, March 22, 2008

Paizo Analysis

Some interesting observations from the message boards:

  1. Love/Hate: When Wizards of the Coast performs a minor rules upgrade, like 3.5, there was outrage. When Paizo performs a minor rules upgrade, like Pathfinder's "3.75" there's celebration.
  2. Legacy: If Pathfinder is a considerable power shift for D&D characters, why would you want to use all your 3.5 D&D books to add on to it? In other words, if it doesn't preserve your 3.5 collection of legacy books, what good is it?
  3. Money: If it's about the money, how is spending a bunch of money on Pathfinder different than spending a bunch of money on D&D 4? Some people are actually disappointed that Pathfinder will eventually become a book that they will have to buy, aka spending any money at all. Perhaps the excitement is a free, very high value PDF (albeit an Alpha). Perhaps there is a tiny, vocal community of online cheap bastards that partially drive this argument.
  4. Commitment: A long alpha period with a PDF product will allow them to fish for feedback to see if there's a market for this. They're not committing serious resources to this move, so they may not be sure themselves if this will work.
  5. GSL Backlash. Wizards of the Coast's inability to provide the GSL license is causing a lot of this "backlash." As it stands now, publishers won't have product available for the D&D 4 release. Publishers are seeing their market for providing D&D support evaporate and perhaps they're getting desperate.
  6. It's weak sauce. I've personally looked at it and talked to others at the store, and there's nothing compelling about Pathfinder. In fact, I get that same 3.5 irritation that someone peed on the pool, that I'm reading a bunch of unnecessary rules changes. The Pathfinder rules are too evolutionary, and thus not very compelling. It's a common thread. The general consensus is that The Book of Experimental Might is weak sauce too, so perhaps we're looking for a "reboot."
I'll add a retailer observation as well:

There is now a larger incentive to drop Paizo. Paizo has gone from a publisher to a competitor since they lost the rights to publish Dungeon and Dragon magazines. Their online store sells everything game related at a discount, including the products they sell through my store. Their subscription service comprises the bulk of Pathfinder sales in my area, with just a few customers getting them from me. When I do sell their product, it usually includes customer incentive to buy from them online. With a switch to their own system, it would be very easy for me to stop carrying their products. In fact, there's a larger incentive to stop supporting them, since every Pathfinder sale is likely to lock people into a new system and distribution model that Paizo controls. With their decision to reduce the retailer margin in January, it's even more compelling an argument to stop supporting them.


  1. Paizo also has to be the worst e-tailer I've ever dealt with.
    I was looking for some Starship Troopers minis (Grizzlies), and found them listed as in stock at Paizo, so ordered them.
    During the 10+ weeks that I waited for Paizo to ship my order, I passed up opportunities to purchase the miniatures from other sources (often at better prices than the one I had committed to with Paizo).
    After placing my order, I received an order confirmation that told me that they would ship my order sometime in the next few weeks (at this point I'm asking myself what the problem is - I can see waiting several weeks for special order product from a small manufacturer, not for an "in stock" item that won't be available from the manufacturer or through distribution). Over 10 weeks later, I got a message from Paizo telling me that the m9iniatures I ordered are out of print, and that they can't get them for me, but do I still want the two small items that I had used to fill out my order? Yeah, right.

  2. I was impressed by my brief looks at the first couple of issues of Pathfinder, but your's and Joe's anecdotes tell me all I need to know about them from a business perspective.

    Selling their own product direct to customers at a discount while simultaneously cutting the discount they give to retailers is pretty much a big "screw you" to the retailers.

    At the same time, pulling that kind of in-stock shenanigans says the same thing to their own customers. It's also potentially illegal depending on when they charge your credit card.

    Joe's situation is pretty much the absolute worst case scenario, short of outright fraud, when it comes to placing an order.

    If you list something as in stock, it better damn well be in stock, or else you should immediately notify your customer of your error.

    They're likely to end up with everyone pissed at them, regardless of the quality of their products.

  3. Wow, Gary. I just don't agree with this analysis of Paizo and their Pathfinder line. It's utterly gorgeous, well-written, and consistent in its creativity-to-game-rule ratio. Our customers and employees are very impressed by the product, and we celebrate Paizo's commitment to not needing 4.0 to move ahead. Moreso, it's the only consistent d20 seller in our very massive selection of RPG products.

    Regardless of Joe's unmistakably terrible experience with them as a customer, it's certainly an aberration and not the norm. We've found them to be friendly, helpful, and professional around every turn.

    This is not to say that Pathfinder (or Paizo) is utterly flawless. But it's better than anything WotC has put out for the D&D 3.5 line in at least two years, and I'm holding to that with great enthusiasm.

  4. I agree with you about the current Pathfinder adventure series. It's the Pathfinder RPG I'm uncertain about; an entirely different animal that just happens to share the same name.

    Joe's experience is about their online store, which is a different story from Paizo the publisher.