Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Digital WOTC

The RPG world is in an uproar over Wizards of the Coast pulling their digital content. Some of this is laughably feigned, a dogpile on the 500 pound gorilla, but a lot of the antipathy is well placed. I personally own all the 4E books and have never bought a digital WOTC product (although lots of Malhavoc). However, I know those who do, and for them, their library is either entirely digital or it duplicates their print library. For them, they'll either abandon their game, or more likely, continue to obtain digital copies, only illegally. 4E has had high quality digital copies available from before the release date. That's unlikely to change. So everyone will still get what they want, but WOTC makes no money from it and law abiding customers are now the enemy. It seems rather shortsighted on the part of Wizards.

Although I own all the print books, I would greatly appreciate the inclusion of more book related digital content in some form, other than a duplicate purchase. Here, I think WOTC should leverage their Dungeons & Dragons Insider application to broaden available content. For example, last night I didn't need the full text of the Monster Manual, but I did need a long encounter block that was listed after a monsters stats. Include this stuff in database format that's not easy to copy wholesale, and you've solved a lot of the need for digital content. Instead, you've got me, the owner of every book, a DDI subscriber, debating whether to take the ten minutes to download the book illegally or spend 30 minutes typing.

Then again, the digital content seems to walk a razors edge, almost to where a DDI subscription obsoletes print materials. Perhaps they've decided their core competency lies in stuff, in printing books and related physical items. If they can hold off the digital tide a while longer, they can preserve their business model and ramp up their digital competency over time. Or maybe a Hasbro executive noticed his son downloading a Draconomicon torrent and called a meeting.


  1. I hear you. I think it was and continues to be a very bone headed move on WotC's part.

    I will add that the monsters are available in the DDI Compendium... aren't they?

  2. The monsters are in DDI, but not the recommended encounter makeups. It's a minor thing, but it's quick to just grab that data and copy it to a Word file.

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  4. Again? WotC keeps going back and forth on whether or not they want to distribute .pdf copies of their products.

    I think at this point it's silly not to sell them. As pointed out already, people will get them regardless, it just depends on if WotC wants some of the cut or not.

  5. What really made this bad is how WOTCs handled the situation with the customers. If that had done this over a month it would have been a totally different story.

  6. Yes, not only was it abrupt but customers who bought PDFs supposedly had the right to re-download them. That ability was denied them and without much notice.

  7. Comments on various boards I've seen seem to indicate that this latter bit is causing the most anger. People bought the product with the understanding that they would be able to download it again in the future if something happened to their PDF, and they see it as a betrayal by WotC to take that away from them, regardless of what the fine print of the sales agreement might have said.

    I've seen comparisons made to the time that TSR tried to basically remove D&D from the internet. Of course, this isn't the same thing, but it is a shadow of the same attitude.

  8. Customers who bought an electronic copy with the understanding (fine print or not) that they could download a new copy if something happened to the one they currently have will probably not feel like they are stealing if they lose their file and have to download a pirate copy.
    "I purchased this, and the agreement was that I could download a replacement from WOTC - now WOTC has decided to cheat me out of that - hiding behind some legal small print - so I am not cheating if I download a pirate copy". Once the customer has taken that step, it is easier for them to justify downloading more pirate materials with no remorse about ripping WOTC off, since WOTC ripped them off earlier (or ripped their friend off).
    Once WOTC creates this type of adversarial relationship with their customers, it's easy for the customers to justify their piracy as rebellion against the "evil empire" that "cares ONLY about profits, and hates gamers".