Sunday, August 19, 2012

Why Pathfinder Will Remain #1

The old school marketers Ries and Trout wrote a book that expounded their laws of marketing. It included the Law of Exclusivity, which says it's pointless to try to take over the top position in an established market. I say old school, because there are modern exceptions of this because of concepts like open licenses. What if Coca Cola decided to license out their recipe so anyone could take a hand at making soft drinks? Madness, right? Perhaps, but not if they leveraged it properly.

This is what happened with Dungeons & Dragons 3.x with the OGL and why Pathfinder was able to take that number one spot, a concept inconceivable before open source, and in open defiance of Ries and Trout's laws of marketing. It should not have happened by old school standards. D&D gave out their recipe and undermined themselves, not because they gave it out, but because they didn't follow through with all the new age opportunities that provided, as they turned back to traditional ways. Yet, the djinni was out of the bottle.

Now that Dungeons & Dragons is essentially a closed system, it's on an equal, traditional playing field with Pathfinder, but Pathfinder is at the top. There is no traditional way to dislodge Pathfinder at this point, according to Ries and Trout's laws. Pathfinder will remain there unless Dungeons & Dragons can pull another non-traditional trick to get back on top. Also, as we discuss endlessly via counter talk, it does not matter whatsoever how good the new Dungeons & Dragons is, the battle is already lost. Again, according to R&T and their traditional methodology.

What Dungeons & Dragons can do, is forge a new niche, a new category, the advice Ries and Trout would give. Dungeons & Dragons can be the simple fantasy role-playing game, or the most electronically integrated role-playing game, or the game preferred by women or left handed Albanians. Dungeons & Dragons can't be number one again in role-playing games, but it can be number one in its own, new, niche.

Or Dungeons & Dragons can throw Ries and Trout in the garbage again and make D&D Next entirely OGL, open source, available for anyone to write supplements for. It's not a guarantee of  success, because Pathfinder already did that, but it levels the playing field and at least allows them to play by new school rules, rather than being destined to fail by old school doctrines.

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