Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Outside looking in

I’m reading quite a bit about the 4th edition-most of it negative. I suppose because it’s unknown and we generally fear the unknown. One thing I’ve noticed is that the marketing of 4th edition by WOTC doesn’t seem to be very empathetic to the current customer base. It seems almost arrogant. I saw the promotional clip that was played at Gen con. It seemed very condescending to me. It’s like the producers were saying: “listen up geeks- the way you have been playing all these years- well, it was wrong. Prepare to be enlightened.” I also ran across this “clouds in the sky” post by a WOTC employee, where he basically says “this is gonna happen so deal with it.” Well yeah, that may be true but you don’t have to be an arrogant ass about it. He later apologized, but for many the damage was done. Apology accepted, but what you said and the tone it was conveyed in won’t soon be forgotten. In my experience Gamer’s (me included) are many things good and bad, but one thing we most definitely are is sensitive, how else can we embrace a pastime that is pretty much imaginary?

In my opinion, the strategy used by WOTC to market this newest incarnation of D&D is light years away from the strategies used to usher in the 2nd and 3rd editions of the game. I was there for both events. When 2nd edition came along TSR used Dragon magazine to tease us with snippets and glimpses of new mechanics and rules. They promised a game that was different, yet still familiar without alienating their fan-base too much. Of course, back then if you wanted to bitch and whine you had to write a letter, mail it in and hope it got published. The books came out, almost all of us converted, the angry letters to Forum eventually drifted away and we moved on.

Eventually the time came for a 3rd edition. Once again the hue and cry was raised, but this time around we had the internet so the debates, complaints, and praise were heard much louder and felt more intense than in the 2nd edition transition. But still, the company (WOTC by then) took a soft approach and used their marketing skills to gently guide us to the next edition. At this point I sat on the beach with the other 2nd edition die-hards and waved goodbye to many of my friends on the 3rd edition flotilla as it headed out. I had spent too much money and time on 2nd edition to leave. But even then I had no I’ll thoughts for WOTC. They never told me my game was wrong, at least I don’t remember them telling me that.

But I’m not getting that vibe from this latest marketing campaign, it seems to me that there is a kind of arrogance out there from WOTC and the people that represent them-maybe they’re just young and cocky, sure that the geeky masses will buy the books despite their kicking and screaming (Just like they did the first two times).

In a way, I don’t really care. I most likely wont be buying the 4th ed. Books. Not out of any feelings of righteous indignation, but simply because when I want to play D&D I already have all I need. I love gaming, but I have surpassed the point where gaming and D&D are synonymous. When people talk about playing D&D my mind goes to “The Queen of the Demonweb pits” or the Nehwon section of the Deities and Demigods book. And that’s where it stays, and I’m fine with that. But it is interesting to see all the drama play itself out again.