McDonalds changed the way we eat hamburgers. In the late 80′ they expanded their menu to include pizza. Special ovens were installed at a cost of 50 grand a piece. (1) Burger flippers were trained as pizza chefs. And marketing teams prepared to roll out the McPizza.
McDonalds is a burger joint. It has always been a burger joint. When we see the golden arches we think “burger and fries”. Nobody was interested in eating sub-par Italian food. (That’s what Little Ceasers is for!).
McDonalds rolled back the changes and tried to forget the McPizza debacle. The monetary loss was tremendous. But, the damage to their brand was almost as bad. Why am I telling you this story? Because 4th Edition D&D is Wizards of the Coast’s McPizza.
A Gamer Scorn
For years, players formed an expectation about D&D. The release of 4th edition created a schisim in the player base. Why did all the gnomes suddenly disappear? (2) Aren’t thieves supposed to suck? It’s not the game geeks grew to love. The D&D brand has been damaged.
The mistake with 4th edition D&D was not in publishing it. Many loved the changes and accepted it with open arms (and open wallets). It is a great game and I’m glad it exists. The mistake was calling it D&D.
The Missed Opportunity
Suppose they published 4th edition as a completely different game – while at the same time they continued to support 3rd edition.
- The D&D brand would remain intact: beloved by geeks everywhere.
- WotC would have two great product lines for them to promote and sell. Instead they abandoned all revenue related to 3rd edition. (And basically wrote a phat check to Paizo.)
- 3rd edition players would not feel ripped off. Instead they would be given alternatives.
Publish 5th edition! (let the nerd rage begin!)
Just kidding. Actually, I would love WotC to reprint the 3rd edition core rule books and publish some amazing modules. 4th edition should continue to develop – at a much slower pace. Stop ramming ten 4th Ed books per year down our throats. Instead publish five different products for each edition. It would seem less overwhelming split across two different product lines. (Note: I’m not suggesting they print the same product for both edition.)
If McDonalds truly wanted to serve pizza, they should have launched a new restaurant. The name McDonalds should never have been associated. They would have maintained the integrity of their brand and grown their business. The same holds true for the D&D brand.
The brand can be repaired. Amazing content is key. Slowly rebuild player loyalty one product at a time. Find a way for both editions to co-exist. Monte Cook has rejoined the D&D development team. (3) I’m looking forward to the creativity he adds to the mix. Maybe he is working on the next great 3rd edition campaign setting. OK. That’s a long shot. But, it would be interesting news.
2) Gnomes made their comeback in the Players Handbook 2.