Blurbs from the Booth: A tale of two Companies: Is WotC Evil?

I love RPGs.  I love to play crazy one-shots made my obscure companies.  I love to play living games made by GIANT, multinational companies.  I like random pick-up games at con with people I don’t know and will most likely never see again.  I love these game!

But, I noticed something over the last few weekends.  I’m seeing nerd rage on levels I hadn’t seen before.  Lots of this was directed at Wizards of the Coast (WotC).  Some of this came from people who are still made that WotC is owned by Hasbro.  Some is directed at their “money-grabbing” tactics.  Some are gloating of the failure of 4e.

This kind of made me mad and sad.  When I discussed this with many of these people, most of them said the next edition was doomed to fail also, and WotC kind of deserved this.  When I asked, many of these people said they had not tried DnD Next, nor did they want to.  Again, this was because of the negative image that WotC had for them.

I think this is unfair at best.  WotC has some of the best support for gamers and the brick and mortar stores.  While it does befit WotC in non monetary ways, DnD encounters have continued even since WotC stopped releasing purchasable products for DnD.  Heck for the longest time, WotC offered DnD encounters completely for free and gave out dice.  Now you have to buy the adventure, but they still give out promotional material for each encounters season.  In addition to that, WotC has supported the Living Forgotten Realms for quite some time.  This might have shifted to a labor of love as WotC stopped paying writers, but WotC still supported the campaign and helped ensure that this was given floor space at major cons.  Heck stores that run multiple DnD encounter and Living Forgotten Realm events became “premier” stores and were given early access to WotC products.  This support represents a large financial investment in the brick and mortar community.

Now I would like to engage in a thought experiment.  Paizo is often seen as the white knight compared to WotC evil, dark wizard.  I don’t think this holds up.  Paizo does do geek outreach, but this is matched by WotC.  Both have supported Free RPG day.  Both give out random crap at cons (still got my buttons from both!).  However, I see major difference in their support of the physical community financially.  Paizo does have a living campaign, which I play in and run often.  However, this is not free.  WotC’s LFR has been (mostly) free since its inception in 4e.  For the large part, Pathfinder Society (PFS) charges for events.  What’s more, these adventures are only available online.  The brick and mortar stores are unable to make any money from these direct sales.  Furthermore, Paizo’s business model favors direct sales both on line and in physical products.  Through bulk order, online exclusives, and free PDFs, Paizo encourages players to only buy their produces through their website.  In addition, Paizo’s release schedule is several small products per month with few hard cover books per year.  This release schedule of small books forces most stores I have seen to only carry the larger books and leave the smaller books, the bulk of Paizo’s release schedule, to Paizo own sales.  This is in direct opposition to WotC’s business model of few hard cover releases each year that are predominately physical books.

Now, this is not a hippy WotC love fest, nor is this a condemnation of Paizo.  WotC has done some things that have annoyed me in the past.  They have also made some business decisions that have angered me (looking right at you GPL!).  Paizo has also show great support for the RPG community in several ways.  Paizo is an intelligent company who understand the plight of the brick and mortar retailer and is not trying to undermine their existence.  My goal here is to show that both companies are not necessary the paragons of corporate greed, evil, or virtue.  The goal is to show both of these places are businesses that make choices that reflect their best understanding of the market.  It’s in neither of their best interests for the brick and mortar stores to fail.

My point of this is to not hate a company out of hand and to not extend that hate to the products they make.  If a company constantly does thing you hate like employing sweat labor or other egregious business practices, then that is one thing.  If a company made a game you didn’t like some time ago then that’s a different matter.  I had one player randomly show up for a PFS game.  He had a great time, and I mentioned I also run DnD encounters using DnD Next.  He flatly stated he would never play that game because of WotC.  When I finally got him to sit down and play, he now can’t get enough of DnD Next.  I’ve had players go the opposite way.  I’ve had players try one and absolute HATE the other.  And you know what, that’s fine!  Amazing even!  If you hate a game because you play it and think it bad, that’s an honest opinion.  If you just sit in the back and cross your arms and fume because company X made a thing, and company X is bad because of reasons, then that’s sad on a lot of levels.

My point is game on.  So long as the game isn’t actively hurting someone, the game doesn’t cover horrific, offensive material, or the company run my active members of the Third Reich (figured I’d Godwin myself here), then give it a try.  Just game and see what you like and don’t like.

Ok, now time to ride the exercise bike while reading the DnD Encounter story then off to run my PFS game.

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