Brazer Bulletin: A Two Year Wait

I hope your GenCon was good. This week I would like to talk about a piece of gamer news that caught my attention at GenCon: D&DNext is going to take two years to playtest.

The official word is that D&DNext is going to require two years to playtest. I don’t know about anyone else but I went to the Keynote Speech at GenCon hoping to hear a release date for D&DNext sometime next year. But Mike Mearls said that the playtest will take about two years at its current pace. I am of two minds on this. First up, I’m glad to see that they are taking the time to playtest the game right. Its no secret that 4e only had serious playtesting at the low levels and they didn’t incorporate much of the feedback they did receive. So it is good to see that the playtesting is going to be done right.

Buuuuut, and this is a big but, two years is a long time to wait. Not to mention that that two years is just for the playtest. Then there is layout, approvals from various departments, printing, soliciting to whatever is left of the mainstream book sellers (since they require a much longer lead time than game stores), and whatever else is involved with a major corporation’s publishing. Then there is writing support material since Wizards is going to want them ready to go so they hit shelves with no delay after the core book is released. Do the math and it is more than likely that we are looking at a release in 2015, with an outside chance of 2016. That is a long time to wait for a game.

As a player I am really excited about D&DNext. The game looks great and I would really like to play it. As a publisher I’ve been cautiously optimistic. The talk I hear coming out of Wizards leads me to believe that if D&DNext were released today, I would be highly surprised if there was no Open Game License (or very, very near-OGL) for publishers like myself to work on it. But a lot can happen in 3-4 years. Just for reference sake: the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game was launched three years ago. It has gone from game stores actively coming on Paizo’s forums telling them they will never carry Pathfinder RPG in their stores to being the #1 RPG in those same stores. A lot can change in three years. Influential people can be hired or leave (or both *cough*Monte*cough*). There can be a change in upper management. And the general public sentiment towards the OGL may change (I really doubt this last one will happen, but you never know). We just don’t know what can happen in that time.

Then there’s the problem of the fickle gamer moving on. A number of once-hard core Forgotten Realms fans I know have moved on to Pathfinder’s setting. Some may return if the new FR is to their liking, but it is impossible to say for sure. Will the new edition be able to capture the hearts and minds of gamers that have been gone from D&D for 6-7 years? That’s hard to guess, but I think it is going to be harder and harder for it to do so the longer gamers are away.

So the short of the long is is that I do not feel I can really wait for D&DNext to be ready. I have to move on for the time being. If the game looks great when it is done, if the gaming public is really looking forward to this game in that time, if there is a quality license, if the stars align properly and the Cult of Cthulhu chants at the proper time, I will decide then.

Dale C. McCoy Jr. is President on Jon Brazer Enterprises. Read Shadowsfall Legends: The Gem That Caught Fire – Kurdag’s Tale, the second story taking place in Shadowsfall, written by Ed Greenwood.

3 Responses to Brazer Bulletin: A Two Year Wait

  1. Personally, I think they meant that playtesting and pre-production would take two years. Some of this can happen concurrently. By 2013 a good part of the game should be worked out and they can start ramping up a lot of the issues. Given that 2014 is the 40th anniversary I stongly think that they are going to launch in 2014. Also, given the corporate nature, are they going to let the brand languish until 2016? During the playtest they aren’t producing much in the way of sellable products.

  2. They have products to sell in the mean time. Next year they are releasing the PDF’s of all their old products. They’ve got big name authors working on major FR novels. Board games are becoming a major part as well. Wizards also mentioned they will be releasing 2 adventures taking place after the 6 FR novels they will be releasing. Then they will be tallying up responses from those that play and working the results into the FR setting.

    Truth be told, letting the brand languish might not be a bad thing. Star Trek is a good example of letting a brand languish for a time and then rebooting. I kinda get the feeling they are rebooting the Realms so it kind of fits in that sense.

    2014 is possible but honestly, I put the odds of seeing the new edition in 2014 less likely than 2016. As a publisher, 2015 seems the most likely.

    Remember, the core system being playtested is the PHB. Then there’s the MM and the DMG that need written. All of them have to come out boom, boom, boom. They are going to want 2 adventures and a setting neutral system supplement ready to go as well. The FR book should come out <3 months of launch. As mentioned above, they have to release 2 adventures, give time for people to play them, then work the results into the final setting. They are going to want all of that done before sending the PHB to the printer and they really can't do some of that work until after the PHB is done and ready to ship to the printer.

    Then there are unexpected delays. There always are.

    Wizards really has ALOT to do that has nothing to do with the playtest. It will take time.

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