Monday, April 6, 2009

Wizards of the Coast drops PDF sales

Around 9:00pm Monday Evening I get this from Paizo

Dear Robert,

Wizards of the Coast has notified us that we may no longer sell or distribute their PDF products. Accordingly, after April 6 at 11:59 PM Pacific time, Wizards of the Coast PDFs will no longer be available for purchase on; after noon on April 7, you will no longer be able to download Wizards of the Coast PDFs that you have already purchased, so please make sure you have downloaded all purchased PDFs by that time.

We thank you for your patronage of Please check out our other downloads at

Sincerely yours,
The Paizo Customer Service Team

OK is this a Paizo thing? So I poked around the internet and found it effects RPGNow/DriveThruRPGs. So I read a few forum articles and James post here. So the problem is "system wide" as they as in my business.

The only word we have from Wizards is that they file suit against several individual sharing the PHB2. Plus there is a months old report about a new Internet Sales Plan. Tomorrow or the day after I am sure we will get another release from Wizards.

I have to say whatever the reason they will ignite a firestorm over this. If for nothing else because people, like me, have paid money for PDF product and now it essentially gone if our Hard Drives go poof. Myself, don't have an issue with it persay. We are still in the infancy of Internet commerce and as easy it is to post product on-line it is just as easy for it to disappear. I don't like it but I know any of the PDF stores could disappear. So all my stuff is triple backup on HD, USB HD, and a backup CD/DVD.

One of the things about today's Internet is instant punditry. Here is my take on the possibilities.

If Wizards is doing this as part of a move to combat piracy this is definitely a pointy hair boss moment (see Dilbert). Don't get me wrong Piracy is a big problem, but time and time again the introduction of DRM, suing your customer has alienated people and drove down sales. Treating your customers like thieves will cause them to take their business elsewhere.

The big secret is that most people are not thieves nor wish to become one. Most recognize when somebody takes the time to write something that it is work to be paid for. The company that succeeds in the Internet recognize this and make the experience of buying their product as frictionless as possible. Price does matter to a point. Customer won't stand being ripped off if it is too high. A reasonable price, easy to buy your materials means you have a shot at succeeding.

However when demand exist, like for PDFs of Wizard's products, many more will turn to piracy if there no legitmate way of buying the product. And there is no way to stop this. There are just too many avenues by which people can share on the internet. By doing this Wizard is leaving money on the table and getting the customers that bought PDF products upset because now they are being treated like thieves.

There is a flip side of this. It been written in many Blogs about the misfires of 4e, Gleemax, DDI, GSL, and so on. Wizards as far as role-playing goes has had some spectacular flame outs on marketing. It could very well be a screw-up of some new Internet Retail Sale Policy. Just when you thought they couldn't blow off another foot they manage to do so. I am sure the Restore Limb is working overtime in marketing and legal.

Now I am sure many of the hard workers at Wizard who read this and other blogs are going "aw crap" at the firestorm going around and yet another round of criticism. At this point somebody at Wizards needs to say "Let's take a step back and look at what we are doing" There are other much smaller game companies who have great track records of handling both print and the internet.

I have dealt with SJ Games for years and they have always done right by me. When they dropped Pyramid as a weekly zine they gave us ample time to download the archive, even fixed it when the pictures were omitted at first. On top of that they gave six months on the new Pyramid PDF magazine.

There are few gems of light in the spate of marketing slips. The Character Builder is coming together with the new books being added as option as part of the normal subscription. You don't have to own them to use the new options. The new GSL is not the OGL but it is now a viable way of publishing third party material. Scott Rouse really deserve an accolade on keeping this alive. Wizards needs to build on these gems and restore their customer faith.

Finally I think this will have some interesting knock on effects on the Old School Market.


Unknown said...

You clearly haven't seen the latest news yet. :)

Spike Page said...

And did I hear it somewhere on teh interwebz that WoTC is going to cancel Easter, Christmas and Arbor Day too?

FWIW I agree it was a bone move, and Ye Olde School had better set up a few of those mobile trailer classrooms to handle all the newcomers.

Scott said...

"Most [people] recognize when somebody takes the time to write something that it is work to be paid for."

I wish I could agree with you, but my experience on the Internet has suggested quite the opposite to me, when it comes to intellectual property. A large number of people seem willing to justify copyright infringements on any number of grounds. Including that the price is simply too high (ignoring that the owner of the property has the right to set the price, and the valid response is to speak with your wallet by not buying -- not by taking it for free).

"Price does matter to a point. Customer won't stand being ripped off if it is too high."

...Kind of like that. Sigh.

(Wizards' move is still damn stupid, unless they've got a genuinely new idea in mind, though. I'm not going to argue that.)

Anonymous said...

Does this mean we have to start using the dreaded three-letters when talking about wotc? "TSR" = "They Shoot (themselves in the foot) Regularly"

WQRobb said...

I'm of the mind that this is the first stage of consolidating the retail end of their pdf market in a way that mirror's Games Workshop's attempt to seize control of their internet retail market (reminding me of the old saying about failing to study history).

But my "OMG WotC is a big meanie" is tempered by the fact that they continue to give away their core game mechanic for free (albeit in the convoluted OGL). There wouldn't be a retro-clone movement if it weren't for that generosity, so their trying to make a little bit off the retail pdf market doesn't seem to be that teeth-gnashingly awful.