Because Passover starts tomorrow night, I don’t really have the time these two news coming out of Wizards of the Coats last night deserve to be fully unpacked, and I especially don’t have time right now to record an episode of The Digital Front Podcast. That said, here are some quick thoughts.
WotC announced that they had sued eight people (in the US, Poland and Philippines) for piracy of their new D&D book, Player’s Handbook 2. Whatever outcome can come out of that, I actually find myself applauding WotC’s decision to file the lawsuits and make a statement and precedent. Piracy is a reality for any media these days, but it is nevertheless a crime, one that needs to be dealt with so that people will begin to associate that downloading a pirated book is the same as stealing it from Borders. If anyone in the Hobby Gaming Industry has the clout and resources to do this, it’s WotC, so I am quite intrigued how this will develop.
Of course, this announcement comes out at the same time as WotC decides to end all sales of their PDF products and to have them pulled from all stores, such as RPGnow.com (see image to the left), DriveThruRPG and Paizo.com. The reason? They cite piracy of their digital products as the reason for this drastic and quite sudden move. The internet is literally aflutter because of this (just check out Twitter and RPGBloggers.com for a sampling), and with good reason: it’s a poor idea.
I hate to point out the obvious, but eliminating PDFs from legitimate download sources only hurts the legitimate customers, the ones sending WotC quite a nice amount of cash on a monthly basis (considering WotC has consistently been one of the Top 3 vendors at RPGNow/DriveThruRPG), not the pirates. They already have copies floating around, and will continue to do so now that WotC has eliminated the legal sources. Add to that the fact that before PDFs were widely available, there were already scanned pirate copies of books running around, and the piracy argument looses steam really fast. This isn’t eldritch lore, folks; it’s business and marketing info that’s out there.
I write all this fully mindful of what happened with one of my previous mentions of WotC in my blog. I stand by it as well.
Of course, let’s not lose sight of this last quote in the news release:
WotC is apparently not ruling out digital delivery of its products using a different format or model. “We are exploring other options for digital distribution of our content,” the spokesperson said.
Considering how poorly the D&D Digital Initiative has been going (to wit: Gleemax cancelled, Character Builder delayed though now operational, Character Visualizer TBA, e-Tabletop Application TBA), bringing in the exclusive distribution of their own digital products makes a ton of business sense, though the way they are going about it is just dismal. It does continue their abysmal performance in the Public Relations arena during the D&D 4e era.
I look forward to more developments, and after Passover I’ll try to sit down and record with whatever info is available at the moment.