Lately it has been interesting to me to to read about the new Role-Playing Game Pathfinder – how the game came to be and how it appears to be smacking around industry giant Dungeons and Dragons and taking it’s lunch money. Here is the nutshell version, and then I will link to some meatier analysis.
With their 3rd edition rules of the game Dungeons and Dragons the game publisher (Wizards of the Coast) made a business decision to license it under an open license. A generous open license which allowed others to freely develop adventures, add-ons or even upon the core game itself. The goal of this would seem to be to generate demand for the core product which is the Dungeons and Dragons rule and source books. My understanding is that this strategy worked.
Eventually Wizards of the Coast decided to produce a 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons and, in doing so, made a business decision to radically change the game people were used to playing. This left their customer base scratching their heads and wondering if they wanted to get involved with it. As it turns out, a lot of them didn’t.
Enter Pathfinder. Thanks to the Open Game License which Wizard of the Coast published the 3rd Edition of Dungeons and Dragons under, another company was able to pick it up, tweak it some and then re-publish the 3rd Edition of Dungeons and Dragons under the name of Pathfinder. And it appears to be outselling the 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons.
I, myself, have not played table-top Dungeons and Dragons since the 2nd Edition. The computer game Neverwinter Nights was a game engine based on 3rd edition rules, so I guess I can cop to having experienced them in that fashion. Still it is an interesting tale of executive product and marketing blunders.
For meatier analysis on what Wizards of the Coast has inadvertently done to itself, try these posts: