Wednesday, January 23, 2013

WotC's "Shelf of Infinite Books" - Boon or Bust for Indie Publishers?

Here's a Mike Mearls' quote from yesterday's Legends & Lore column:

The Shelf of Infinite Books 
Back at Gen Con last year, we announced that we were once again going to make certain titles of classic D&D material available for purchase as PDF files. I'm happy to announce that our friends over at DrivethruRPG.com are offering the first of many waves of classic content through our new PDF store DnDClassics.com!
Initially, you'll see classics such as the B-series of modules, the entirety of the first mega-campaign, spanning the G, D, and Q series of adventures, Greyhawk sourcebooks, and more showing up on DrivethruRPG's virtual shelves. Personally, I'm running a D&D Next playtest of Steading of the Hill Giant Chieftain every Friday afternoon at the office from a PDF loaded on to my iPad.
When we began the D&D Next process, we were committed to looking at D&D beyond the rules for the tabletop game. We realize that some people like running classic adventures or playing earlier editions. We hope D&D Next meets your needs, but if you want to stick with the D&D you already know and love, then DrivethruRPG.com's ever-expanding library will have everything that you'll need.
The Shelf of Infinite Books is certainly being aimed at Grognards, lapsed gamers, the curious and all of the rest of us. It's a win - win situation for the above. WotC gets to make a nice amount of pocket change from products it already owns and gamers get the opportunity to get some true classics without having to pay outrageous Ebay pricing (this applies to a small selection - the truly hard to find pieces). The opportunity to put these classics on my table is awesome.

So, we know it's good for WotC. We know it makes the gamers that have been clamoring for such for years happy.

Does it make the indie publishers happy? Does it bring more money to the RPGNow market place or will indie publishers now be fighting for scraps left over by WotC?

I'd really hate to see innovations in gaming, OSR and beyond, slow down or die off because of easy access to classic D&D. That being said, I'm thrilled about the easy access to classic D&D and I'm hopeful it will bring more gamers into the OSR fold which should bring it own growth to the OSR market. Maybe just by bringing more gamers to the PDF RPG market place, they'll get exposed to more games and that will lead to growth on the indie gaming side.

What do you think? Is WotC returning to the PDF marketplace good or bad for indie publishers?


  1. Access to the classics will drum up demand for material that supports the classics.

    With more people buying and playing classic D&D, there will be more market for classic D&D supplements.

    And back in the olden days, as today, that means room for third part publishers to put out awesome stuff that works with classic D&D.

  2. I'm not sweating it. I'm stoked to have access to clean copies of classic D&D stuff at a reasonable cost. (I think $5 is pretty reasonable.) I have access to tons of shitty rips of this stuff, but man, the clean copies are nice.

  3. On the Retro-clone side of the market this can only be good. Now instead of people focusing on their latest combination or permutation of the classic rules we can get things like campaign worlds or dungeons or supplements that are unique. Want to play it with Labyrinth Lord? Great it says so on the cover! Want to play it with D&D Basic? Great! The publisher has a link to it now.

    For other indie games. One can hope that going to DriveThru or RPGNow will also let them to see these other games when they go for their D&D fix.

  4. I think it will help us. I was quite surprised when I got an email this morning from D&D Classics with a sales notification for an Oubliette back issue. I guess it may have been something that someone already had in an RPGNow basket but they checked out via D&D Classics. I've noticed an uplift in sales of back issue in general over the last week too.

  5. Despite my dislike for WotC and my "nerd rage" over clueless Mearls, I recognize competition is good for everyone.

    WotC will never see a penny from me, but I hope this inspires more products like Barrowmaze I & II, X-plorers, Dyson's Delves, and so forth.

    Those types of products are what win my money. They make me happy and, I would imagine, the small publisher is happy as well.

    1. Tangent: 3E, 4E =/= Classics OFMG!

      And, that "n" in "DnD" drives me nuts, but I'm sure "fx" bugs the shit out of someone. ;]

  6. burnedfx....let go of your anger, it only leads to high blood pressure, stress, and medical problems. Besides which, 3E is now 13 years old, and there are some people for whom it's now "classic" and the venerable 1st, 2nd end original edition books are considered ancient history.

    As to the question: I think this will drum up sales, many more sales, across the board. My best online sales were all back when WotC still sold product in PDF, as it generated interest from a larger audience than the hardcore gamers who have bought into the PDF model for the business, and a guy who comes to the site just to buy a D&D book may discover retroclone and indie products that he'd otherwise never have had a chance to discover. It's the same concept with brick-and-mortar, where D&D drives the sales but the indies and smaller press pubs benefit from the sideline attention, just now in a virtual storefront.

    1. Just as I am sure you were not impersonating Yoda, I am not suffering any of those conditions, let alone real anger.

      I do appreciate your concern. ;]

  7. I happy to have access to the material again. As I'm now writing for DCCRPG I don't think there's any gamer out there that would say, "Hmm, I can spend this $5 on an old TSR module, _or_ on this new 3PP DCCRPG adventure..." They're either in the market for DCCRPG or they're not. (Now I do imagine that there is some gamers out there saying, "Hmm, I can spend this $5 on this Thick Skull Guy, or this Purple Sorcerer Guy....")

    Bottom line: i love having the old adventures available. I will buy about a 5 of the ones I don't have and read them as I do certain books even if I have no intention of playing them. They give me inspiration and reading them is like visiting an old friend.

  8. I have found that there are synergies when material is being released; sales of one drives sales of another. I think overall WotC reentering the market is a good thing overall.

    In addition, I think WotC is setting a new standard for PDF pricing and raising it overall. This will allow smaller publishers to raise their own PDF prices a bit without looking like the "big priced" item.


Tenkar's Tavern is supported by various affiliate programs, including Amazon, RPGNow,
and Humble Bundle as well as Patreon. Your patronage is appreciated and helps keep the
lights on and the taps flowing. Your Humble Bartender, Tenkar

Blogs of Inspiration & Erudition