As I was working on my campaign with the new Monster Builder something hit me: I’m prepping for D&D, and I haven’t opened one book. This is significant. For years , the game has been played with a stack of books being carried around on a backpack from game to game, and soon, that era will be over.
Sure, some of you will say that PDF’s already made that a reality, but I counter that you had the option to have dead tree material to play with if you so chose. I believe that with DDI, D&D is positioning itself to one day be an all digital game, and that published material will eventually be phased out. Why? Because it makes too much sense.
I don’t see the need for the company to keep publishing books, with the expenses and risk that go along with it, if they can just adopt a subscription based digital model. The door is wide open with DDI, and even though they haven’t released subscription numbers, my guess is they’re doing alright. We haven’t seen a “Try DDI free for a week!” yet, meanwhile KOTS and the quick start rules are available for download on their site.
There’s a lot more money to be made by charging a monthly fee than there is trying to get me to buy the latest book that comes out. I picked up the Eberron Campaign Guide at Border’s and then put it right back on the shelf when I saw the $40 price tag. Yes, I know Amazon is cheaper but that’s not the point. If I’m going to be charged $70 yearly, and I’m going to get the contents of the PHB3, PHB4, PHB5, well guess what? I’m not buying those books. I don’t own the PHB2 for example, but use its classes in my games. It’s fairly obvious to me at least, where my particular game is headed. The Monster Manual I own has become bathroom reading material, to put it crudely.
Fifteen years ago, nobody would have predicted the fundamental change the music industry has gone through in recent years, or the slow and predictable decline of newspapers. Fifteen years ago I had to put a cartridge in my Super Nintendo to play a game. Today, while yes, the physical media still exists (for now), I can download a game on XBOX Live and never touch a disk to play it. Movies can be ordered On-Demand, take a look at the outlook for Blockbuster Video if you’d like.
I’m no expert, but I think tangible media is slowly dying, and it’s naive to think our hobby’s not a part of that trend. Not now, not in 3 years, but one day in the near future. In my case, I welcome it, and I’m looking forward to the digital tools that are yet to come.