Got the heads up from Scottsz that Wizards of the Coast (WotC) is dropping the pre-painted plastic D&D minis line.
Big deal, I thought. This has been a long time coming from what I could tell anyway. Then I checked out the ol’ blogosphere and learned that Heroscape had been quietly dropped earlier. Snikes. I was assuming the D&D minis were being dropped for the sake of Heroscape. Now I guess the idea is that WotC will still sell a few “super collectibles” like the “Beholder collection” (I’m holding out for some official Flumph figures…I may have to make that my next Sculpy project…) and also have minis in the current & upcoming the boardgames (I almost resisted making a comment about 4e being a board game, but this parenthetical comment documents my failure).
I swore off all mini buying this year because of my painting backlog and general austerity measures we’re taking and now the few D&D plastics I figured I’d pick up “later” have become collectible. Crap. I picked the wrong year to stop buying minis.
Seriously, I thought the prepainted minis were, on the whole, a good thing, even if I could very rarely bring myself to swallow buying “random packs”. The singles were great and I bought a passel from Noble Knight this year. They save time and it’s nice to have a subset of minis I can throw into a bin and bring to someone else’s house or a con (after the Great Lead Drop of ’04, when I dropped a box full of giants and ogres and trolls on the sidewalk the eve of a snow storm which left me unable to even look for the missing bits for weeks, I am very protective of my minis!).
I hate to see them go but I am not entirely surprised. People talk about “saturation” and how old grognards like me aren’t buying enough minis to keep it viable for WotC. The fact is there would need to be new people getting into the hobby for the market for WotC’s minis to remain strong and apparently it just ain’t happening. (Stunningly, I’ve even seen people comment they’d like to learn to play D&D but they have heard how the rules keep changing and you have to keep buying stuff and they aren’t interested in that. Not OSR shills, real comments on mainstream sites. Mission deccomplished, WotC!) Skip the rest if this post is already tiresome.
The same newsletter from Wizards that announced the end of the minis announced several 4e books being canceled and while don’t particularly wish WotC ill, I’m hereby predicting WotC drops D&D as an RPG in the next couple of years (when does Atari’s license for the electronic rights end?). Hasbro will sell D&D board games for a while, and maybe one more “edition” will fall stillborn from the press and this is the way the brand ends, not with a bang but a whimper. Then D&DOnline comes out as a poor knockoff of Warcraft, which will also be blowing over by then as some other MMO takes off (probably Disney’s Barsoom based with kiddie and adult planets). D&D video games will be all that’s left, and do ok, while RPG continue as fringe hobby like SCA and wargaming. Our niche will gray and shrink but never totally disappear. Hasbro will rest easy knowing they found every golden egg in the goose’s belly and move on to consume something else, probably Games Workshop which by the way is not doing all that hot right now either. At least we’ll get an affordable edition of Space Hulk next decade.