I picked the wrong year to stop buying minis

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.

I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue, too

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.

</rant on>

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.
</rant off>

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Published in: on January 13, 2011 at 11:02 am  Comments (9)  
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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Maybe the OSR could start saving money now to buy back the rights to tabletop D&D in a few years…? Bake sale anyone?

  2. I know there are some 4e supporters still claiming this is nothing more than a pothole and the D&D is doing just fine, but I really think the news is rather grim. Your forecast of the game going exclusively DDI or MMO is a likely outcome, I think.

    It’s all very frustrating to watch.

  3. While I heard rumblings of the mini massacre, and saw signs with the Monster Vault pogs, I’m still quite surprised that that WotC is throwing in the towel like that. I’m still digesting it and don’t know what it means. I am reluctant to see it as an ‘end of the D&D world’ sign, and with them the best even though I am sick to death of 4e, but maybe you are right.

    Maybe everyone else is sick to death of 4e as well.

    But then again, it the last 30 years, I’ve watched D&D die multiple times, only to have it’s corpse dug up and raked over again and again, so this may just be part of the standard cycle.

    - Ark

    • Yeah, this could just be a jeremiad. It’s hard to say. But when I saw it suggested that “the folks who buy minis have all they want” I immediately thought, “What about new players? Are there any?”

      • And thus did Hasbro Antoinette spake “Let them eat carboard pogs.”

        - Ark

  4. I loves my 1st edition Space Hulk. I loves it and pets it and holds it and hugs it and call it George, except when the Genestealers win and I call it “sssthrakathssss….”

    I think that this minis cutoff was in the pipeline for awhile and the product getting pushed out was the last of it. Things like Heroscape were bound to be one-offs.

    I don’t see D&D being vaulted as much as I see it becoming a smaller deal. Who knows, maybe Pathfinder did a lot more than we thought?

  5. Hasbro-backed WotC’s also doing a number on Magic: the Gathering. They dropped Player Rewards, a system where WotC would mail textless and foil cards to folks who participated in # of sanctioned events. They limited Tournament Organizer status to folks connected to stores, so all the TOs connected to non-retail-based clubs, especially the pub clubs in Europe, are SOL. Recently, WotC sanctioned a spin-off format of Magic called Elder Dragon Highlander, changed the name to Commander, and started printing cards especially for it. I have a feeling a decision was made in a board room somewhere that there was a great new variant of Magic being played and WotC wasn’t making a dime off it. (The last two variant formats WotC tried to create got sucked into EDH as variant play-styles for EDH, so I imagine WotC’s a little pissy over that.)

    tl;dr, the former TSR properties aren’t the only ones suffering from Hasbro/WotC management.

    I have high hopes for Dark Heresy, though I wish FFG wouldn’t plug its other rulebooks in scenarios.

  6. @cyclopeatron

    That’s not a bad idea…

    (Gears begin to spin)

    • I wonder if we couldn’t make a concerted effort to generate revenue with ads on our blogs? You know, someone sets up an account and we all sign up and every $.0001 per click or whatever goes into the “D&D buyback fund.” And auctions at Cons, and so on? Sounds like a lot of effort for uncertain returns, and the price tag will be certainly be high, no matter how little Wizbro is making off it when it goes up for sale. Unless there is some way to license just the tabletop RPG and leave he card/board/video rights to Wizbro?
      But it is a thought.


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