Alright, it is. A little bit.
As you almost certainly already know, Wizards of the Coast recently announced that the company had begun development of Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, accompanied by a call to gamers to participate in the process of creating the new edition. Many of us DnD-ers are quite internet savvy and have taken to the webstreets to promulgate their own ideas for what Wizards should do with 5th edition. I think I’m a sight more cynical than most of the community: since, less than three full years after the release of 4th Edition, Pathfinder sales have been consistently better. Simply put, Paizo is kicking the crap out of Wizards, and Dungeons and Dragons is in danger of being completely dethroned as the fantasy simulationist roleplaying game of choice. So they’ve made a bold move.
Here’s a simple timeline:
- 1st Edition: released 1978
- 2nd Edition: released 1989 (11 years)
- 3rd Edition: released 2000 (11 years); 3.5 released in 2003
- 4th Edition: announced GenCon 2007, released June 2008
- 5th Edition: announced January 2012, release TBD
Obviously, this is very simplified. Advanced was released in 1979, so maybe you consider that to be different than the main game and perhaps it deserves an entry. Either way, I think the signal Wizards is flashing is quite clear: they’re pulling the plug on 4th Edition.
Now, I’m not trying to add fuel to culture wars. I’m not here to say one edition is better than any other edition, but I think the evidence is clear: Wizards is worried enough about 4th Edition sales to announce a new edition only 3.5 years into the life of their newest product. Announcing itself is a damning step, since this will certainly mean that 4th Edition sales will take a hit (since consumers will be loathe to buy more books from a game that is going to be obsolete in a year or so). Undoubtedly, they’re transferring some people from 4e development to 5e development, so the quality of the supplements that do get published in the next year might be lacking. Wizards is forsaking 4th edition for the hopes of recapturing a share of 5th edition.
It’s quite a bold move indeed. They’ve got to get 5th out the door rather quickly: I can easily imagine (more) people jumping ship to Pathfinder, an actively supported, successful, OGL product in the vacuum between editions.