On Friday August 15, 2014 at GenCon in Indianapolis, Indiana the Wizards of the Coast held a party to mark the launch of Tyranny of Dragons for their latest release of their dungeons and dragons genre role playing game. Wizards of the Coast are copyright owners of the original Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game, once the undisputed king of role playing games. Now the Wizards of the Coast roleplaying division doesn’t even make the list of the top five role playing games.
The Wizards held their launch party under a tent on Georgia Street where the food vending trucks were selling their wares. As far as parties go it was more lively than a typical wake but less celebrative than a New Orleans funeral procession. They had distorted music blaring on substandard speakers and it was difficult, at best, to enter the tent without earplugs. The exciting gift for those attending was a cardboard face mask. While most of the folks on the street were there for the food trucks, the attendees of the party were kept moving as they looked at the few cases of items on display, much like an open casket viewing.
A few members of the press were on the fringes of the tent discussing how much Wizards of the Coast had dropped the ball in terms of marketing and, indeed production of quality gaming. In 2012 they put on an extravaganza that impressed all who attended even though it was all smoke and mirrors with no substance and was followed by problems and delays in producing a replacement for the much maligned fourth edition. This year at GenCon 2014, Wizards of the Coast doesn’t even have a booth in the Exhibition hall. As far as the demonstration gaming, Michael Tresca, veteran gamer, respected game reviewer, and National RPG Examiner commented that he had played one of their adventures and experienced TPK, total party kill. Even though the players had played intelligently, they were slaughtered without mercy. This is not what one might expect from a company that is trying to gain new players for their system.
After paying appropriate respect to the Wizards of the Coast the next stop for the evening was the Ennie Awards. While it was no surprise that Wizards of the Coast didn’t take any Gold or Silver awards, it was a bit of a surprise that they didn’t even place in the top five in any Ennie category. The Wizards’ “party” had already disbanded and the displays were being packed up after the Ennies had ended.
Will 2014 truly mark the end of Dungeons and Dragons as a viable brand as the dungeons and dragons genre continues to expand with Paizo’s Pathfinder, Monte Cook’s Numenera, Evil Hat’s Fate Core System, and others? Will Hasbro’s Wizards of the Coast pull a true resurection or are they just pumping good dollars after bad and doomed to earn the titles of Hasbeens and Withereds of the Coast? While only time will tell as it is not yet a total flatline, the future looks pretty grim for the brand. Speculation has already begun on who will next own the Dungeons and Dragons name when Hasbro pulls the plug.