I'm not really up on any of the new buzz about D&D as I mostly look back for inspiration but I just realized a pattern in Windows versions and D&D versions. I was reading through Delta's blog again when I came to this article. Now the problem that came from the complete dropping of backwards comparability is not unique to D&D and if the post's title did not tip you off its Windows that did it and you probably guessed already it came in the form of Vista. Once you get down to it 4th edition D&D is quite similar to Vista in a couple of important ways which will let me predict what will happen to 4th edition and 5th edition which is to come.
First of all the loss of backwards compatibility caused numerous problems for their respective systems. The easiest to see this with is Vista as a number of horrible bugs are the result of throwing away old code to try and make a clean slate. Basically they took hundreds of thousands of man-hours worth of debugging and threw it away. How many of you out there are still using XP because of the fiasco that was Vista? Windows 7 is a decent platform, hell even Vista has gotten better but that does not matter as with the fallout from Vista people realized that they did not have to auto update to the newest thing out there. Now lets look at 4th edition D&D and see what there is to see on this topic. Actually let me tell you why I won't play 4th edition. Its not D&D. Now I have played 4th edition and yes it is a fine game but it simply is not D&D. Like with computers it used to be that once a new version came out you updated and before 4th you could theoretically move your characters to the new version. 4th was a line in the sand and like how Vista made people realize it was fine to stay with an older version and even more so then computers there is no downside. Once again I will say that 4th edition as a game is fine but by being not D&D to anyone that played before it the line in the sand was drawn and people have realized they have a choice.
Now the above is all fine and dandy but how does this let me see the future? Well first of all the second they can rush D&D 5th edition out the door people will try to sweep 4th edition under the rug and try to make people forget the troubles caused by it. Like Vista, 4th edition has made money and with a little ironing its a fine system to use and people will continue to use it just like people continue to use XP/3.whatever and just like how Windows 7 is doing 5th edition will be better. Now the thing is 5th edition or whatever they call will be better and may actually include suggestions from actual people like you or me but it won't like D&D was. It may have parts of it but in the end it will be 4th edition but more so. Just like Vista, 4th was trumpeted as a fresh start for a tired brand and just like Windows 7, 5th edition will be pushed out lower key and mostly to try to catch those they had alienated already.
The biggest difference between what will happen with D&D and what has happened with Windows is that someone managed to make D&D's golden goose public property. People have gone back to Windows not because they fixed what they broke even though they mostly have but instead because they want a Windows experience with a computer and don't want to bother with Linux or Mac but they can't stay with XP because it is no longer supported and it wont be able to keep pace with newer requirements. Here is where D&D differs as 3rd edition is alive and well under the name of Pathfinder so people never have to go to a newer version. Also unlike computers technically all you need are the core rule books and it works just as well now as it did when they first came out even with modern wants and needs or in other words OD&D is still a fun game to play still while DOS is a relic. D&D as a brand won't die just yet but if they contuse down the route of continually pushing new versions they will find that less and less people will be buying the books because unlike computers the rules don't get outdated.
Anyway in-case I was not clear enough a quick bullet point list of my predictions:
- 4th will be swept under a rug as soon as possible
- 5th will be 4th but "better"
- Even though the above is true it wont capture people quite as much as 4th had
- If they try to push out 6th edition within 5 or so years it will do worse then 4th or 5th
- 5th will only have token bits included that are fan derived
- I pray I am wrong but D&D as I know it is gone from the brand