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Episode 054: The Big PDF Controversy

Recently, Wizards of the Coast pulled all PDF sales off the internet. The move sparked a huge debate about the impact of piracy on the game publishing industry. In addition, it re-ignited the debate over the PDF industry's impact on the friendly local game store. Joining us on the issue is DriveThruRPG/RPGNow marketing director, Sean Patrick Fannon.

Subject Links:
Marcus King Article on ICv2
Nicole Lindroos of Green Ronin's Response
WotC CEO Interview on ICv2

Other Links:
Donald Dennis - On Board Games
Hat's Games
Palladium Books
Southern Arizona Gamers Association
Talisman Studios

Direct download: tgtt054.mp3
Category:TGTT Classic -- posted at: 9:55am MDT

  • Thanks guys (and lady) for this great, great show. I really do like PDFs for the simple fact that i\\\'m able to read them while commuting to work without the necessity to carry around those massive heavy RPG volumes. But I do like to have them at home just for the fun of flipping through them from time to time and for easy access while gaming. So I\\\'m one of these \\\"I like both\\\"-guys. But... Since I have (well at least most of the books) in beautifully layouted dead trea at home I really would like to have PDFs not only in \\\"beautiful printable\\\" and \\\"printer friendly\\\" but additionaly in \\\"reader friendly\\\". You mentioned that PDFs aren\\\'t readable on ebooks in a reasonable way. Well, why the h*** is it not possible to make them so? I\\\'m using a PDA to read my stuff (just for the fact that I have one already) and am encountering frequent crashes of my PDF reader as well as PDFs that my reader can\\\'t \\\"reflow\\\" to an easily displayed continuous text of one column. There are tons of mechanisms to protect the content of PDFs used and configured while making theses files. I wish the same effort would be made to make them more user friendly on more devices.

    posted by: Minotaure on 2009-04-20 09:40:00

  • This is getting more and more offtopic but nonetheless: Of course this is a technical issue and of course nobody can realisticly demand that these documents are tested on all possible devices. What I wanted to express is simply this: I love PDFs and use them frequently but I rarely use them on my home computer. If I can\'t buy a PDF for my favorite RPG I cannot read them on my mobile device while commuting. I think this wouldn\'t keep me from buying it but I would be forced to read it at home (or to carry it around with me). For me and perhaps for many gamers more? more reader friendly versions of the books would be an enormous improvement. There\'s no need for background images, high resolution graphics, two or more columned texts, fancy graphic elements between paragraphs, etc. on mobile devices. What is needed for those is dull continuous text with low resolution graphics within a dull lean layout - a reader friendly version. Back to topic I totally agree with Sean and Ron and am very thankfull for your thoughts about the piracy issue. I absolutely think WotC will be back with PDFs in the future. Not too soon, but they will.

    posted by: Minotaure on 2009-04-21 02:30:00

  • Excellent show, and it made me hungry for more. So I hope you\'ll do more on PDF\'s. (like, why are most still vertically oriĆ«ntated like a book rather then horizontal for the screen? wotc at least got that right for dragon & dungeon magazines) Personal anecdotes on the subjects: PDF\'s vs. books to me is like a value judgement. If I like it I\'ll get the cheap version, if I love it I\'ll get the expensive one. Same with music; I get songs I like on MP3 and the stuff I love I\'ll buy the album for in whatever deluxe glory edition is made available. And I don\'t think I really had that choice before with RPG\'s. Softcover & hardcover prices weren\'t that far apart. Bigger companies could print cheaper since they had larger runs and smaller companies would cut costs to keep the price at the same level. And as was said in another episode, everybody pretty much had to use the same size to get placed in stores. Now products I couldn\'t convince myself to buy on their cover charge I can now buy in good (financial) concience as a much cheaper or reasonable PDF. (or very cheap, smaller format books that are more practical now through online stores too). One thing though, and maybe it\'s already possible and I just don\'t know about it, but I wish I could transfer ownership of my PDF\'s. If I could give those to someone else once the PDF has convinced me to buy the book, then maybe it\'ll convince them too. I might get another player and the company might get another sale. On PHB2. It might be a bit too easy to blame sales of this on just the economy. Overall I\'d say it\'s in part due to the economy, but through it being published so soon. There\'s just too much 4e stuff too quickly in a time when it\'s easier to just hold off a while rather then go on impulse. Which brings me to my personal reason for not picking it up yet: I\'ve come to regret most of the newer D&D products I bought day 1. I bought 3rd edition as soon as it came available and I\'m glad I stopped there. Not only was the system completely conflicted on what it wanted to be and a compilation of faults of the diffirent directions without any of the benefits, then there was 3.5. 2e might be rough, but at least it had an identity (and planescape). So of course I loved everything 4e did, and bought it on release and then .. Have you seen the ammount of errata in the wotc site? The balance stuff, fine, that\'s expected it doesn\'t really matter much to me (it\'s not a competetive game after all). But it also became quickly apparent a few things were completely broken, so broken it seemed it was completely untested. I refer specifically skill difficulties & skill challenges. Actually, just a bit of simple math, not even needing any practical testing, showed that these were just wrong (at it\'s release a character had a base level 50% chance to succeed at an \'easy\' task, that ain\'t right). Which led to to the most painful bit of errata on a D&D product: The DM screen. The first bit of errata for that was out even before the product was released. The only other place in the waorld where that sort of thing happens is in pc software. So I\'m holding off on PHB2. I\'ll buy it eventually but right now there are just too many good reasons to wait a while longer: 1- Got more then enough game to last me a good while already, 2- maybe there\'s something else the money can be put to better use right now and 3- if I wait for a later print release then maybe the biggest mistakes are probably caught & fixed in the text.

    posted by: Simon on 2009-04-22 05:41:00

  • I agree 100% with WotC\'s decision. Until I see some tried and true statistics about whether PDF piracy (or software piracy in general) does not hurt retail sales, I think people attacking WotC\'s decision need to shut their mouths. Using your personal gaming store as your sole example to back up your claim is just juvenile. I keep hearing again and again from this podcast and from others how the discussion is over on the effects of software piracy on sales. Please...put up some hard data to back up your ranting, or shut up.

    posted by: Lumin on 2009-09-24 18:18:00

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