A Wizard Did It

Posted on April 7, 2009


Like so many others, I found this in my email inbox this morning:

“Wizards of the Coast has notified us that we may no longer sell or distribute their PDF products. Accordingly, after April 6 at 11:59 PM Pacific time, Wizards of the Coast PDFs will no longer be available for purchase on paizo.com; after noon on April 7, you will no longer be able to download Wizards of the Coast PDFs that you have already purchased, so please make sure you have downloaded all purchased PDFs by that time.

We thank you for your patronage of paizo.com. Please check out our other downloads at paizo.com/store/downloads.”

I already knew it was coming, because I’ve been paying attention to the situation since it started. Here’s the deal: Wizards of the Coast have decided to pull all PDF products. Their official party line is that they’re combating piracy.

Yes, you read that right. In order to combat piracy, WotC have denied paying customers the ability to buy their products. Piracy has become the new terrorism. You can justify doing anything so long as you say it’s being done to fight pirates. There’s something going on here, all right, but it’s not an attempt to fight digital piracy.

Over at Unclebear.com, Berin Kinsman has laid out an excellent argument that I completely agree with, having come to the same conclusion independently. WotC aren’t fighting piracy. They want to kill the pre-4e D&D markets. It’s about control, not justice. By removing access to PDFs, they force gamers to consider one of three options:

1.) Change to playing D&D 4th Edition. This is what WotC want everyone to do.

2.) Continue playing older editions, but be forced to spend more time and money hunting down suppliments. The “punishment” option. If you aren’t playing 4e, you should suffer.

3.) Turn pirate. And we all no that nobody wants to break the law, right?

Unfortunately for Wizards, they can’t kill the d20 SRD. Nor can they kill the distill/retro-clone movement that often uses the SRD — you can’t copyright mechanics, just presentation. As a fan of the distill/retro-clone movement, I think this is a prime opportunity, but that’s material for another time.

Phil Reed pointed out on his livejournal that this could (probably will) hurt PDF vendors, and for that I am truly sorry. But WotC have shed any sense of proportion and decency. This is a blatantly corporate act, veiled by an indecently thin scrap of a lie. Yes, the point of a business is to make money, but as I have always said, whatever happened to treating your customers decently or exploring profit options based on what the customers actually want, not what you want them to want? I want Wizards to come out on the bad end of this.

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