WotC Discontinues D&D Minis

Hm, that’s sad news - the prepainted plastic D&D minis were a great idea and were the only thing I still buy from WotC.  My gaming group has a whole trunk full of them, and we don’t play the actual minis game or 4e, we use them for battlemaps for a lot of games.  I still have old pewter minis from like 15 years ago I’ve never gotten around to painting, and I don’t want to have to.

It’s also strange news – so what will they be doing instead?  In the same article, they proudly announce their latest dungeon tiles product, which it would seem you’d need minis for.  You could do counters, and it sounds like they are putting some out, but there’s no profit in that.  Issuing counters is a “we know you have to have something so here it is the cheapest way we could make them, mostly for free” kind of play.

Do they think they’re going to get their virtual table working and declare “all gaming is virtual now, death to the tabletop?”  No – not just because they’ll never get the virtual tabletop working, but because they’re still selling cards and whatnot too, and pushing Encounters, which all are tied to tabletop.

Are they going to partner with someone else to do them?  If so, this is a ham-handed way of announcing it; also, WotC’s model has been “pull it all in house” since the development of 4e, moving it back out would be an unprecedented shift in strategy.

Are they getting more expensive to produce as fewer 10 year olds are willing to be exposed to toxic fumes even in China or wherever?  Seems like they’d just up the price or put fewer in a box if that were the case.

Are they planning to change the sales model (sell non-randomized or singles)?  Again, this is a very bad way of announcing that – you don’t say “product terminated” if you’re just changing the model.

Are they just not selling well, so they don’t really give a shit how it fits into the product strategy or game experience?  Maybe.  They seem to be understaffed and floundering. I suspect this is the only reason that makes sense – the margin is down and so they’re canceling them, and they don’t have the time or people or energy to bother about product strategy.Sure, they’re adding the cards, but that can be done with excess staff etc. from WotC’s card game lines.

Even with the rumors going around that what we’re seeing is rampup to a 5e – and it makes sense, the cycle’s been like 3e – put out 3e, fairly quickly put out 3.5e, fire most of your staff, trickle out products and begin on a new edition.  They put out 4e, put out Essentials (4.5e) fairly quickly and fired most of their staff… But even if that were true, why would discontinuing minis fit into that plan?

[Edit: I have seen Reaper's prepainted plastic minis line but they don't have many of them.  And apparently to be more 'retail friendly' they just changed their name to "Hobby-Q".]

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15 responses to “WotC Discontinues D&D Minis

  1. “You could do counters, and it sounds like they are putting some out, but there’s no profit in that.”

    Why do you say that there’s no profit in that? If they can make a profit selling cards, why can’t they make a profit selling counters? I’ve got a lot of the minis however I applaud the move to counters. They’re cheaper, easier to store and (because they contain only a profile) one counter can represent a wider variety of monsters.

    I just wish they had done that when they first released 4e . It would have saved me a boatload of money.

    • Because any goon can print their own counters. Your statement “it would have saved me a boatload of money” is naturally opposed to “WotC wants to get all your money.”

  2. It could be that they’re looking at competition and for right now, they’re going to shut down the minis. It could be that in two years, they’ll crank back up. This could have been in the works for a couple of years now, in fact I think I remember hearing rumblings of this last summer? So this could have been something that was decided in the bad economy and now we’re just seeing the endgame.

    Either way, I don’t use the plastics, but I’m always interested in the state of miniatures.

    • I think I remember hearing rumblings of this last summer

      They cancelled the miniatures game in 2008, and then in 2010 they announced the miniatures themselves were returning to random assortments. One might speculate that they moved back to random packs in order to get rid of existing inventory.

  3. (Well, I should amend that to be I don’t use WotC plastics although I have a couple in my box for dragons. I do use 1/72nd plastics for wargaming though. Very inexpensive option.)

  4. It’s time to whip out the ol’ lego and start building our own minis. =)

  5. The minis aren’t the half of it. They’ve officially canceled three books, and pushed a fourth back a month. They’ve also announced that they’ll cease compiling the Dragon and Dungeon content in PDF format, as well ax nixing (I believe) the pre-announcement of content for the e-magazines in a given month…in other words, Dragon and Dungeon will be little more than article titles. But hey, NOW they’re going to be fully edited (after the fact) when they’re released.

    The sentiment over at EN World is that something is going on at WotC, and I agree. Whether it’s the gearing-up to announce a new edition, or simply a larger move to purely-online material (people are speculating that the canceled books will show up at a series of articles for DDI), something big seems to be happening.

  6. “No – not just because they’ll never get the virtual tabletop working,”

    Er…what do you call the program that a whole bunch of people are using to play games right now? It’s not just working, it’s actually being played on. Making the prediction that they’ll never get it working when it’s well past the get-it-working stage strikes me as ill-advised.

  7. Well I guess Gen Con is going to be interesting this year.

  8. Hey Mxy, have you seen this article yet?

    http://www.squaremans.com/?p=250

    I read it and immediately thought of you.

    • Hmm. I don’t buy it. It presupposes the natural conclusion of someone who likes 4e, which is that “4e is better, it’s just that people weren’t ready for it.” It’s a variant on the “People just fear change and that’s why they don’t like the new version.” But that’s not my experience. My group was feeling 3.5e’s age and weight. We were starting to house-rule things like the skill system and XP system to try to mitigate its problems. It was a similar feeling to the end of the 2e days, which made 3e refreshing. We were “ripe” for 4e. If 4e had been a different game (and WotC a different company) our group at least would have happily uptaken it. We looked at 4e and were disappointed that it sucked. We experimented with Savage Worlds and other systems because we WEREN’T happy with 3.5e. We finally settled on Pathfinder not because it’s so close to 3.5, but more because of the great world and adventures and partner ecosystem around it – if Pathfinder had substantially different mechanics we’d still be there.

      Heck, go read my earliest 4e articles. The first is me looking at the new rogue class revealed in Ampersand. I was excited about 4e, saw some things I liked and a couple I didn’t. As things went along, I got turned off to 4e, but I defy you to read any of my early 4e posts and find “I love me the 3e there’s nothing wrong with it why is money grubbing WotC trying to put out a new version.” In general the community was OK with a new version, it had been a while since 3.5 came out and the Star Wars Saga rules and Book of Nine Swords were well received in my group, and the rumors that “4e inherits a lot from them” excited us. But then WotC shit all over everyone with pulling all their licenses, trying to kill the OGL, and generally being buttplugs, and the 4e that emerged was too WoWey – and this is from a group where everyone played WoW too.

      And this reaction wasn’t just from “the uneducated who know nothing but the 3e” All the initial reviews from real game designers – Chris Pramas, John Wick, JD Wiker, etc – all said the same negative things. (Search this blog for “4e” and go back in time for links to all this.) Paizo wasn’t all “we love 3e screw the new edition” – they were forced into Pathfinder by hostile licensing and a game that doesn’t support the modes of play all previous D&D editions do.

  9. Well, remember: this is Hasbro. The company that brought us G.I. Joe. Then changed him. Then took him away. Then brought him back in an unrecognizable form. Then took him away again. Then brought him back in a sort of mutant hybrid form. Then really brought him back. Then changed him to another unrecognizable form. Then took him away again. Then brought him back in a completely retarded form. Then took him away again. Then brought him back in the first unrecognizable form. If TSR had to be bought out by WotC, and WotC had to be bought out by a toy company, I wish it had been Mattel, who at least knows how to keep a product line going with some kind of continuity (I mean, look at Barbie: where are we now, 60 years?) I would actually prefer that none of that had ever happened, though, and that TSR had remained under Gygax’s control rather than his having been forced out by corporate goons and his ex-wife.

  10. Likely a matter of money. Production, shipping, warehousing, distribution, all for a niche market. I think buying a boxed set that holds a 100+ cardboard token along with a rulebook would sell a lot more than smaller packs of minis. Monster Vault was just that and I think a pretty successful product (too bad they didn’t do this at launch).

    As for the virtual tabletop I think that is long term planning. Surface monitors are on the horizon. Personal notepads and smart phones are here all ready. The younger generation will want these things for the everyday electronic devices they constantly use. Not to mention the potential application market. WotC is being smart for figuring out a way to tap into that market. It’s just not quite here yet, but in another 10 years you can expect paper and pencil to be for the new ‘grognards’ of the 90’s.

    • There’s costs and then there’s sales. I bought D&D Minis to use with my non-4e games. There is no way I’d spend money on cardboard tokens in general, and certainly not with a 4e rulebook bundled in. I think having a product that’s cheaper to produce but fewer people will buy is quite a risk.

      As for the virtual tabletop, they are making a classic mistake. They could be focusing on computer/mobile apps to actually enhance core gameplay and make the game ‘stickier’ for players and GMs, not just replace core gameplay.

      If you replace the core D&D experience with a virtual tabletop, it just becomes a computer game that’s a lot worse than most other computer games on the market. Worse graphics, slower to play, etc.

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