[New D&D Red Box] Marketing

edited February 2010 in Story Games
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Posted By: jaywaltTo follow up on John's point, this just proves to me EVEN MORE that Wizards has no idea 1) who their audience for D&D is or 2) how to market to them.

This is supposed to be the product for people new to D&D? So they make it look likean edition from the early 80s that people new to D&D have never even heard of and have no sentimental attachment to, with graphic design that is almost 30 years out of date?

I really, really don't get it. They're going to sell a bunch of copies to people nostalgic about earlier editions; that's all.

I mean, I'm happy for all you folks who get shivers about this, because that retro-ness is way cool, but -- as a product aimed at a new audience -- total failure.
The point that D&D is marketed badly is not one I'd argue. Although someone else might.

But I'm not sure that the retro red box approach is so terrible.

It won't appeal to someone who has no interest in gaming anyway, sure. But "nerd stuff" has a cachet in popular culture, and lots of people know what D&D is, even if they never played it.

So, if you showed this new "red box" edition to someone, alongside a more "modern" looking book, I'm not sure the retro look wouldn't be more appealing. People know what "old-school" looks like, even if they don't have a lot of other context.

(To take another tack, the graphic design of this game got me interested, and I don't currently play D&D, but I take Jonathan's point that nostalgia gamers aren't the best target audience.)

Comments

  • From a detached point of view, I think the switch to a box set is brilliant; it's a self-contained system that has presence. I would have preferred this over the three hardbacks. From my gamer perspective, I have to admit that I'm a little leery regarding the situation:

    While the Monster Vault and Dungeon Master's Kit likely won't have any more information than the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master's Guide, the Player Essentials seem peculiar. Without a detailed table of contents, now I have to wonder if there's any new information that I would likely need. As strange as this sounds, it throws off my sense of aesthetics: all the books I use are hardback, these are trade paperbacks. Irrational it may be, but I'm compulsive that way.

    Second, I also have to wonder if they're going to drop the current crop of hardbacks after the release of the Monster Manual 3. Not only is it a change in format, but I would hope they avoid trying to support what amounts to Basic D&D and AD&D all over again.

    I love the idea; I just think it's two years too late.
  • I don't think anyone should believe that the cover on WotC's site is the real, final cover. The other products in the line have a distinct, modern trade dress. The new box will probably follow suit. I mean, I could be wrong, and that is the final cover, but honestly I think faking a Red Box look *is* a marketing ploy... to get us old timers all fired up about it, so we maybe want to buy it for our kids or whatever. Anyway, I will be surprised if that cover is final.

    Anyway, did anyone see the D&D video podcasts with the writers of Robot Chicken playing D&D? Or the various podcasts with WIll Wheaton, Scott Kurtz, and the Penny Arcade guys? That's some awesome marketing. Totally their target audience.
  • I have to say, as someone who owns a bunch of 4e books already, I have no idea what I'm supposed to do with the new Essentials line. Is it another stepping stone for newbies? Or just a new book format? I thought only IPR sold RPGs in trade paperback format. ;)
  • Judging a Book by Its Cover ... it's possible that the red box art is the real thing; I kind of like it. However, this link shows the "Player's Strategy Guide" which looks like D&D done by the Clone Wars. Not bashing the artistic style, just noticing how out of place it seems to the rest of the covers.
  • Maybe this isn't a product for people who are new to D&D. Maybe it's a product to sell to existing DMs as a tool to evangelize D&D to new players. And if it isn't, that could be a very awesome product indeed.
  • Here's the new DMK cover for comparison, so it's possible that Mark is right and this is a marketing ploy. Notably, Amazon doesn't have a cover up yet.

    image

    I kinda wonder if this is 4.5 already. Maybe 4.25. If it is, I'm a bit more excited about the new Castle Ravenloft which is self-contained and therefore not necessarily part of a long-term financial commitment. Also, 200 fully designed encounters? Full maps for everything? Sounds like what 4E should have been in the first place. Easy to set up and go.

    Part of me also wonders if the new component-filled box sets and board game-style products are a reaction to the complete failure of their miniatures line, in addition to the recent revival of box sets and hybrid board/RPGs.
  • Posted By: twilightJudging a Book by Its Cover... it's possible that the red box art is the real thing; I kind of like it. However, this link shows the "Player's Strategy Guide" which looks like D&D done by the Clone Wars. Not bashing the artistic style, just noticing how out of place it seems to the rest of the covers.
    That looks like Penny Arcade art, and prob is.... SOLD

    Also the blurb mentions:

    "In addition to character optimization tips and player advice, this book includes entertaining sidebar essays written by celebrity gamers and a distinctive comic art style unlike other books in the D&D game line."

    Sounds like a cool book, kinda like a novelty or something and I don't even play D&D anymore.

    - Colin
  • That Castle Ravenloft thing seems rather cool, actually. Does anybody know anything about it? I've long thought that 4th edition would be best as an explicit adventure boardgame, is that it? That is, does that game run by the 4th edition rules or what?
  • I'm going to talk about Storming the Wizard's Tower for a second, here. At one point, I remember reading in a play report that one of the players (a child I believe) said, "We get to kill a dragon? COOL! We never get to do that in D&D!"

    The box has a picture of a dragon on it. Who has ever fought a dragon in levels 1 and 2 of D&D? Do you think there's even a weak dragon inside the new book?

    I personally believe it won't deliver the "promises" made by the cover. It will do more harm than good.
  • I think a product that says "hey newbie, here's everything you need to start playing in one box, and it's only $20" will be successful. Current D&D has a shit-ton of big fat expensive hardbacks to buy, and it's not clear which of them you need to start with, and the existing boxed set is, what, $75 or so?

    The cover shown looks OK to me, not obviously antiquated. It does look cheaper than the full books, but that's got to be intentional, to telegraph the low price-point.

    The fact that this packaging will trigger nostalgia in old D&D players and get them to buy something they manifestly have no use for, is a side benefit, I'm sure.
  • There are some seminars on the D&D podcast where Mike Mearls and some other Wizards people talk about these products (and Gamma World, too).
    Posted By: jaywaltI kinda wonder if this is 4.5 already. Maybe 4.25.
    They say that these have the same rules as 4E but that they're presented in a different way (and apparently the class builds are different from the PHB, so they're not completely redundant with each other).
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenThatCastle Ravenloftthing seems rather cool, actually. Does anybody know anything about it? I've long thought that 4th edition would be best as an explicit adventure boardgame, is that it? That is, does that game run by the 4th edition rules or what?
    From what they said in the podcast, it's not using 4E rules but something simpler, more like their old minis skirmish game. It's a 1-5 player cooperative dungeon adventure game. There are a variety of scenarios, some dungeon tiles to lay out a random dungeon, a bunch of unpainted minis, and a bunch of event cards. As part of each player's turn they draw a card that tells them how to move the monsters, so the challenge scales with the number of players like Pandemic.
  • Posted By: David CI'm going to talk about Storming the Wizard's Tower for a second, here. At one point, I remember reading in a play report that one of the players (a child I believe) said, "We get to kill a dragon? COOL! We never get to do that in D&D!"

    The box has a picture of a dragon on it. Who has ever fought a dragon in levels 1 and 2 of D&D? Do you think there's even a weak dragon inside the new book?

    I personally believe it won't deliver the "promises" made by the cover. It will do more harm than good.
    David,

    You get to fight dragons at levels 1 and 2 of D&D 4. It's hard as hell, but you can do it and have a chance of winning.
  • Posted By: David CI personally believe it won't deliver the "promises" made by the cover. It will do more harm than good.
    I don't know. It's true that "dragons" is right there in the name, yet the average low-level D&D character doesn't encounter them. But I remember being TOTALLY EXCITED about that original red box game. Goblins! Rust monsters!

    I definitely wasn't disappointed about no dragons. And part of the D&D experience is leveling up and getting more bad-assed, so the delayed gratification of dragons was part of the fun. For me, anyway.

    * * *

    So, if this box cover is just placeholder art to rev up the diehards, I guess the point of this thread is moot.
  • Posted By: BWASo, if this box cover is just placeholder art to rev up the diehards, I guess the point of this thread is moot.
    I wouldn't say that. Even if that's not the final art, it was a conscious decision with the aim of eliciting a response. Aren't three different Story-Games threads discussing D&D Essentials right now? That could have been all they were after (i.e. buzz) and it worked.

    Damn you, Wizards. You're going to get my money by hook or by crook this year, aren't you?
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenThatCastle Ravenloftthing seems rather cool, actually. Does anybody know anything about it? I've long thought that 4th edition would be best as an explicit adventure boardgame, is that it? That is, does that game run by the 4th edition rules or what?
    From what they said in the podcast, it's not using 4E rules but something simpler, more like their old minis skirmish game. It's a 1-5 player cooperative dungeon adventure game. There are a variety of scenarios, some dungeon tiles to lay out a random dungeon, a bunch of unpainted minis, and a bunch of event cards. As part of each player's turn they draw a card that tells them how to move the monsters, so the challenge scales with the number of players like Pandemic.

    That sounds totally great! Kind of like Arkham Asylum. When I played (DM'd) 4E I kept wondering why it wasn't a board game in the first place, and not needing a DM (an utterly boring job in 4E) would be great! SOLD
  • Posted By: ClintonYou get to fight dragons at levels 1 and 2 of D&D 4. It's hard as hell, but you can do it and have a chance of winning.
    When my group first started playing 4e, we fought a dragon as the final boss of our very first dungeon. If I remember right it was a young white dragon (a level 3 brute, which as about as weak as dragons get in D&D), and a really damn difficult battle, but also one of the more memorable fights in the campaign. Of course, the cover shows a *red* dragon, and they (flips through Monster Manual) start at Level 7.

    I don't know what to make of the whole thing, but I do like the idea of having a lightweight paperback book I can bring along to reference the basic rules. We use the Character Builder extensively, so a lot of the other books are just plain unnecessary when we sit down to play.
  • image

    How is the contrast between this box, which is already in stores, and the new one, NOT going to confuse the hell out of people who are potential new D&D customers? I mean, if you're not already in the know, what's the diff?
  • Posted By: David CThe box has a picture of a dragon on it. Who has ever fought a dragon in levels 1 and 2 of D&D? Do you think there's even a weak dragon inside the new book?
    As a matter of fact, my 4th Edition party did get to utterly humiliate and slay a green dragon as our capstone 2nd level encounter. 4th Edition is maybe the first edition of D&D to include even 1st level dragons (young whites are 1st level).

    Anyway, the late boxed starter kit for 3.5 (marketed as "Basic D&D") also included a weak dragon (a very young black, AFAIK). It's pretty easy for marketing people to realize they've gotta have some dragons in a game called "Dungeons & Dragons".
  • edited February 2010
    Posted By: David C4th Edition is maybe the first edition of D&D to include even 1st level dragons
    For the record, I installed a young dragon in the basement of B1: Search of the Unknown, which came in my Holmes boxed set. Because it was Dungeons & Dragons, damn it! And a party of 2nd level characters did manage to beat it.
  • I stand corrected.

    I haven't really spent much time playing 4th edition. I didn't care for it but still play a session here and there.

    What I find most impressive about 4th edition is not really levels 1 and 2, though. It's that level 25 still works, when level 9 was broken in 3rd.
  • The red box is emphatically not just for nostalgic old gamers.

    It is for "new gamers" - that is, not new gamers at all but people who don't play on the tabletop. The sort of people who go to PAX and think 8-bit art is cool even though they were all of about three years old when 8-bit game consoles were popular. They're interested in D&D the way hipsters are interested in vinyl.

    D&D was a bona fide 80's fad, and if they want to capture this other nostalgia market they had damn well better get the aesthetic right.
  • Posted By: misubaIt is for "new gamers" - that is, not new gamers at all but people who don't play on the tabletop. The sort of people who go to PAX and think 8-bit art is cool even though they were all of about three years old when 8-bit game consoles were popular.
    Right! That's what I was trying to say in the original post.

    I could see the retro look will be as effective, if not more, at generating excitement among people who never played before.

    Imagine, if you will, going into Urban Outfitters and seeing D&D. The red box would fit the aesthetic perfectly, while the newer books would not.
  • I not only find the retro-aesthetic attractive, I find the covers of regular 4e books to generally be quite ugly.

    I am also younger than practically everyone here. I have no nostalgia for red-box DnD, and I find the clear lines and spartan design rather appealing, especially compared to the tacky effluvium of the 4e core rules.

  • It's nice to see WotC acknowledge that bringing in new blood is something that needs to be addressed. I don't think calling it the red box is a bad idea either. You are right that newbs don't know the reference. The older gamers who do can have a powerful effect if it's a product they get excited about though. People who were teenagers in the 80s are parents now and they can buy this for their kids, nephews, or nieces. Other older gamers might get it as a gift for someone they think would like roleplaying because they still have positive associations with the original red box.

    The Essentials line as a whole I'm not sure about. It looks like it's going to create a parallel line of products to the current line. That seems like it'd increase newb confusion, as what books to get won't really be obvious when you are standing in a store aisle. I wonder if the line is less a bold new strategy and more a tacit admission that their original strategy is failing.
  • edited February 2010
    Posted By: SteerpikeThat looks like Penny Arcade art, and prob is.... SOLD
    Colin, you're right. That cover was done by Mike "Gabe" Krahulik. Check out Gabe's post on Penny-Arcade.

    Noah
  • edited February 2010
    Posted By: NoahTheDukePosted By: SteerpikeThat looks like Penny Arcade art, and prob is.... SOLD
    Colin, you're right. That coverwasdone by Mike "Gabe" Krahulik. Check out Gabe's post onPenny-Arcade.

    Noah

    Right on! And from that link, Gabe mentions this which I think is pertinent to this thread:

    "I was really surprised that they asked me to do this. All the D&D book covers have such a strong and classic aesthetic. I was nervous about doing the cover because my style doesn't really match up with the rest of the books, but they assured me they wanted this particular book to have a different/distinctive look."
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