Wizards of the Coast takes a… novel approach to dealing with PDF piracy

Angry Bear is angry.And by “novel”, I mean to say “utterly stupid and short-sighted.”

Earlier this evening RPGNow, Paizo, and DriveThruRPG pulled all of their Wizards of the Coast PDF products (where both new and much much much older products were available) at WotC’s request.  The ability to purchase them ended at noon – the ability to download products that you’ve already bought ended at midnight.

According to Wizards of the Coast, this was done to prevent piracy.  (In a followup statement, they clarified that they believe this… because they are luddite morons.)

“We have [taken these actions] to stop the illegal activities […], and to deter future unauthorized and unlawful file-sharing.”

I love the vast understatement from one gaming site today:

“I predict an increase in piracy of Wizards products.”


Let me take this one step further.  I guarantee – not ‘predict’, but guaran-goddamn-tee that every single PDF of WotC products made available after midnight tonight will be a pirated copy.

Just… think about it for a second; you’ll see exactly what I mean.

See… before today? Sure, some people were sharing PDFs like that on file-sharing sites, and there was pirating going on. Sure, yes.

Was it because the PDFs were made available by WotC and sold online?

No.  You’ve been able to get PDFs of ANY game book — hell, any book at all — even ones that have never had electronic versions available, ever since scanner technology became remotely mainstream (early 90s), because people have time, and geeks have desire for the electronic versions.

Until today, at least most of the people who wanted electronic versions of their game book were getting the PDFs the easy way: google search, got to RPGNow, click, click, download.  No torrent software. No worrying if you picked up a virus with your latest PDF. Easy.

Now, the only way to get the electronic version of a WotC product is to get it from a pirate site.

I can either not get it at all (sucks for me, and WotC gets no money), or I get it from a torrent site (hassle for me, and WotC gets no money).

The pirating people? This has no fucking affect on them what. so. ever.

Well, no; that’s not entirely true.

This move by WotC, ostensibly meant to fight piracy, will actually ensure that more people will come to their site to download ALL the PDFs they want (for games, for novels… whatever — I mean, as long as they’re THERE for the DnD stuff, they might as well look around and see what else is out there, right?…).

It’s not just stupid and short-sighted.  It doesn’t just ensure the piracy of their work by 100% of those that want PDFs of DnD material; it actually hurts all the other companies in the industry as well.

10 Replies to “Wizards of the Coast takes a… novel approach to dealing with PDF piracy”

  1. I have to say, this policy certainly makes me less inclined to try 4E. I’ll probably stick to using home-grown or indie systems for my fantasy games.

    1. For someone on a limited gaming budget like me, offering low-cost alternatives to hardcover rulebooks and supplements is appealing, especially for the infrequently-used titles.

  2. Oh, absoLUTEly. For me, it’s both cost and portability – I can have my whole gaming library on my phone, or on my laptop.

  3. *sigh*

    I’m certainly willing to buy a hardcover to start, but if people want me to keep playing their games, I need supplements that will make me ooh and ah like a game show addict and think something along the lines of: “Man, I have GOT to run this.” With this move, they’ve pretty much guaranteed that it’s not going to happen. I really do not want to return to the dark ages when I carted around backpacks full of heavy texts when there’s a much easier alternative.

    But then again, WotC isn’t exactly known for their business savvy. I think they’re secretly run by monkeys. Not that I have anything against monkeys.

    Wow. I sound bitter. But after years of writing for RPGs I get a little agitated. Sorry.

  4. What an infinitely foolish and short-sighted business decision. They’re choosing media of delivery over their content, essentially.

    Someone at WotC basically decided to stop participating in .pdf sales to start creating huge legal expenses chasing at shadows? If Hollywood & the music industry combined can’t fight media piracy, what insane schmuck in Wizard’s legal thinks he can?

  5. Was there any announcement that PDFs would be available through their on-line subscription service?

    I have no idea how WotC could be quite this stupid, they’ve generally been fairly savvy.

    This goes to my comment on your gaming as a model for indie publishing post: gaming has been doing indie publishing, but they REALLY want to be traditional publishers, not realizing that that is a deathknell to their business model.

  6. I certainly agree with your post here. And I was looking forward to getting a lot more pdf’s (even though a few that I got were absolute crud!!!) – but for the money, I was happy to get them.

    I think this was more of a move to try to get the hard-and-fast 2nd Edition hold-outs (like me) to try the newer games. I tried 3rd Edition … wasn’t too impressed with the game and I was flabbergasted at the price for the books …. $30? And it seems a lot like the game Magic … you can’t really get a good character unless you spend the big bucks! No thanks!

    BTW – Does anyone know if anyone has started a letter of complaint against WTOC? Maybe if enough of us got together we might be able to change WTOC’s mind about this ….

  7. This is straight stupidity. Hmmm, which would I rather have, a free scanned pdf copy of a 4th Ed. D&D book or a pdf that is totally interactive with hyperlinks, search capabilities, bookmarks, etc? Sure, I might have to pay a little bit for the better pdf…AND I WILL.

    You see WOTC…I want ALL of my RPG rules and supplements on my iPad in pdf format. I have already purchased BESM third edition, Pathfinder, and Mage: the Ascension (revised) thru drivethrurpg.

    Since your company refuses to sell pdf versions I have two choices, illegally download them or simply walk away from D&D. I have chosen the second option. Why? Why would anyone want to support such a short-sighted company when there are so many alternatives “out there”?

    Goodbye WOTC and goodbye D&D.

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