Six weeks ago I posted this:
“I think the big question is whether any of the prominent third party publishers will decide to just skip 4E and the GSL and continue to publish 3.5 material. I think Paizo is best positioned to pull this off but it would be a gamble for sure.”
Paizo announced today that they are taking that gamble. They will continue to publish under the 3.5 rules and are beginning an open playtest to lead up their own core rulebook based on those rules for August, 2009. This is a ballsy decision and I have to salute Erik Mona and company for rolling the dice. I think they are approaching this in the right way too. They are not trying to put out new rulebooks in the face of 4E. Instead they are doing what WotC did not: conducting a long open playtest. They are also making backward compatibility a big goal, so folks can continue to use their large library of 3.5 material with Paizo’s new stuff.
I’m sure that some fans will think this is a foolish move on Paizo’s part. How do you fight against the 800 lb. gorilla after all? Here’s the thing: they don’t have to. If Paizo can peel off even 20,000 current D&D; fans and make them Pathfinder fans, that’s a great business for a company of Paizo’s size. WotC is likely going to lose at least that number of fans anyway, so at the end of the day I doubt it’ll really affect 4E. I can easily envision 4E and Pathfinder both being successful for their parent companies.
Less good for WotC are the PR implications of this announcement. Third party companies have been waiting and waiting to see the new Game System License and here is a major player in the field saying, “Sorry, can’t wait any more.” If WotC is going to support third party publishing, they really want companies like Paizo as allies. Now Paizo is still Necromancer Games’ publisher and Necro says they are going 4E regardless, so if the GSL allows it Paizo will be publishing 4E books as well. That really can’t mask the shock waves this is likely to send throughout the world of third party publishing. Interesting times.
For the record Green Ronin’s position remains the same: we’d like to see the GSL before making any decisions.