This morning, I received in my inbox a message from Paizo Publishing that Wizards of the Coast insists they immediately stop selling PDFs of D&D gaming supplements. Later in the day I discovered that RPGnow and other online game stores had received the same demand. Presumably this came without a lot of advance notice.

Wizards of the Coast is within their rights to do this, but I do not think it was a smart move. A lot of gamers rely heavily on PDF books and spend quite a bit of money on them. It seems unlikely that customers who were still buying Wizards of the Coast PDFs — all Third Edition — will take their gaming dollars and invest them in new 4E hardcover books instead. More likely, they will switch to buying non-WotC PDFs and/or unauthorized downloading of D&D books.

Let’s face it: D&D 4E is not the roaring success that 3E was. That is probably because it is not as good a game. Cutting off sales of a superior product to divert customers to an inferior product is never a good move. It reminds me of what Microsoft did to WIndows XP when Vista came out.

Like Microsoft, Wizards of the Coast is alienating once-loyal customers. Unlike Microsoft, its dominant position in the marketplace really is vulnerable. Instead of learning from the makes of TSR, Wizards of the Coast seems to be doing all it can to repeat them. It’s stumbling toward irrelevancy.