While I am not the slightest bit surprised, the release of the playtest document for the next version of D&D has caused many to stir and comment on it. For the most part, I'm happy to say that it seems to have been positive. I'm sure that is partially due to the generally poor reception and sentiments that 4th Edition received. On the other hand, there are those who are already proclaiming that this is the last act and that the game is effectively 'dead'.
Interestingly enough, the D&D brand must be pretty hard to actually kill since this isn't the first time this sort of proclamation has been made. Gygax leaving TSR, a 2nd Edition to AD&D, WOTC buying TSR, 3rd Edition, the OGL, and 4th Edition and the GSL have *all* been used to justify this claim. I'm certain for some, some of these could still be true. I'm not saying that there isn't a perfectly good reason to say this now with the new edition either. I've read many interesting blogs and followed various discussion threads in the past couple of days talking about what this means for D&D.
One of the more interesting ones was the fact this new D&D is no better or worse than the various OGL permitted creations that has spawned since the introduction of 3rd Edition. Games that I actively play and support like C&C benefited greatly with the reaction that some had to the 3rd Edition game as well as 4th Edition. Some people didn't care for all that 3rd Edition had to offer but appreciated some aspects of it while retaining a better simplicity. Then 4th Edition happened and a lot of fans jumped ship... some to games like C&C and a whole bunch to Pathfinder. In efforts to reach a new customer demographic, WOTC effectively alienated everyone else and they realize that now.
But with this kind of 'break', can we consider the game dead or just a whole new game? I don't think so. I'm certain that many (former) fans will eventually be wooed back from games like Pathfinder and C&C. If most of the commentary holds true, I'm sure there will be more than any of us would like to admit. I neither think this a bad thing or a good thing but since it sounds like it strongly links back up with pre-4th Edition material, it could garner at least a good initial reception and end up sustaining it if they continue to play their cards right. In the end, the majority who have played the game 'want a D&D' product which is 'familiar' to them.
While there is concern about the future of D&D, I honestly am a bit concerned about the future of other games and the companies that produce them. Pathfinder can only continue to sell for so well for a while longer before sales begin to dwindle compared to initial figures. This was part of the issue with 3rd Edition after all. Will Paizo eventually concede to a new Pathfinder edition to maintain and bolster revenue streams? What about TLG with C&C? Right now, preparations are being made for the 5th printing of the PHB. How does a company continue to revitalize a game without an edition change and how can they compete? Well, in this case, the PHB is going full color which will be a first. It's trying to do something to keep noticed and hope to be considered as an alternative to the bigger games.
Frankly, this just isn't the end that a few are making it out to be nor is it a miracle that will unify gamers. It is just a game though.