By now, most of you have probably already heard about the listing for the D&D 5th Edition Players Handbook (and starter set) that were put up, seemingly accidentally, on Barnes and Nobel’s website, and taken down soon thereafter. I happen to think this was a genuine mistake (it’s happened before with WotC) and not a deliberate goof being played on the fans (like the recent release of the track listing for the Captain America Winter Soldier soundtrack – don’t click on the link if you want to avoid a possible spoiler, but I don’t think it’s real).
First, the timing. I think that the date listed, August 19th, makes absolute perfect sense. WotC already said summer 2014 was the release time-frame, and I said last year that a GenCon release is going to be the way WotC goes, and having the core rulebooks available to the public the Tuesday after GenCon would only be logical. Which also means that, if my calculations are correct, the rules are done by now (or 99%) and the book is moving into editing and layout in order to have books for the booth at GenCon and in the distributors’ warehouses in August.
Second, it’s good to see that they won’t be calling it “D&D Next” any more. It’s just plain D&D. So I guess that means it’s safe to start calling it 5th Edition now. So let it be written, so let it be done.
Finally, the price. A lot of people have been… um, expressing their opinions… on the retail price point of $49.95 for the Player’s Handbook. Presumably the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide will be the same. While that is definitely more expensive than the $34.95 retail price of the core books for 4th edition, it actually doesn’t compare too unfavorably with the buy-in price of the original AD&D books in 1979, once you account for inflation – $125 in today’s dollars.
Add to that the fact that there will inevitably be discounts at places like Amazon and B&N. Just look at the screencap from B&N to the left – 25% off. And Amazon will probably go even lower. Now, there’s no denying whatsoever that the availability of online discounts is going to hurt brick and mortar game stores. But that seems to be less of a problem with the retail price than it is with the existence of online discounts in the first place; people who are price-conscious are going to go online whether the retail price is $49.95 or $39.95. And most of the ones who are willing to spend the extra money just to patronize their FLGS are going to be willing to spend an extra $10 as well.
Plus there will almost certainly be a pdf version of the rulebooks available, now that WotC has decided to re-embrace ebooks through DNDClassics.com. Although you never know about that – they might get it in their heads that the books will be pirated if they offer a pdf. Because, you know, not releasing pdfs yourself is a sure-fire way to make sure they never get put onto Bittorrent.