Unfortunately, I was right about D&D’s digital future

Wizards of the Coast adopts a miserly version of preorder bonuses for its landmark book release.

Unfortunately, I was right about D&D’s digital future
Credit: Tyler Jacobson/Wizards of the Coast

It’s not exactly fun being right about industry trends, especially when your professional prognostication tends to skew pessimistic. And yet, here we are, looking at a chart of pre-order bonuses for Dungeons & Dragons2024 Player’s Handbook, squinting at the material difference between two different bundles and wondering why this must be the fate of a tabletop game about fantasy swordbastards and dark holes in the ground.

I first saw this pre-order bundle last weekend and sneered at the inclusion of a Gold Dragon miniature for Wizards of the Coast’s upcoming virtual tabletop (D&D Beyond is upselling people on digital gewgaws for a VTT platform that doesn’t even exist, yet!) But it was Timothy Linward over at Wargamer that connected the silly graphic with preorder bonus announcements within the video game industry. Plenty of blockbuster-producing studios, from Ubisoft to Sony, tantalize players into parting with another $60 (or $160) in order to secure bonus cosmetics, special in-game awards, and physical accouterments such as trophies, maps and enamel pins.

Graph breaking down preorder bonuses for D&D 2024 rulebooks
Credit: D&D Beyond/Twitter

Linward rightly points out that preorder bonuses began as a harmless but still annoying practice, a small plague we learned to tolerate among the deluge of marketing that normally accompanied big-budget games. Eventually, they propagated into a scourge of misdirection and egregious over-promising not only within video games but manga, collectibles and, now, tabletop. Imagine you’re shopping at D&D Beyond to purchase a rulebook in order to play an imagination game, which will run you $29.99 for a D&D Beyond-compatible download only (these prices are, of course, not printed on the graphic). But then you see all those X's and smaller numbers when compared to the two other bundles, and perhaps you begin to wonder, “Am I purchasing the intended Player’s Handbook? Or am I settling for an inferior product?”

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