Despite the immediate name recognition of many of its core games, the What’s Up with White Wolf panel was different in tone from the Wizards of the Coast keynote. For one thing, White Wolf's speakers had better facial hair--overall, the publishers of Vampire: The Masquerade, Vampire: The Requiem, and Exalted were more stylishly coiffed than the publishers of Dungeons & Dragons.
The White Wolf panel was far more informal than Wizards', taking part in a chilly side room, as opposed to a dressed up theatre. Rather than dazzling its audience with video editing and cardboard owlbears, White Wolf trusted a blurry projector and the force of its speakers personalities. It was a less scripted event, with more chances for audience interaction and the sort of hyper-focused interactions between fans and creators that conventions excel at delivering. The jokes were spontaneous; it felt more like a presentation by a group of weird friends than weird, showy uncles.
White Wolf's core message centered around how they were responding to the change in the RPG publishing market by embracing e-publishing and Kickstarter campaigns. By merging with CCP, they were able to free themselves from messy physical distribution networks. Moreover, they could avoid situations where they were forced to publish low-quality sourcebooks in order to keep paying their employees.
Better yet, editors wouldn't have to resort to trickery to keep their books on schedule. During an unspecified period in White Wolf's past, employees came up with several tactics to delay truck drivers until their books were ready to ship. One time, an employee engaged the driver in a warehouse basketball game until the necessary art resources were ready to ship. Another time, an employee parked his car in front of the FedEx truck and refused to move it until the the late product could be loaded.
The next step in White Wolf's publishing strategy is in the hands of Onyx Path Publishing. Onyx Path has purchased White Wolf's Scion and Trinity Universe Gamelines; it has also licensed their New World of Darkness, Classic World of Darkness, and Exalted lines. In effect, White Wolf is a brand name under new management.
What this means for gamers is a change in philosophy. White Wolf won't be churning out books as fast as in the past. Instead, they're hoping to focus on new ideas and avoid diluting the focus of each game line.
Regarding their future plans, Rich Thomas, Creative Director had these tidbits to share: Exalted "has evolved to such a piled on, bolted on" system that there's no way to fix it in its current state. The forthcoming third edition was the only option given the scattered nature of what the game had become. The new edition of Exalted, like many of White Wolf's forthcoming products, will have a deluxe version obtainable only through Kickstarter.
Kickstarter is playing a major part in White Wolf's plans for the coming year. Thomas appreciates the site because it provides an easy way to prove what the fans want. Better yet, it gets the staff to create a conversation with the fans. It's an outreach that's also proven to be a moneymaker. White Wolf is still looking for the right balance for fans interested in "being part of the process and having fun." Thomas explains, "You don't have to spend your rent check [...] but wouldn’t it be a lot of fun?"
Kickstarter campaigns also allow White Wolf to play with the idea of releasing limited edition updates of games that wouldn't sell particularly well on the mass market. If the Kickstarter campaign for the 20th anniversary edition of Mage: the Awakening does well, it could open the door for an cleaned up edition of Changeling: the Dreaming. This increased focus on consumer demand is a big experiment, but everyone in the room seemed excited rather than panicked or depressed.
The panel ended with a quick mention of the World of Darkness MMO, which has been teased for years: it's still happening, but nothing more can be said at this time.
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