June’s Ampersand article talks about upcoming exclusive content and debut content in D&D Insider. Exclusive content is only available to subscribers to D&D Insider. It will not appear in any core rulebooks or supplements. Debut content is slated to appear in an upcoming product, like next years Player’s Handbook 3. It will appear up to a year in advance of being published.
I am not sure how I feel about the exclusive content. This may sound weird coming from me, since anyone who listens to the Lords of Tyr podcast knows that I often have said that D&D Insider needs more content to be successful. After all, more content means more perceived value and more perceived value leads to more subscribers.
There are several flaws with the concept of exclusive content though. To illustrate my point I will talk about the upcoming exclusive race and class mentioned in Ampersand: the revenant (an exclusive race) and the assassin (an exclusive class).
At first blush, making this content exclusive to D&D Insider seems like a great idea. After all, the only way you will be able to play a revenant assassin in your game would be to have access to D&D insider. As a result it should increase the perceived value of the D&D insider.
The problem is that they are building a wall around that content. PHB 3 will contain no revenant feats. Martial Power 3 will contain no additional builds or powers for the assassin. As a result, these races and classes will not grow the way that non-exclusive content will. This will eventually become noticeable, especially with the 4E “everything is core” philosophy.
I suppose it would be possible for D&D Insider to add feats, powers, and builds for the exclusive races and classes as the new books are released. The problem is that as the exclusive content grows, so do the man hours required to do this. This will quickly become untenable to maintain.
With this in mind, Bill Slavicsek may still be right and the revenant may be “all the rage” when it debuts. I just doubt that it can have any staying power while walled off from the rest of game.
On the other hand, I think the debut content is a great idea. Since it will eventually see publication, it avoids the problem of being walled off. It is content that they are developing anyway, so it has very little added cost in man hours. It also makes good marketing sense since it helps develop buzz for the upcoming product through word of mouth. Not to mention that the long lead time in print publications mean that debut content would normally be sitting around for months with no additional development anyway!
So more debut content and less exclusive content please. Trust me D&D Insider, with a healthy diet of debut content and avoidance of exclusive content quackery, every thing will be fine.