The pending arrival of the Fifth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons has brought up the question of how a resurgent D&D brand will affect the sales of the dominant Pathfinder role-playing game. The question was put directly to D&D Lead Designer Mike Mearls and CEO of Goblinworks Ryan Dancey at a PAX East panel, What Is Happening to Roleplaying Games? Goblinworks is the company creating the Pathfinder Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) and Dancey was one of the masterminds behind the Open Game License during his tenure at Wizards of the Coast. By the end of the discussion it became clear that all role-playing games have a common enemy.
Dancey explained that he saw the next few years as a battle between two giants (presumably Paizo and Wizards of the Coast) for dominance, with one "laying on the mat." Mearls disagreed, and used a story to illustrate. He used his experience with the game Car Wars to demonstrate what has changed about tabletop gaming in general, as reported by Morrus on ENWorld:
So I kinda have this theory I developed, I call it the Car Wars theory. So back in 1987 when I was 12 I bought Car Wars, it was the game I bought that month, and it had a vehicle design system. And I spent hours and hours and hours building new Car Wars vehicles and drawing maps and just playing with all the things around the game but very rarely able to actually play the game, because in order for me to play the game I had to get my parents to drive me to a friend's house and then get that friend to actually want to play Car Wars and then teach him all the rules and all that other stuff, right? And in addition to having Car Wars, and D&D and other stuff, I had my Nintendo and I had my Apple, too. And I bought new video games at about the same rate, maybe once a month if I did chores or I had a little part time job, I'd get maybe one new game a month.
So what changed? Mearls explains:
What has changed now is that a game like Car Wars can work very well if I'm not getting a new constant stream of games. Because I have all this time where I want to be gaming but I can't play a game, so I'll do all the stuff that exists around the game. But now thanks to, like, this phone... [something] smartphones, tablets, Steam, uh, XBox Live, PSN, I can buy games whenever I want. I mean, I was at the airport yesterday and I was bored so I bought Ten Million for my iPhone and I just started playing. Because I have other games on my phone, but I thought, nah, I'm sick of the games I have, I'm just gonna buy a new one. That would have been perfect time, back in the 80s, to like work on my D&D campaign, or read that month's D&D expansion, or work on new designs for my, uh, for for Car Wars.