Exalted YEA! 4e, not so much.
Recently, White Wolf's Exalted: Dreams of the First Age and Wizards of the Coast's fourth edition of D&D have completely sold out in their first runs. This shows there is definitely still a desire for fantasy roleplaying products in the world today. I think this is for the forseeable future, but I have no data to back that up. I just think it's a pleasant thought in this time of gloom and doom. Oh, and Dark Heresy by Mongoose also sold out on its first print run. I know that the fourth edition of D&D will get a second print run for sure.
I assume you mean sold out to retailers? Hopefully it's not a launch like some of the recent consoles where you just couldn't get one...
Still...I'm not sure I would dally on purchasing the books unless you are prepared to wait until August for the second printing. If demand is high (and it likely will be), then they could become quite scarce in certain markets.
In Vista's case, the great number of pre-sales includes the tremendous number of PCs getting Vista installed on them by default thanks to long ago negotiated contracts between Microsoft and manufacturers. RPGs have no equivalent to that. Store owners are not forced to order the book by anyone other than their customers.
What is true, is that internet sales are not enough to yet say that 4th edition is a hit. But they are powerful prognostic indicator. WotC obvious thought they and distributor orders were powerful enough that they immediately ordered another print run.
I expect the core books to do VERY well. What will be the real test is the adventures and the supplements that follow. For D&D 4th to be a real success it needs to keep moving books.
While there are some gamers who find their Perfect Rules somewhere, or house-rule a system until it becomes their Perfect Rules, a larger number will look to upgrade and improve their experience by moving to newer versions, or different games entirely.
This may be hard to believe, but for those of us who don't have the time to tweak rules, or who don't want to write something new from the ground up, there are a few people who do such things for a living. In order for them to do it for a living, they need to get paid. To attract people to their product, said people eschew mimeographed pages in favor of well-bound books (Mongoose not withstanding), with attractive layouts, professional or at least semi-professional artwork, and lucid prose. To aid in such efforts, professional game writing people partner with (*gasp*) non-gamers like graphic designers, artists, and editors. Even more incredibly, they also rely on "marketers", who think up the best ways to sell their game books to other people, and "investors" who provide up-front money for all this activity. And here's where it gets weird: in order for the game-writing people to write games for a living, they have to sell enough books not just for themselves, but all these other people involved ... *and* with enough left over to reward the investor-people and fund the next set of books.
I know it's a lot to take in at once. Breathe deeply. I had trouble with the attractive well-bound books part. I still don't get why someone would want more than mimeographed pages, with those lovely incomplete and run-on sentences, those provocative typos made with an actual typewriter, that poorly but lovingly drawn line-art, and above all the intoxicating smell with the purply print that smudges on your fingers ... but some people are just strange.
"On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question."
- Charles Babbage (1791 - 1871)
As to the perfect system, I have yet to see it. 4e will have people complain about the rules not working right to the same degree that every other edition has had people complain.
D&D by the nature of the game is a complex system. I seriously doubt it will ever be perfect. However if they keep making major changes like the jump from, 3e to 4e it will never even approch that. 4e is a zero start. Not an improvment of 3.5 They have said as much. I question the over all wisdom of such a move. I would be looking for gaffs and bobbles in the 3.5 system and smoothing them out. Make my book a must have to everyone playing the 3.5 game. Not throw everything they have so far in their face and demand they start buying the endless book-o-rama all over again.
All versions of D&D have been money motivated. Even the hand-mimeographed, hand-stapled, hand-stickered brown box edition released in 1974 existed only because Gary Gygax thought it would be well received. You can go over to dragonsfoot.org and dig through the Gary Gygax Q&A section if you don't believe me. He was quite direct about this.
As far as 4th edition game designers, it is simply factually wrong to state they aren't trying to fix 3.5.
"3e got a lot of things right, but anyone who has played it for a time knows that it gets things wrong. There are also legacy issues with the game that have persisted unquestioned for years. 4e is all about taking the things that work in D&D, keeping them in the game, and fixing everything else." -- Mike Mearls, quoted from EN World
Though clearly you disagree on their path, it is also obvious that they too were trying to fix 3.5 and make it a better game.
I'm not saying 4th edition is a definite improvement. I still don't own the books. I have only read the very incomplete quick start rules in 'Keep on the Shadowfell' (a very mediocre module to be sure). But they were definitely trying to improve the game of D&D. Ask me in a week or two if they succeeded.
HARRY DRESDEN — WIZARD
Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.
I agree, Webhead. I'd really like to WANT to play D&D again. That would be nice, seriously. I've been burned out on it for years. Not that it's not a bad game, but I got tired of it (running it for at least a year on end). I started out with D&D as well. It makes me feel jaded, but there's so much more out there to try now!
I guess the designers wanted people to actually play D&D without house rules and have it not be a nightmare. Playing 3.5 as written is a game most of us don't want to play- the RPGA uses RAW, and I have not heard good things about it.