It doesn't surprise me that WotC is moving on the online market, but it doesn't really thrill me either. After watching their previous attempts *snigger* at software I don't think there's very much at stake here. Three good reasons why I wouldn't buy a WotC VTT:
1.) Only core/SRD product in it at first. One major option is that at launch it'll only have core/Greyhawk books, as they'd be the core essentials needed to start the game. However, I'd be truly surprised if the Realms and Eberron didn't make it to the VTT eventually. But Wizards will start it off with the content from the PHB, DMG, MM, and possibly DMGII/PHBII. Why? Because...
2.) It'd be extra-profitable to sell additional books as "updates" or whatever. At least, that's what they did with e-tools, and this is pure speculation on my part, but we all know their business decisions are sometimes a bit less rational than others. At best, there might be a "complete VTT" edition with most or all of the rulebooks costing a little more. At worst, I foresee regular updates to their VTT so every Wizards fanboy can buy up all the Complete books.
See their policy on ebooks to see my logic here--34.95$ for Frostburn in 8mb electronic form! The people at Wizards' have some strange ideas on how to market things, and since it hasn't changed despite a loud outcry from customers, I don't see much change when they go to VTT's. My incentive to buy ebook at 40$: 0.0%. My incentive to buy hard copy for 40$: marginally higher. And yet many people are fully willing to fork out the 40$ for an ebook. I'm sure they'd be willing to do the same for a VTT rules set as well.
3.) Compatibility and upgrades. This is the one that bothers me the most, mainly because it's most realistic. Will WotC allow others to buy into their VTT, or better yet, will their offers be profitable enough so the other companies will buy in? Some of my favorite settings are Scarred Lands, Arcana Evovled and Ravenloft, made by Wizards' old arch nemesis, White Wolf (via their Sword and Sorcery and Malhavoc Press labels). I already know I won't be able to play, say, Shadowrun 4th, Alternity, or Deadlands on any WotC VTT, but what's the likelihood I'd see Scarred Lands stuff on there?
This also brings up user creations. It'd be suicide for WotC to market something like this without the ability to factor in house rules, varient rules, Dragon/Dungeon stuff, etc. On the other hand, if #2 is true, would they want Dragon Magic rules sets floating around before they could market it? And then there's the possibility for legal disputes, like if someone made a ruleset for RIFTS, which would make Palladium fight to the death to defend their wonky rule that all user creations are theirs as well (they had huge fights with Lucasfilm for Star Wars/RIFTS crossovers on the internet, and with WotC before it bought TSR because Wizards' made a sourcebook with stats for 10 major RPG systems). The main way around this is to make it only d20 compatible (bleah), which brings back the idea of a "complete Wizards d20 library VTT" that has all the latest books in it for 60$ or whatever.
Overall I think that's the most logical of all the options--a d20-only VTT that comes with a large chunk of Wizards' back catalog. If it can't support user mods, people will cry bloody murder on them. That will probably also be the case if perspective VTT users have to pay exorbitant fees just to be a Swashbuckler or use Shadow Magic or some other small part of a 20$ download. But at the end of the day, it will sell--maybe not well, maybe not to critical acclaim or Ennies, but it will sell nonetheless.
I wouldn't mind having all the d20 hardbacks in VTT form, but I already have one d20-focused VT and really don't need to shell out money for another. Possibly they'll get around this by 1.) offering VT-switch incentives, or 2.) market it towards the crowd who don't already game online. My hunch is on the latter, though a subscription-based VT probably won't go over any better than a flat-cost one. FG and Klooge will have the run for their money since WotC has a HUGE fanbase to draw from, but FG and Klooge are both well enough entrenched to take a little beating, a lot less if WotC makes some of the aforementioned stupid decisions. Sadly I think the VT's which will be most affected will be the smaller ones, and those which don't draw from d20 as heavily--but at the same time, they should be somewhat protected as they wern't marketing towards the WotC forum fanboys anyway.
Digital Gaming Table, a program that allows you to play D&D using the Internet as your kitchen table, with a viewable play surface, dice rolling, virtual miniatures, and voice chat. Now you don't have to wait for your home gaming group to get together to play a game of D&D. You can still play your weekly face-to-face game, but now you can also play two or three more times a week by finding a game at the virtual table. Or, you might want to reconnect with your old gaming pals who long ago moved away-now you can all play together again on a regular basis! With this package, you get to play at the table 3 times per month."
I've read this three times, and really haven't seen where WotC says you can game online only three times per month, even though everyone else has. Once again, this is me assuming that the "two or three more times a week" was chosen as a "normal" number to make gamers look like rational people who spend their free time doing other, more mature, things
, and that the final "3 times per month" was referring to the three mentioned games earlier in the paragraph: real-life, online, and online with old friends (or something like that). Of course, I'm always willing to admit I'm wrong (except when I'm right), so I'll take a wait-and-see attitude... especially since a subscription that evens out to 2-3 plays per week sounds like a horrible toll on the gaming wallet, one that's nigh unmarketable.
Just my unnecessary and overly long 0.05$.
Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. -- Mark Twain