I‘m sure you know by now, but the D&D minis line has been officially discontinued by WotC.
To me, that won’t change anything. I have not bought a single pack of D&D minis (since 2003), all those I owned came from either prize packs or friends giving me stuff. I paint my own minis something I really enjoy doing. So the plastic pre-painted minis were not for me. I knew many friends who really enjoyed them and used them, and frankly it made the game more attractive… Colorful minis look nicer than a dice, a coin, a jelly bean or a Hello Kitty key chain. Don’t laugh, I saw it.
After many, many rather unsuccessful attempts at bringing miniatures to market for D&D, Ral Partha, Chainmail, and other partnership never seemed to work for them. Whereas other companies, such as Reaper Minis, made some very nice minis, they were not being official D&D miniatures. In 2003 they found a format that worked, and it took off like a cannon. The first collectible sets offered both monsters and PCs. The fact that they were collectible – with hidden content added to their attraction. I remember days when we would hold LG weekends at Valhalla's and they would sell out of any minis they had as people bought them by the dozen.
I didn’t buy them, but liked the fact that others did. GMs now had entire collections of representative miniatures. It kept my hobby going and local hobby store owners fed. Somehow I managed to get a few minis myself, through a series of events. I still own most of the dragons I had. Their dragons were well-sculpted and awesome. (See this post on dragons for more thoughts I have about them). The fact that I did not care for the 4e green dragon doesn’t change the fact that I still own one.
When 4e came out, they announced the end of the D&D minis tournament format. Again, I didn’t really care because I didn’t participate in it. Then they canned the format of minis they had. WHAT A MISTAKE! I thought. They re-formatted the line to offer PC boxes (3PC / box) and monster boxes (8 monster / box). While I am not privy to the exact number, I am pretty sure that the numbers were nowhere what they been a few months before.
As a player, I could look at the box of minis (because they’re of clear plastic) and buy only the box that has the character that fits me best. I don’t have to buy any monster, and even have 2 spare characters I can either trade or make new characters with. Similar to the Reaper model, but with minis with terrible paint jobs… Why would I buy that, when I can buy more minis from the Heroscape set for about the same amount…
Now that I’ve ranted about this…
If there is one thing that WotC has taught me is not to underestimate them. They are the kings of the gimmick and if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. I fully expect them to come up with some new mini deal/ scheme. Anything they can sell with the brand, they do.
Perhaps they are planning on doing something like Paizo did with their iconic characters: license them to a minis company. Wouldn’t be a bad idea... Perhaps even link further with Heroscape? It would make D&D minis available in Wal-Marts and other such big stores. Give the brand more exposure.
Perhaps come up with a new D&D cartoon deal and sell toys based on the cartoon. Hopefully it won’t be as bad as the cartoon from the 1980s, but you never know. It might definitely be a way to re-brand D&D to another generation. With the popularity of The Clone Wars, Fox’s Animation Domination (The Simpsons and Family Guy), South Park and Adult Swim on Cartoon Network… There might be something there.
I will wait and see. Lucky for me, I have all the minis I need… until I go to my FLGS and buy more…