This is exactly the same pattern that GW has taken. It seemed to work - for awhile, at least. However, GW's been suffering lately. So is it really a tactic that works?
I think the emphasis is appropriate. By Wizards own admittance, over half the people who started playing D&D 3.x are no longer playing it anymore. WotC though is after something different (something which I don't think they can get at...). They want the fat kid who plays the PS3 everyday. It is easier to sell to them than it is to sell to others. By recycling the rules every couple years, they can take better control over the small resale market of the books. By using this sales strategy, they can be certain that when the fat kid gets bored with the archaic PnP games and goes back to killing hookers in the streets of Liberty City...they don't have to worry about him selling his books to the next door neighbor.
Wizards problem with us old farts is we like the games we play and are not normally impressed with the shiny new stuff. They actually have to work a bit harder to provide content in order to get our dollars. As opposed to reformatting the same rules...again...they might have to use a creative team (or one hell of a guy) to produce a product which enhances the games we enjoy playing - that costs more, takes more time and ultimately is more risky...plus they can't charge a monthly fee (did away with Dragon and Dungeon magazines and are replacing them with something which costs more than both of them together and you don't actually get anything tangible for when in a years time WotC hack that bit out due to lost profits).
I contend that it doesn't - at least not in the long haul. I accept that companies need to re-do the rules every now and then to re-vitalize sales, however, I think it's possible to do so in a manner which doesn't alienate long time players. And I think that it's important that a company doesn't completely alienate it's long time players.
I think this is a bit easier to do for miniatures companies than rpg companies, though. All a miniatures company has to do is make sure that they don't completely invalidate the armies long time players have built by doing stupid things like changing basing standards, or eliminating certain model types from a given army list. From an RPG standpoint, how do you re-do the rules without invalidating large portions of the previous game? Depends on the system, nad what design compromises you're willing to make.
But back to why I think it's important for a game company to recognize its long time players, despite the fact that they aren't spending as much money as the new player - because they're the best advocate of the game to new players. They're the ones who are going to get the new guy excited, give them the advice on what to buy and build, and keep the game moving forward. Their word of mouth has a powerful impact on your sales.
But word of mouth goes both ways. Piss off too many of the old-timers, and your reputation will suffer. Maybe not at first, but over time, as you piss off the "next generation" you suckered in, you gain an ever growing number of disgruntled ex-players.
I also contend that hurts the hobby overall, as well. The guy who doesn't buy into the next version of the game is just as likely to move onto another hobby instead. I mean, why bother to invest in yet another game system when you can get into something else - be it something more consistent like model railroading or mountain climbing(for those looking for long term) or just different, like video gaming.
I don't know the answer, nor where the balance is between old and new, but I definitely think that GW blew it, and WotC seems to be headed down the same path.
So what are your thoughts?