Wizards of the Coast had previously published the 3rd edition of the game, and the version 3.5 updates to third edition. Wizards of the Coast launched 5th edition, the successor to 4th edition, in summer 2014.
4th edition preview materials became available in 2007, followed by the release of the core rulebooks in June 2008.
A line of later 4th edition rulebooks containing simplified rules was called Essentials. Earlier 4th edition products were made compatible with Essentials via the Essentials update and Essentials update 2 documents offered as free downloads.
The 4th edition license for third party publishers originally contained a clause which required 4th edition compatible product lines to stop using 3rd edition's open license. Mike Lescault, community manager for Wizards of the Coast, denied that the clause was a "poison pill", and characterized it as a "conversion clause".
Nevertheless, in 2008, Paizo Publishing declined to extend their open source 3.5-compatible Pathfinder product line to be compatible with 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons rules, citing 4th edition's restrictive licensing. A number of other third party publishers followed suit.
In 2009, Paizo released a complete Pathfinder roleplaying game, based on version 3.5 of D&D, to compete with D&D's 4th edition. The two competing product lines being actively developed and published at the same time was sometimes described as fueling years-long edition wars between those preferring 4th edition D&D, and those preferring the 3.5 based Pathfinder. A 2012 third-party card game entitled Edition Wars satirized this competition.
Sales of the June 2008 set of core rulebooks exceeded Wizards of the Coast's expectations, requiring them to order additional books to be printed even before the books' release date. By third quarter 2010, however, sales of 4th edition products were tied with those of Paizo Publishing's Pathfinder, based on supplier interviews.
MMORPG designer Michael Zenke, guest blogging for Wired, gave a positive review of 4th edition, mentioning the lack of complicated mechanics such as 3rd edition's grappling rules, and the martial powers available to fighters being as interesting as magic has always been for spellcasters.
- ↑ 
- ↑ 
- ↑ Hamilton, Mary. "Dungeons and Dragons: could the Next version end the edition wars?". The Guardian. May 28, 2012.
- ↑ "D&D 4E Back to Press". May 30, 2008.
- ↑ "Top 5 RPGs--Q3 2010". October 7, 2010.
- ↑ Zenke, Michael. "New D&D Rolls a 20 for Playability". Wired. June 6, 2008.