I really am not trying to pick on TSR, but I often find myself looking at companies and examining business decisions they made, and playing monday morning quarterback.
And make no mistake, that's what I'm doing. It's a lot easier for me to make these calls and I'm probably wrong anyway ;)
And in a way, this is another appendage to my "Thoughts on TSR" post in which I remarked that TSR seemed to purposely try NOT to give their customers what they wanted.
Does anyone remember when TSR had the Conan license?
To my mind, of all the inexplicable decisions TSR made in NOT exploiting its game engine, the most successful game engine on the market at the time, and maybe of ALL time, nothing is more glaring than the fact that they had the Conan license, at the HEIGHT of the popularity of the Arnold Swarzenegger movies and released a box set game for it using...
A percentile dice system, no character classes. The rules amounted to 32 pages. The rest of the box set was information about Hyboria.
The game failed miserably, at which point TSR produced some modules based on Robert E Howard books, containing D&D versions of Conan characters, at which point they allowed the license to lapse.
There are many reasons to make a Conan game non-D&D if you are TSR.
Those that spring to mind:
1. David Cook, who Monte Cook described as "the rock star of TSR" just wanted to create his own game. And had enough mojo internally to get it done.
2. The powers that be at TSR were afraid their IP D&D worlds would be overshadowed by Hyboria and would no longer be the default world for D&D games.
I call this the "let's kill Greyhawk because we don't entirely own it" theory of TSR management.
3. They really felt D&D was bad game engine for Conan.
I call this the "we couldn't find our asses with both hands and the Hubble Telescope" theory of TSR management.
4. The RE Howard estate would not allow TSR to release a full-fledged Conan game for the D&D engine.
I call this the "no one fucking understands the insane demands of Cthulhoid Cultists who own IP rights and TSR should never have signed this crazy deal" theory of TSR management.
Regardless of which of these theories you subscribe to, nowhere will you find "our customers were clamoring for a Conan game that had a system incompatible with the TRUCKLOAD of sword and sorcery stuff we'd already bought from you".
In other words, while I don't know why they DID release Conan as a completely new game system, I know why they didn't.
They didn't have the interests and desires of their customers foremost on their minds.