Wizards of the Coast has announced changes to its Dungeons and Dragons Encounters organized play program, both in costs and format.  Beginning in August with the Murder in Baldur’s Gate campaign, WotC will be requiring game stores (or DMs) to purchase a $34.95 off-the-shelf book to run their in-store play program, where previously they had provided adventure modules free with the Encounters kit.  The campaign kit itself, which remains free, still contains promo dice, player maps, NPC cards, advertising posters and instruction documents.  But as the Website solicitation states, “Instead of providing an adventure in the kit, Dungeon Masters now use the for-sale product …this means that Dungeon Masters will need to have a copy of the adventure product for the 13-week season.”  
Murder in Baldur’s Gate, which streets August 20, is a hardcover campaign guide for the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. It features a 64-page setting guide and 32-page adventure book as well as a four-panel, foldout DM screen.  
Murder in Baldur’s Gate is the first adventure in The Sundering, a major Forgotten Realms editorial event that incorporates six novels in addition to adventures (see "'D&D Next' Keynote").  Players and DMs will be able to influence the future of Forgotten Realms by reporting the results of this Encounters campaign on a special Facebook app.
There are changes to the format of Encounters as well.  Previously, the weekly modules, designed around the campaign theme, were essentially one-offs--a player could miss a session and jump back in the next week without a problem.  With the new, more structured continuity of a campaign guide, such irregular attendance becomes more difficult.  
Also, Murder in Baldur’s Gate is listed as being compatible with 3.5E, 4th Edition and D&D Next.  Previous Encounters had been for players of the current, 4th, edition, although WotC had begun issuing conversion notes for D&D Next players earlier this year (see "'D&D Next' for 'D&D Encounters'"). 
The changes to Encounters, while transferring some cost to the store or Dungeon Master, may tie the campaign more specifically to a product for non-DMs players to purchase and drive more regular play.  And this specific campaign may attract more attention because of the association with The Sundering.  It’s certainly not unusual for there to be some cost associated with running organized play events; it remains to be seen whether the combination of these changes will be a net positive for Dungeons and Dragons.