Saturday, January 7, 2023

The OGL 1.1 from My Perspective as a FLGS Owner

First, we don't know if the leak of the proposed OGL 1.1 is actually real and until we all see it everything here is pure conjecture. However, I really think this the path Wizards of the Coast will pursue.

The main reason I'm processing it is that I have products both on the DMs Guild and on OneBookShelf using the OGL 1.0a for OSR products.

While the money I make helps me with Kickstarters and action figures I'm not going to create a headache for myself in any way. This is a hobby at best and not my livelihood, thankfully.

Second, I've dealt with Wizards of the Coast for close to twenty-five years as a vendor. I own two comic and game stores and I sell a lot of their products. Hasbro has spent the last five years or so trying to find their customers floors and ceilings. I've noticed the Magic: The Gathering team doing this in the last three years and I think they are now turning their attention to Dungeons and Dragons. 

The CEO of Wizards of the Coast was promoted to CEO of Hasbro earlier this year due to the unexpected death of the previous CEO and we also learned that WotC was responsible for 70% of their profit in 2021. Think about that for a minute, Magic and DnD made them more money than Transformers, GI Joe, Star Wars, My Little Pony, etc.

Hasbro was ecstatic with the millions of people DnD has brought in and its growth is important to them. Sadly, they don't realize that Critical Role did more for DnD than anything WotC did. They have projected that they can double their profits by 2025 from $1 billion to $2 billion, however Hasbro's earning report fell short of their goal which caused some concerns amongst their stockholders. Another complication occurred when they announced a Magic release that cost $1000 for four boosters packs and were only available through direct order from WotC, these cards are not playable in tournaments or organized play which led to Bank of America down grading Hasbro's stocks because they believed that WotC was trying to "kill Magic: the Gathering". 

WotC then had a "fireside" chat where they claimed everything was fine, that yes, some customers were "price sensitive" but everything was great. Additionally, they mentioned that 20% of DnD's fanbase are Dungeon Masters who account for 80% of their sales. They want to better monetized the other 80% of DnD's base. For December's Dragonlance release you could order a version direct from WotC and got access to it on DnD Beyond two weeks early. This echoes what they have done with HasbroPulse for toys and print on demand sets for Magic: the Gathering. 

The unusual part is that WotC used to be a distributor but converted that infrastructure to only fulfilling product to Amazon, Target, and Walmart about five years ago. I foresee, as demand grows for DnD fulfillment, that this will be a customer service challenge for them because a few of those Magic direct to consumer products are months late for fulfillment. They keep releasing several of those print on demand products every month and last year around 70 were released. Those sales are full profit for WotCs as there is no middle-man in that chain of sales while it also trains their customers to be fulfilled by them not a local store or an online retailer. It's ironic because part of Pathfinder 1E's success was their implementation of subscription services too so obviously, WotC was watching.

If this leak is real I think WotC has decided to gain more of that 80% of DnD's player money by trying to get royalties from publishers who use the OGL rather than make cool and interesting projects. They have data from 3E and 4E that told them multiple releases each month was competing with themselves so maybe this is their "killer app"? 

Royalties are an easy money grab and doesn't really affect most DnD players (who know little about what is going on by WotC). I also think that they might be content with the DMs Guild for 5E material but want to own any marketplace they develop for One DnD or "6E". I have a feeling that a benefit of using the OGL 1.1 could gain access to your material being available on DnD Beyond, which is huge for some publishers.

Hasbro wants to protect its IP and make sure that if something is cool they get access to it via the new OGL. We won't see another Pathfinder 1E or Critical Role without them getting some of that money.

At the end of the day Hasbro is a corporation with stockholders and it is their job to make those people as much money as possible and that is what they are going to do.

I'm uncertain how to proceed as a publisher but I'm currently thinking about altering all of my products to exist without the OGL and contact the publishers of the games they support to see if this is acceptable and if not, I'll pull them down until another solution presents itself.

I'm really torn about what is happening and the development of 1DnD. I think WotC is picking a fight with our whole industry but I don't think most DnD players are going to know about it. Yes, social media is prevalent but if you aren't looking for this kind of thing does it cross your radar?


Colin R said...

If popular streamers start experimenting with other game systems, their fans will hear about it. How many people watching *really* care what dice they're rolling? We might find out how many people watch Critical Role because they play D&D, and how many people play D&D because they watch Critical Role.

Travis Miller said...

Interesting post and falls in line with what I'm seeing and the conversations I've had with local LGS owners.

It is very important that the online commentators realize that most of the people playing 5E are ignorant about what is going on. It doesn't affect them all that much because they are primarily buying WotC stuff. Those are the people that WotC cares about. The rest of us are a rounding error.

LGS owners need to start looking for a way to bring in revenue from places other than WotC products. I see WotC looking to convert most of their business to direct to consumer, mass market, and digital distro. Will there be paper MtG and D&D books? Probably, but I think it is going to dwindle.

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