15. A Deal Will Be Reached Between Hasbro and Sweetpea That Will See a Warner Brothers D&D Movie Being MadeIt’s been widely recognized by Hollywood insiders that the Hasbro Inc. v. Sweetpea Entertainment case is actually a struggle between the two powerhouse movie companies looking for their next major franchise: Warner Brothers and Universal Pictures. On the heels of a depressed year at the box office it seemed that the two companies had dug in and were ready to fight tooth and nail for what, potentially, could be the next big, fantasy franchise. After all, Dungeons and Dragons features all the hallmarks of the Lord of the Rings, Hobbit, and Harry Potter franchises with thirty years of its own distinctive brand featuring modules, novels, comics and a complex lore to draw on. It seems that this glut of material was what inspired Warner Brothers executives to have a screenplay written, tentatively titled “Chainmail,” by David Johnson. This script was a hit behind the Warner Brothers walls and had the studio looking to make a movie based on the world’s most well-known role-playing game, but there were complications. Hasbro had come to the conclusion that the previous rights owner, Sweetpea Entertainment, no longer possessed the rights to making Dungeons and Dragons films and sold those rights to Universal. Sweetpea didn’t see things that way and sold their rights to Warner Brothers for $4 million (which is a pretty good deal considering they originally got the rights for $15,000).
Currently the case is playing out behind the scenes with little information being released publicly since the case ended in late September, 2014. My prediction is that a deal will be struck that allows Warner Brothers to get the movie made – which will be a very good thing for all of us. Warner Brothers has been responsible for some great nerd movies like: the Harry Potter Franchise, the Batman Franchise (especially the Christopher Nolan re-launch run), The Lego Movie, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the 300 films, the Sherlock Holmes franchise with Robert Downey Jr., and the Hobbit trilogy. The respect and money that Warner Brothers has been putting into their big, nerdy movies has turned them into the second best company for films we love (solidly behind Disney’s Buena Vista subdivision which has brought the Marvel Movies to life in a magnificent fashion). It’s in the best interest of all parties to strike a deal with the studio positioned to create a solid, powerful franchise that will not only raise awareness of the brand, but do so in a way that doesn’t make us all hide our heads in shame.
14. Paizo Will Fall Back to the Number 2 Position in Sales in ICv2’s RankingsAfter nearly two years of Wizards of the Coast putting out practically nothing 2014 saw the release of a new edition which has been highly praised across the board. With three major releases in the last half of 2014 it is a foregone certainty that Paizo will slip from the number one position in the ICv2’s Rankings during the early part of 2015. This reclaimed dominance will be tentative for much of the next few years as Wizards of the Coast and Paizo will trade back and forth between first and second position depending on their release schedules; however, in the end Wizards of the Coast, bolstered by a successful movie franchise and game releases will see Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition firmly established as the number one product in role-playing games.
13. The New Version of the OGL Will Come Out in the Summer of 2015While it has already been confirmed that Wizards of the Coast will be releasing a new OGL the date has been up in the air. After staring into the void of the internet I can confirm that the OGL will appear in the summer of 2015, most likely early summer. The timing of this release is not a mistake in the eyes of Wizards of the Coast’s corporate headquarters as they’re looking to give Third Party Publishers enough time to put out their Fifth Edition products for GenCon 2015. However, much to the chagrin of Wizards of the Coast, the summer release will not provide most publishers with an opportunity to put forth their best efforts and many will be unable to have Fifth Edition products available for the convention season – let alone GenCon2015.
12. Palladium Books Will Deliver the Second, and Final, Wave of Their Long Delayed Robotech RPG Tactics by July 2015After a nearly two year delay that saw manufacturing errors, Customs inspections, dock fires, shipping delays (literally ships that were delayed in crossing the Pacific), and an aggressive release date that ultimately proved ill-advised Palladium Books will successfully deliver their final wave of theRobotech RPG Tactics by July 2015 in order to have the finalized product at GenCon2015. With the delivery of this final installment Palladium Books will begin to show a marked difference in how they set up their production goals, moving from specific dates and months as they have done throughout much of their past, to a more generalized quarterly schedule that will help them break the reputation for always being delayed in every product they produce. The release of the final wave will also free Palladium Books to use their massive display for Robotech RPG Tactics that they intended to use in their GenCon2014 booth. Emboldened by this opportunity Kevin Siembieda, publisher and owner of Palladium Books, will push hard to see that this year’s GenCon for Palladium will be more successful than any in history with more games, demos, and products available than ever before - including a deluxe anniversary edition of the Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game (which is the best game Palladium Books has ever produced).
11. Wizards of the Coast Will Produce More Products than Have Been Announced in 2015So far only two products have been officially announced for the Dungeons and Dragons line in 2015: the Dungeon Master’s Screen and a R.A. Salvatore book, Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf. However, we also know that two books will be coming out for the new adventure path, Elemental Evil. These will not be all the products released by Wizards of the Coast this year. I predict that we will see a deluxe compendium volume for the Tyranny of the Dragons adventure path with all the errata corrected. We’ll also see a new Dungeons and Dragons related video game and app. Dragon and Dungeon magazines will make their return no later than GenCon 2015 but not in a form that we’re typically used to. There will also be at least one new board game, more miniatures released though their partnership with Gale Force Nine, and we’ll see all the back issues of Dragon and Dungeon magazines slowly making their way onto DnDclassics.com as the full catalogue continues to make its way there.
I also see two other major products coming forward in 2015 for Wizards of the Coast. The first will at the least be announced for 2016, and may come out this year: a new setting. Whether this new setting will be a rehash of one of the classic settings or something entirely new (highly doubtful) remains to be seen; but you can expect for it to be coming as Wizards has confirmed that other settings will be coming along for Fifth Edition and nothing so far has appeared. The second major product will be the start of a series of pdf exclusive releases of Wizards of the Coast acquired non-Dungeons and Dragons related properties. The catalogue for Wizards of the Coast is so deep that sitting on it makes no sense – especially now that D&Dclassics.com has proven itself as a viable way to make a profit on old products again. There is no logical reason why they wouldn’t begin to release some of the more popular titles in their non-Dungeons and Dragons catalogue, such as Top Secret and Boot Hill, and make a profit on them.
10. Fantasy Flight Games Will Increase Their Market Share In 2015Fantasy Flight Games has firmly established itself as the number three company in the role-playing game market with its fantastic Star Wars and Warhammer lines of role-playing games; but its recent merger with Asmodee Group has caused some onlookers to question whether this signals a decline in their participation in the market as happened to other role-playing game companies when they joined larger corporations. By and large this worry is misplaced in regards to Fantasy Flight Games and Asmodee Group due to the nature of their merger (which could be thought of more as a partnership than as a larger corporation swallowing up a smaller one). My prediction is that with Asmodee Group’s larger market presence you’ll see Fantasy Flight Games products appearing far more frequently in Europe and in particular see their board games’ and collectible card games’ market shares expand. Additionally Asmodee Group’s larger market presence and Fantasy Flight Games proven track record with licensed properties will see new at least one new licensed property being produced by Fantasy Flight Games (most likely a collectable card game but due to the success of Star Wars a role-playing game is not out of the question).
9. Role-Playing Games Will See Drastically Less Coverage in 2015Without question 2014 had more news coverage surround the hobby that at any time in recent memory (and arguably since the 1980s Satanic Panic). This increased coverage was mostly centered on Wizards of the Coast new edition of Dungeons and Dragons and the 40th Anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons. 2015 has neither of those events looming and no major revisions waiting to launch. Instead we have a market, while steadily changing in the content being produced, that is much as it looked in 2013. My prediction is that while there will be the occasional articles that feature stories about role-playing games that most of the industry will find their coverage slipping back from major news outlets to its regular avenues. This will actually be a good thing in the upcoming year as it will allow for our hobby to further disentangle itself from other gaming hobbies that have brought such notoriety this year and allow each of the major publishers to come up with a better strategy for getting the word out.
8. The RPG Market Will See a Slower Growth Rate in 2015While 2014 continued the trend of increased sales in the industry 2015 will see that turn to a much slower growth. While new products will continue to be released fears of economic instability, terrorism, and the like will see sales in Europe decline while sales in the North America will fall due to increase gas prices, economic uncertainty, and an ever rising price tag on print products. I expect that the larger publishers will to continue moving towards online exclusive content with print-on-demand at a significantly higher price. This seems to have become a winning strategy for smaller publishers and it’s only a matter of time before the ‘big boys’ begin to adopt the practice to increase profits and lower their overhead (something Wizards has already done by reducing the size of their Dungeons and Dragons staff to 15 people).
7. This Year’s PAX Prime Live D&D Game Will Include a New PlayerSince the beginning of the PAX Prime Live D&D Game the Penny Arcade Crew has been joined by a new party member three times. Wil Wheaton joined Penny Arcade during the first PAX event (the second Acquisitions Inc. Adventure) and would go on five more adventures with the group before Patrick Rothfuss would join for a single adventure. Since then Morgan Webb has been at the table for the past two adventures and it my prediction that she will not join the crew this year. While she has been a welcome and enjoyable addition to the party with so few major news stories surrounding the game this may be the time that Wizards of the Coast goes out and gets a Hollywood movie star with an outspoken enjoyment for the game. My guess is that if Morgan Webb does not rejoin the team, as I predict, that Wizards of the Coast will offer the position to Vin Diesel as a way to bring some needed publicity to the game.
6. Wizards of the Coast Will Dominate the 2015 Role-Playing Game Award CircuitThough it is incredibly early in the season to be saying that any one game will dominate the award circuit in 2015 I feel confident in predicting that Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition will do so. This is the game that has dominated much of the industry news throughout 2014 – which should have made it the game everyone was already over it when it finally released. Instead Fifth Edition has received incredibly positive reviews (scoring a 93% positive rating on the Dungeon Master’s Guide, a 90.5% positive rating on the Monster Manual, and a 92.5% positive score on the Player’s Handbook) and has brought a lot of older players back into the Wizards of the Coast fold. Whether you’re talking about the art, game mechanics, or the quality of the books as a whole it’s hard to imagine that any other game in the coming year will be able to unseat this book in any category it’s nominated in.
5. The Third-Party Publisher Scene Will Continue to See a Rise in Interest in 20152014 was definitely an excellent year for smaller, independent publishers as we saw Evil Hat Games’ FATE crack the ICv2 Rankings. This wasn’t just a coincidence brought on by Wizards of the Coast lack of new products but rather a sign of the growing influence independent games have on the market. Unlike previous cycles in the industry 2015 seems primed to see smaller publishers experience greater success. Kickstarter has allowed designers to market directly to their fan bases and online retailers like LuLu, RPGnow, Indie Press Revolution, and the like have made it easier than ever before to discover new games. The ease of purchasing and discovering new games is coupled with a growing emphasis in forums and blogs on showcasing great independent games. Together this seems to point to a banner year for indie game developers and for all of us having more games to play.
4. Any Official Movie Announced for Dungeons and Dragons Will Have Major Star Power AttachedWhether Universal or Warner Brothers ends up making a Dungeons and Dragons movie the project will have big names attached to it. Warner Brothers early efforts with Chainmail have seen names like Russell Crowe being attached to them, and if either company is to make this their next great franchise than they will have to move far beyond the meager efforts that have characterized the game’s movies so far. They will need to reach out to great directors and develop scripts that go beyond the dreadful tropes that crippled similar films. This means that you will see names of familiar directors and of major Hollywood stars because the only way that either company ends up with a film that will make them money is if they put out a top notch product. If you make this a Hercules fiasco then it will be a flop and it has too much potential for these studios to just throw their money away.
3. The Online Gaming Community Will Fragment Further Into More Insular Sub-CommunitiesOne of the most depressing trends of late 2014 has been the further fragmentation of our hobby into insular sub-communities. This seems to be symptomatic of all online communities lately as we’re seeing people enclosing themselves in these bubbles where reality doesn’t touch them. It’s already been expressing itself on forums for years as people have gravitated towards the ones that tend to agree with their own opinions, which is natural; but in recent months this seems to have been exacerbated by controversies that have happened both in our own hobby and outside it. Looking at the trends on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, and the more popular forums this does not appear to be a fad that will break in 2015. If anything it looks like it’s only going to get worse in the coming months. I desperately hope that this prediction comes false but recent events in the online community seem to argue strongly against it.
2. Kickstarter Will Increasingly Be Successful for Well-Known PublishersIn past years Kickstarter was a place where relatively unknown publishers and would be publishers were able to draw funds for their projects and get both innovative and derivative games funded. Then we experienced a large number of Kickstarters fail to deliver their projects and seemingly abscond with the money. Slowly but surely it has became clear to consumers that unless a company or developer had a reputation for completing their projects and understanding what it took to do so that investing their money in them was a waste of time. As a result in 2014 it became increasingly clear that publishers without a devoted fan base or established history were not getting funded as often as they had been in previous years. That will only become more pronounced in 2015 as awareness has spread throughout the community about failed Kickstarters and their creators.
1. Games Workshop Will Continue Losing Ground in 2015After five years of steady growth Games Workshop has seen a massive drop in their stock price that is the result of a significant drop in sales and profits over the last year and a half. The company entered into a major restructuring during 2014 but the end of the year saw the stock price in much the same condition as it started the year. To put that in perspective at its height Games Workshop’s stock traded at 810.50 GBp or $1,223.39 in September of 2013. As of the time of this writing it is trading at 429.00 GBp or $647.54 a share!
This downward trend is not going to be stopping anytime soon.
Games Workshop has set themselves into a situation where their miniatures are vastly overpriced since they have gone over to plastics and the paints that they sell, while usable, are inferior to other, cheaper, acrylics on the market. Many of their stores are manned by a single individual at a time now, which means that they customer service has gotten even worse. Whether you’re talking about the rule books, codices, magazines, miniatures, or their role-playing games (which are licensed to Fantasy Flight Games) as a consumer it feels like you’re getting taken advantage of because for so long you have been. Now they’re having to scramble to reestablish consumer and investor confidence which they may be able to do; but 2015 will be another year where they are simply trying to turn the tide as they find themselves with a new CEO, Kevin Rountree, and a dissatisfied consumer base. I hope that they’re able to turn around this company, but 2015 is going to be another hard year.