4E WotC, DDI, 4E, and Hasbro: Some History - Page 4
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  1. #31
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    I think Hasbro did reacquire the rights to D&D video games.

    This seems to clarify, a bit, the relationship between Hasbro and WotC, Hasbro isn't totally controlling, but important decisions need approval. I realize things change all the time and so will this relationship.

    It also seems to add some explanation to the move to online tools vs tools users could walk away with. I wonder if, in part, essentials was an effort toward improving subscription rates. A sweeping change and/or addition to the rules not supported in the old tools in order to drive people to a subscription? It seems that DDI is much more of a prominent and important piece that needs to succeed than I had realized. I very much like the direction of the Essentials rules.

    And the pressure, to support that level of revenue and grow it way beyond that. That seems like a lot.

    Gah, and the tragedy, I always assumed it couldn't but have had a huge impact on such a small group of folks. Terrible.

    The numbers of DDI subscribers (66k?), it's the number of people in the DDI group on the forums. I tested it at a couple of points, as a DDI subscriber and forumite I was in that group, and out of the group once my DDI account expired. As a DDI subscriber and not a forumite I wasn't in that DDI group. That was when the numbers were 30-50k.
    Last edited by darjr; Friday, 6th January, 2012 at 05:15 AM.

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by OpsKT View Post
    But then what is the point of hiring back Monte Cook and all the polls in his articles? If not for 5th edition, are we looking at some kind of repacking of 4e/Essentials into one (not confusing and divisive) line? Or maybe a revision of the GSL to allow more 3rd party involvement in 4e, which could revitalize the line?
    Well, there isn't any sort of Unearthed Arcana book for 4e, just some articles in the e-magazine now and again. Maybe he was brought on to help with a project like that? That honestly makes more sense to me than a 5th edition does right now (and the research for it probably looks pretty much the same since Unearthed Arcana has always been about retooling the existing system into something different at a basic level).

    In terms of building a brand instead of a product, it's pretty easy to look at Pokemon and how well it succeeded there. It had a card game, a game boy game, other games for other platforms, a TV show, and a movie, and even right up until the movie happened a Hollywood bigshot said "yeah the movie will come out and that'll be the end of it". Obviously that was not the end of it and Pokemon spiralled into greater and greater success in the following years because it created a universe accessible from many points, not a product accessible only in a theater, or only in a video game, or only on TV. Years ago, back when Gary was still posting around on this very website, he advocated a similar "universe building" approach for the future of D&D; though it was obviously out of his hands at that point, I think he was on to the right idea.

    So, Hasbro's plan of building a "universe" around its core products is a smart one - even though movie tie-in games are (generally considered) terrible they keep making them so they must be doing something right, you know? Somebody earlier in the thread advocated the same approach applied to D&D and I couldn't agree more... but it sounds like Hasbro won't give it its chance to shine as a universe with multiple entry points until it makes some more moolah, and that's rather sad. I suppose blame the recession.
    Last edited by loksvassago; Friday, 6th January, 2012 at 08:28 AM.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by LightPhoenix View Post
    Easy problem first - Hasbro does not own the rights to make any D&D games, regardless of edition; AFAIK they still belong to Atari. They were sold off (via Hasbro Interactive) around the time Neverwinter Nights was made. So any further issues are a moot point - Hasbro can not make a D&D game.
    Hasbro re-acquired the D&D videogame rights in a settlement with Atari. It was late last year I believe.

    However, assuming Hasbro could reacquire the rights, a D&D video game would still face several challenges. Video game development costs money, and that expenditure is counted against income. So, for a game to move forward, the risk of the game failing would have to be relatively small, especially if the D&D brand is in such dire straits. MMOs in the current game climate are quite risky to finance, and a D&D MMO already failed once. So the likelihood of Hasbro giving the okay to one is next to none.
    Hasbro is not a video game studio, so it would be foolish for them to develop their own game. What they would do, is go out into the market and see what companies are out there, and who is interested in the D&D IP. Ideally, WotC should go to a promising young studio like Runic Games, who made the incredibly popular game "Torchlight", and offer them the rights to use the D&D brand name and IP in exchange for a modest share of profits. Or configure some other deal that is mutually beneficial. Though, you want to make money, the initial goal here is to rebuild the brand's stature in the PC/console market. The big money comes later, and a talented studio like Runic Games is a perfect partner with a proven track record, but who could benefit from leveraging the D&D IP with their already strong game engine.

    Similarly, the market for RPGs these days does not really have a cost-benefit ratio that would allow for Hasbro to develop another Baldur's Gate. To head off the obvious comparison, Skyrim did have a phenomenal release. However, Skyrim also had several points in its favor that a new RPG would not have, not the least of which is Bethesda's wealth of development time and talent, as well as their stability as a company.
    All the classic D&D games were successfully licensed to other studios. Hasbro never made any of those games directly. Nor should they. They are not a game studio.

    Now, that's not to say nothing could be done, but I think an MMO is too risky and a traditional RPG just won't pull the profit needed. However, it's possible that something along the lines of Magic Online could work with a little tweaking. A micro-transaction model where you buy modules to play with people online might work. It's risky, but WotC has direct experience via Magic: Online.
    I'm not a big MMO fan, and there are a lot of subpar MMO's out there, but they do make money. That said, if I were Hasbro, I'd partner with a promising young company like Runic Games that made the first Torchlight to earn enough funding for an MMO and go from there. Otherwise, I'd let companies come to me and listen to their pitches and choose the best one, or not. Realms, Eberron, and Dark Sun are all solid IP. I imagine you can find a partner willing to shoulder most of the risk and financial burden for access to that IP. And if not, then sit on it for now. Grow the D&D brands footprint in videogames first through quality console and PC games and then get into an MMO when the opportunity is right.

    You mean like what was announced at DDXP 2008 and subsequently never materialized? There's a reason it never did - historically, non-book D&D media just doesn't do well enough to justify the cost. Again, it's not impossible, but try convincing investors to put forth a bunch of money on a brand that hasn't done well outside of its niche.
    Sounded like the talks with Warner back in 2008 fell through. I don't know the details, but it should absolutely be revisited. A popular animated series would drive the brand in a way that nothing else could and would be a huge boost for all D&D products. HUGE boost.

    The thing that people don't get about brand marketing is that it is a symbiotic relationship. In other words, if the product you slap your name on sucks, then it lowers the status of your brand. If the product itself is good and popular, it actually strengthens the brand as a whole. The original Baldur's Gate games were amazing in their own right, not just because they had the D&D name on it. And because they were amazing, it raised the profile of D&D among video game players and also caused the reverse to be true. Games with the D&D name on it then got more attention and were more likely to sell because the previous games were so good.

    Making crappy B movies on the sci-fi channel, or authorizing that horrendous DL animated film a few years ago needs to end. Now. The D&D brand needs to be treated like the precious commodity it is. You need to pick and choose only the right projects and grow and nurture it carefully.

    If Hasbro came to me and said, DB, we like how you think. You get access to all of Hasbro and WotC's resources and employees, and 5 years to do whatever you want with the D&D brand. I guarantee I could turn it into at least $50 million business in that time, if not a full blown mega brand. I GUARANTEE IT. Thats how confident I am in the power of the IP that WotC is sitting on. I'm talking animated series, toy lines, TRPG, videogames, the works.

  4. #34
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    This puts a nice stake in the heart of 5e rumors, which makes me feel good. But it makes me worry about WotC/D&D.
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  5. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonblade View Post

    Making crappy B movies on the sci-fi channel, or authorizing that horrendous DL animated film a few years ago needs to end. Now. The D&D brand needs to be treated like the precious commodity it is. You need to pick and choose only the right projects and grow and nurture it carefully.

    If Hasbro came to me and said, DB, we like how you think. You get access to all of Hasbro and WotC's resources and employees, and 5 years to do whatever you want with the D&D brand. I guarantee I could turn it into at least $50 million business in that time, if not a full blown mega brand. I GUARANTEE IT. Thats how confident I am in the power of the IP that WotC is sitting on. I'm talking animated series, toy lines, TRPG, videogames, the works.
    I believe u DB, and here's why:

    D&D did this before, it can do it again. Back in the 80's they had the toys, 'video' games, coloring books, animated series, board games, even 'stickers' u could bake in the oven, what were those things called? Pretty much everything that could have the D&d name on it back then did, and it sold like hotcakes!

  6. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roland55 View Post
    Makes me wonder if I should "man up" and subscribe. BUT ... I don't even play 4e anymore.
    Nah. If you want to subscribe, then subscribe. But don't subscribe out of some notion of 'saving D&D' - it hasn't come to that pass yet, and even if it had a few extra subscribers here and there won't make any noticable difference. We would need a major push to make any difference.

    Quote Originally Posted by xechnao View Post
    If it does happen, it would rather mean that 4e's failure was not such a dramatic one.
    If it were done by any other company than Hasbro, 4e would be considered a runaway success. 4e is considered a failure by Hasbro only because it was given an impossible target to hit.

    (Of course, there's a flip side to that - without the backing of Hasbro, the DDI would have been an impossibility. Make of that what you will.)

  7. #37
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    Entering wild-speculation mode here.

    Hasbro doesn't focus on single items or game lines, but on brands.

    D&D is a brand, but - as opposed to licensed brands - has no external synergies like in marketing or brand-awareness. So D&D as a brand has to be developed by Hasbro-forces.

    The D&D brand traditionally consists of two lines: RPG and novels. These two lines will probably not achieve the critical revenue Hasbro demands for an active brand.

    One could either try to stretch oneself in order to reach this goal or add more lines to the brand. The first solution will probably be a hard fight which never ends.

    We have already seen two new lines, board games and DDI. Board games are an addition to the brand, while DDI tries to strengthen the RPG line.

    The traditional publishing model giving as a new edition of D&D (RPG) every few years does little to increase revenues of the line. It's more suitable to fight the loss of revenue caused by more and more specific products which find less and less buyers - a sign of an edition well endowed with all necessary and/or interesting books.

    WotC will have to add more new product lines to the D&D brand, which, all together, hopefully reach the goals.

    For D&D (RPG) to prosper, one can address the customers of other product lines in the brand. This will work better when D&D (RPG) can use synergies with these other lines.

    If some of the lines are computer-based or can be computer-supported, subscription model becomes more and more interesting. They'd allow for effortless cross-marketing between the lines.

    Edition numbers are a hindrance for the brand, as they divide it rather than strengthen it.

    So what are possible brand additions? TCG, MMO, for sure, but what else?

    Are there possible brand additions which provide continuous revenue as opposed to fads which earn truckloads of money in one year and next to nothing after that?

    Is the brand D&D strong enough to entice other companies to license it and to provide their own support for it?

    What role will the RPG department play if the D&D brand reaches its goals? Could they continue to be brand developers or would they be just users of the brand developed in other departments?

    Having just written this, it seems that the future of D&D (RPG) will change anyway. Either it'll get shelved together with the whole brand or it will have to be managed in a very different way. Both scenarios would mean that other companies would have to take over development and publishing of "traditional" RPGs. Interesting times, indeed...

  8. #38
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    What Ryan is describing seems a rather hopeless future for D&D.
    I do not know if it is actually true... but boy is it depressing.

    So, if I were Wotc here is what I would try to do:
    Publish 5e core as:
    1 player's box product that costs 29$, deals with classes from level 1 to level 10, includes dice and character sheets. It should be an excellent read.
    1 dm's box that includes world-building charts, treasure charts and monsters, a dm screen and an intro adventure. It costs the same as the player's box.

    See if I can make a clause to make sure that every retailer than wants to sell m:tg displays the two D&D core boxes in its store and be able to order, stock and sell D&D product if needed. I do not care if it is a comic store, a hobby store or a mass-market store. All should put the D&D products to display if they want to display and sell m:tg.

  9. #39
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    This has been an interesting read. I wasn't aware of the tragedy... so much about DDI makes a lot more sense in that light. Such an unfortunate turn of events...

  10. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    This just doesn't work.
    This has been the strategy used by TSR and WotC since D&D's inception. Do you honestly believe that 1e didn't have a board of directors saying, "We must earn X amount of money in Y amount of time,"?

    It seems to me that people operate on this romantic notion that D&D existed in a vacuum, untouched by corporate realities until the big, bad, meanie-heads at Hasbro summoned the Dark Forces of Accounting & Liability to destroy the dreams and ambitions of True Geeks everywhere.

    D&D was ALWAYS a business. And the facts of the matter are that D&D has NEVER been bigger than it is RIGHT NOW. Whether that translates into financial success is another matter entirely. I know that doesn't fit with the dreamy unreality of Real Roleplayers, but at some point everyone has to join the real world.

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