Ben Riggs Interview on the Death of the Golden Age

mamba

Legend
Nowadays though, I think most people are coming from video games because most kids start playing video games before ttrpg's.
there is a difference between ‘coming from X’ and ‘has done X before doing Y’

I am pretty sure I ate burgers before ever playing D&D, that does not mean I came to D&D because of them. The same is true for video games in my case
 

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Flat out, Hasbro sucks at advertising D&D, and this is why it's "undermonetized" in my completely amateur opinion. I don't see ads for D&D on tv, youtube, twitch, all that much. I didn't even know there was an official, 22-episode, high-budget let's play going on. The Adventure League content -- much of which is golden and really helped me as a DM learn to run the game better -- is treated like a red-headed stepchild (I am literally a red-headed stepchild...).

Furthermore, they suck at marketing their stuff together. Descent into Avernus was changed to tie into BG3, but BG3 came out years later and has nothing to do with Avernus at ALL. The Magic: the Gathering sets with special books never came out at the same time but separately. The only real successful marketing strategy they've employed is tapping into celebrities and doing public Unearthed Arcana. That's about as low effort as it comes, though the celebs do cost some $$$.

On top of that, Hasbro has officially licensed games for Transformers, G.I Joe, and Power Rangers. None of this has ever, at any point, been well advertised. You could so easily tie these products into the greater 5E news sphere (even though they use the Essence20 system), but instead Hasbro does the BARE MINIMUM for getting word out about its products.

I think because 5E blew up so much despite having a shoestring budget, the execs at Hasbro think they don't need to pump money into marketing 5E. It's a short-sighted thinking if so. 5E monopolizes the market but it isn't even really trying to do so; it'd be so, so easy to eat the OSR's lunch, storygame lunches, and so on. Likewise, while they do have a bit of a push for getting 5E into the hands of kids and schools, it's really tepid. And there is very little merch these days for anything D&D related. Merch exists, just not too much of it.

Mearls patreon IMO has been really enlightening in realizing that D&D really is succeeding in-spite of itself. Production deadlines for DND Next led to things like clunky CR and restrictive multiclassing; a fear of hurting the golden goose has led to overly conservative design tendencies and a lack of cohesive product vision. All of these things tie into the lack of great marketing for 5E, because they show that 5E has never truly received the support it deserves from the parent company.

I think officially licensing Foundry as a VTT is a smart decision by Hasbro/WotC, and I hope it leads to smarter marketing in the future too.
 

Meech17

WotC President Runner-Up.
I think because 5E blew up so much despite having a shoestring budget, the execs at Hasbro think they don't need to pump money into marketing 5E. It's a short-sighted thinking if so. 5E monopolizes the market but it isn't even really trying to do so; it'd be so, so easy to eat the OSR's lunch, storygame lunches, and so on. Likewise, while they do have a bit of a push for getting 5E into the hands of kids and schools, it's really tepid. And there is very little merch these days for anything D&D related. Merch exists, just not too much of it.
Especially with the OSR field. Hasbro almost entirely exists as a nostalgia machine. Why have they not made a revised box set? Fluff up BX a little bit, add in some modern sensibilities like ascending armor class and consistent roll-high rules and release a new Red Box. I'd imagine they don't want multiple versions of D&D being sold at the same time, because then they're competing with themselves, but they're already competing with the OSR. Why not actually compete.

And yeah, there's no marketing. I get so many TTRPG related ads on my various feeds, so algorithms know the market exists, and they know who their customers are, but none of those ads are ever for WOTC related games. Sometimes MTG, but never D&D. Humblewood, Ghostfire stuff, Elderbrain's massive campaign book, which I'm really tempted by.. But I get all these targeted ads for 3rd party content (Not to mention all the garbage like the dropshipped dice and notebooks and stuff)

Mearls patreon IMO has been really enlightening in realizing that D&D really is succeeding in-spite of itself. Production deadlines for DND Next led to things like clunky CR and restrictive multiclassing; a fear of hurting the golden goose has led to overly conservative design tendencies and a lack of cohesive product vision. All of these things tie into the lack of great marketing for 5E, because they show that 5E has never truly received the support it deserves from the parent company.
I can't help but wonder if 4E is the reason for this. There's a lot of weird stuff in D&D for seemingly no reason other than "It's always been there". I have a new player in my game, and he asked why we have ability scores, if they seem to only exist to tell us what the modifier is. I didn't have a good answer.

The last time they tried really shaking up the game though was 4E and it was largely panned. That was also the last time I remember them really marketing the game too. My brother and I used to watch the dumb videos they were putting out online with the guy interviewing the new races and stuff. It was a lot of fun. But now 4E has it's reputation, and maybe WOTC just says "Well look what happened last time we tried changing stuff and marketing it. Can't make that mistake again!"
 

TheSword

Legend
Flat out, Hasbro sucks at advertising D&D, and this is why it's "undermonetized" in my completely amateur opinion. I don't see ads for D&D on tv, youtube, twitch, all that much. I didn't even know there was an official, 22-episode, high-budget let's play going on. The Adventure League content -- much of which is golden and really helped me as a DM learn to run the game better -- is treated like a red-headed stepchild (I am literally a red-headed stepchild...).

Furthermore, they suck at marketing their stuff together. Descent into Avernus was changed to tie into BG3, but BG3 came out years later and has nothing to do with Avernus at ALL. The Magic: the Gathering sets with special books never came out at the same time but separately. The only real successful marketing strategy they've employed is tapping into celebrities and doing public Unearthed Arcana. That's about as low effort as it comes, though the celebs do cost some $$$.

On top of that, Hasbro has officially licensed games for Transformers, G.I Joe, and Power Rangers. None of this has ever, at any point, been well advertised. You could so easily tie these products into the greater 5E news sphere (even though they use the Essence20 system), but instead Hasbro does the BARE MINIMUM for getting word out about its products.

I think because 5E blew up so much despite having a shoestring budget, the execs at Hasbro think they don't need to pump money into marketing 5E. It's a short-sighted thinking if so. 5E monopolizes the market but it isn't even really trying to do so; it'd be so, so easy to eat the OSR's lunch, storygame lunches, and so on. Likewise, while they do have a bit of a push for getting 5E into the hands of kids and schools, it's really tepid. And there is very little merch these days for anything D&D related. Merch exists, just not too much of it.

Mearls patreon IMO has been really enlightening in realizing that D&D really is succeeding in-spite of itself. Production deadlines for DND Next led to things like clunky CR and restrictive multiclassing; a fear of hurting the golden goose has led to overly conservative design tendencies and a lack of cohesive product vision. All of these things tie into the lack of great marketing for 5E, because they show that 5E has never truly received the support it deserves from the parent company.

I think officially licensing Foundry as a VTT is a smart decision by Hasbro/WotC, and I hope it leads to smarter marketing in the future too.
It’s under monetized because D&D is free for 80% of people who play it and exceedingly cheap for the 20% that buy books. While at the same time 3rd party token designers, map artists, streamers, subscription VTTs, and patreons make regular incomes in small pieces from folks that are otherwise paying next to nothing for the core product and can therefore afford to pay for extras.

However if WotC started releasing 24 VTT token monster sets or maps for $5 each they like Devin Night or Heroic Games (all excellent products by the way) they would be accused of ripping off community with micro-transactions.

I feel for them. The community can be so toxic it’s a miracle they release anything.
 
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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
To continue with the claims of which editions sold better or worse . . .

I'd be interested in seeing data comparing the initial sales periods of each edition of D&D. It wouldn't be a perfect comparison, as original D&D had a more stretched out development from the white box to B/X to BECMI. And even AD&D 1E, the three core books were a bit spaced out from each other.

I'd also like to see lifetime sales of each edition, at least of their active production printings (not including digital and POD sales on DMs Guild). But this would also be a tricky comparison, as each edition did not get equal time on the shelves.

What I'd really like to see is, perhaps, sales for each edition broken down per year. 3E didn't last as long as 2E did, but how did it do year-by-year in comparison to 2E?

Riggs book is on my reading list, I've already got a copy, just haven't gotten around to reading it yet. Perhaps he does provide this sort of data comparison.
He does some comparison but he's working with incomplete numbers. For example, IIRC he's missing the entire first year of sales for 3E.

The book is good but it's actually not got a lot of numbers; apparently his publisher didn't want a bunch of charts and figures in there. So virtually all the sales data he's shared has been through Twitter or his Facebook page, and all of that has been collected and reposted in threads on ENworld by a couple of dedicated posters (@Alzrius and @darjr ; apologies if I'm missing anyone else).

Here's one:

 

It’s under monetized because D&D is free for 80% of people who play it and exceedingly cheap for the 20% that buy books. While at the same time 3rd party token designers, map artists, streamers, subscription VTTs, and patreons make regular incomes in small pieces from folks that are otherwise paying next to nothing for the core product and can therefore afford to pay for extras.

However if WotC started releasing 24 VTT token monster sets or maps for $5 each they like Devin Night or Heroic Games (all excellent products by the way) they would be accused of ripping off community with micro-transactions.

I feel for them. The community can be so toxic it’s a miracle they release anything.
It really doesnt matter if people online are toxic or not for wotc. I know for a fact selling tokens would net a lot of money. I also know that they do a very mediocre job of marketing materials to dms.
 


innerdude

Legend
Microtransactions are coming. Really, you should plan now to embrace this reality.

The whole point of a digital VTT of their own is to monetize transactions.

And I don't blame them for it.

So, I'm a mid-40s GenX gamer who's way into TTRPGs, CRPGs, FPS games, and sports video games. I just barely, last year in the fall, finally took a stab at Rocket League, which as a game is COMPLETELY FREE on Epic Games store. I could literally play Rocket League for $0 dollars forever . . . but just last week, I decided to "splurge" and spend $5 for some COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY COSMETIC stuff for the game just because it was fun and looked cool.

THAT'S the monetization Hasbro wants --- They want you/me paying $5 for the "Ultra Bright Forest Elf Archer" customer art pack, and the "Underground Dwarven Rage Warrior character pack", and the "Menzoberranzan 10-maps plus assets GM story pack."

Why?

  • There's ZERO printing or shipping overhead to create this stuff.
  • It's essentially endlessly reusable / reconfigurable
  • It's "evergreen," meaning if they totally rip and replace the core rules of the VTT in 10 years, your art packs are still good.
  • It creates a sense of ownership, personalization, and frankly taps into our general lizard-brain love of new shiny things.
 

Meech17

WotC President Runner-Up.
Because they get attacked for it.
They also get attacked for canning 1k+ employees right before the holidays, but it doesn't make a difference.

I really doubt WOTC would let the opinions of us marks valued customers get in the way of them doing anything they think is profitable.

I feel like the point you're getting at is we should be able to praise them for the good they do, and it often feels like that's unpopular. I know even here it can be hard to be on their side at all. There was a big long thread recently of people arguing about whether or not any of the 5E modules were any good.

At the end of the day though I don't think that should be an excuse to not market the material. The people who respond to it with vitriol likely weren't going to purchase it in the first place.
 

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