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D&D Beyond Cancellations Changed WotCs Plans

Gizmodo has revealed that the partial OGL v1.1 walkback yesterday was in response to the fan campaign to cancel D&D Beyond subscriptions, with "five digits" worth of cancellations. However, the site also reveals that management at the company believed that fans were overreating and that it would all be forgotten in a few months. In order to delete a D&D Beyond account entirely, users are...

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Gizmodo has revealed that the partial OGL v1.1 walkback yesterday was in response to the fan campaign to cancel D&D Beyond subscriptions, with "five digits" worth of cancellations. However, the site also reveals that management at the company believed that fans were overreating and that it would all be forgotten in a few months.

In order to delete a D&D Beyond account entirely, users are funneled into a support system that asks them to submit tickets to be handled by customer service: Sources from inside Wizards of the Coast confirm that earlier this week there were “five digits” worth of complaining tickets in the system. Both moderation and internal management of the issues have been “a mess,” they said, partially due to the fact that WotC has recently downsized the D&D Beyond support team.

Yesterday's walkback removed the royalties from the license, but still 'de-authorized' the OGL v1.0a, something which may or may not be legally possible, depending on who you ask.

 

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I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Pretty wild that a "brand" this old has to build something more identifiable than a name. /shrug
Maybe an example would help illustrate what WotC might be thinking about here in terms of Brand Shenanigans.

Elves are pretty generic fantasy stuff. Elves be elves. Magic. Forests. Minstrels. Y'know, frickin' elf stuff. Lots of fantasy properties have elves. Elves are no one's brand.

But, look at the elves of the Witcher universe and the miniseries that Netflix just produced. Specific cities, specific characters, specific events, a specific story involving particular elements of class struggle, colonialism, empire, etc. Some generic fantasy elf stuff (magic! pointy ears! a minstrel with a cute lil' bird name!), but also, some specific things that vibe with the Witcher's particular flavor of fantasy.

And, look at the elves from Middle-Earth and the new Amazon series. Specific characters, specific events, specific lore, specific stories. Generic elf stuff, too (I mean, it's Tolkien), but specific things that viibe with Middle-Earth's particular kind of elves. Distinct from others.

And now, look at the elves from, say the Forgotten Realms. Specific empires, specific lore, specific history, specific cities, specific characters. And then add the elves from Dark Sun. And the elves from Dragonlance. And the elves from Greyhawk. And even the elves from their Spelljammer book. Specific locations. Specific lore. Specific history. Specific characters. Generic stuff in abundance (FR and Dragonlance and Greyhawk aren't exactly known for reinventing their tropes, are they?), but also specific things that give these elves something a little distinction from others. I mean, the Loth stuff? You could totally sell a streaming service on the idea of a mythic tale of war among the elves.

There's someone within WotC today who is looking at the Witcher and looking at Middle Earth and seeing those stories and saying: "Why can't we have a Netflix series about the fall of Netheril? About the War of the Lance? About the liberation of Tyr?
About the conflict between Corellon and Loth?" Specific plots, specific characters, specific events, a specific vibe. D&D-Brand Content (tm).

That brand, that potential, the money it could make, is worth more than the entire TTRPG industry put togther. It's generational money. It's what Marvel has, what Disney has, what Warner Bros thinks it has (hahaha, Space Jam 2), what every corporate owner of IP really wants deep down. I find it entirely plausible that WotC wants that. And it's evident to me that WotC considers the OGL and it not giving them quality control over products made with it to be a risk to that. It is something they've tried to address before, and will certainly try to address with this revision.

I'm not going to assume they want to crush 3PP. I'm not going to assume they're lying and deceptive. I believe they absolutely could be doing either or both of those things, but that doesn't matter for the point I'm actually making, which is that their story about wanting to be good stewards of the brand does, indeed, hold together in my estimation, and it lines up with what I'd expect from them. It might not be true, but I'm also not an internet mind reader. I'm not here to reveal the TRUTH. I got no claim to it. I just think their story makes some sense.
 

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mangamuscle

Explorer
I think Multiversing it up probably waters down the individual D&D works that at least are a bit more thematically and genre coherent like Ravenloft, Ebberon, etc. Obviously, they are following Marvel's lead here, I just don't think what they have is nearly that strong to make their multiverses resonate with the general public. Or I find it highly unlikely at this point anyway.
As a side comment and personal observation, if instead of foing bland d&d movies they had done something with greyhawk, forgotten realms, the known world, etc. they could have. Someone would reply "oh, but you can't tell this with one or two movies and they lack the pockets to pump several movies per year. Yeah, but with that money they could have done several 12 episodes cartoon cours, TSR did with good ratings back in the day. Nowadays you can put a lot more, look at all the anime with obvious d&d roots, from Lodoss to Overlord.

But that will never happen as long as people that don't understand the product are at the helm, that is why Steve Jobs was great, he knew what he was selling while other companies were run by the kind of people in wotc at the moment.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
I don't think anyone doubts that they want to build up a bigger entertainment empire, @I'm A Banana .

We're two months out from the D&D movie and we've just heard the first concrete news in a while about the TV show. Those are definitely things they should be pursuing and you're right, I think a story about the elven civil war featuring the drow would be fantastic.

But none of that requires crushing someone who has a side hustle publishing 5E adventures from their kitchen table. And that is 100% what they're doing. And if they say that's not what they mean to do, the choices are that they're lying or they're grossly incompetent. There aren't any other choices here.
 


Scribe

Legend
There's someone within WotC today who is looking at the Witcher and looking at Middle Earth and seeing those stories and saying: "Why can't we have a Netflix series about the fall of Netheril? About the War of the Lance? About the liberation of Tyr?
About the conflict between Corellon and Loth?" Specific plots, specific characters, specific events, a specific vibe. D&D-Brand Content (tm).

That brand, that potential, the money it could make, is worth more than the entire TTRPG industry put togther. It's generational money. It's what Marvel has, what Disney has, what Warner Bros thinks it has (hahaha, Space Jam 2), what every corporate owner of IP really wants deep down. I find it entirely plausible that WotC wants that. And it's evident to me that WotC considers the OGL and it not giving them quality control over products made with it to be a risk to that. It is something they've tried to address before, and will certainly try to address with this revision.

Maybe they shouldnt have disavowed their canon, and willfully printed things that had nothing to do with their brand history then?

It still has nothing to do with 3PP, or the OGL, and everything to do with their own arrogance and misguided product focus for the last hand waves many years.

Your totally right, they could have leaned into, you know, D&D history. Ravenloft, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms. You know, the ACTUAL D&D history and lore they checks again yep, disavowed as canon.

Instead...yeah, I guess we chalk this up to another self own.
 

heptat

Explorer
Personally, I own a lot of digital books on D&D Beyond and won't be deleting my account at all. But I did cancel my Hero-tier subscription, and I won't be purchasing new digital titles until WotC corrects their course.

I'll lose content, but since I'm in the nexus of don't like what Hasbro have done/aren't playing 5e/aren't going to play 5e I'm happy with the decision.
 

Maybe an example would help illustrate what WotC might be thinking about here in terms of Brand Shenanigans.

Elves are pretty generic fantasy stuff. Elves be elves. Magic. Forests. Minstrels. Y'know, frickin' elf stuff. Lots of fantasy properties have elves. Elves are no one's brand.

But, look at the elves of the Witcher universe and the miniseries that Netflix just produced. Specific cities, specific characters, specific events, a specific story involving particular elements of class struggle, colonialism, empire, etc. Some generic fantasy elf stuff (magic! pointy ears! a minstrel with a cute lil' bird name!), but also, some specific things that vibe with the Witcher's particular flavor of fantasy.

And, look at the elves from Middle-Earth and the new Amazon series. Specific characters, specific events, specific lore, specific stories. Generic elf stuff, too (I mean, it's Tolkien), but specific things that viibe with Middle-Earth's particular kind of elves. Distinct from others.

And now, look at the elves from, say the Forgotten Realms. Specific empires, specific lore, specific history, specific cities, specific characters. And then add the elves from Dark Sun. And the elves from Dragonlance. And the elves from Greyhawk. And even the elves from their Spelljammer book. Specific locations. Specific lore. Specific history. Specific characters. Generic stuff in abundance (FR and Dragonlance and Greyhawk aren't exactly known for reinventing their tropes, are they?), but also specific things that give these elves something a little distinction from others. I mean, the Loth stuff? You could totally sell a streaming service on the idea of a mythic tale of war among the elves.

There's someone within WotC today who is looking at the Witcher and looking at Middle Earth and seeing those stories and saying: "Why can't we have a Netflix series about the fall of Netheril? About the War of the Lance? About the liberation of Tyr?
About the conflict between Corellon and Loth?" Specific plots, specific characters, specific events, a specific vibe. D&D-Brand Content (tm).

That brand, that potential, the money it could make, is worth more than the entire TTRPG industry put togther. It's generational money. It's what Marvel has, what Disney has, what Warner Bros thinks it has (hahaha, Space Jam 2), what every corporate owner of IP really wants deep down. I find it entirely plausible that WotC wants that. And it's evident to me that WotC considers the OGL and it not giving them quality control over products made with it to be a risk to that. It is something they've tried to address before, and will certainly try to address with this revision.

I'm not going to assume they want to crush 3PP. I'm not going to assume they're lying and deceptive. I believe they absolutely could be doing either or both of those things, but that doesn't matter for the point I'm actually making, which is that their story about wanting to be good stewards of the brand does, indeed, hold together in my estimation, and it lines up with what I'd expect from them. It might not be true, but I'm also not an internet mind reader. I'm not here to reveal the TRUTH. I got no claim to it. I just think their story makes some sense.
It's telling that of the three MTG settings WotC converted to D&D, the best of them was Theros, entirely on the strength of the Gods. Ravnica was alright...because it had fairly strong personalities in some of the Guild Leaders and the identities of the Guilds themselves. Strixhaven, on the other hand? Cratered like a lead balloon, because the only characters in the Strixhaven card set anyone cared about were the Planeswalkers who the story centered around.
 

wellis

Explorer
Honestly Forgotten Realms is useful because like the old Star Wars Legends EU, the setting is so vast that the stories you could use in it are so varied, in some ways, that you could easily set up stuff like fantasy equivalents to The Mandalorian, or something like The Witcher or whatever, in it and it could easily fit somewhere.

Heck even the very generic-ness (in my opinion at least) of the Realms helps here because it probably fits within the preconceptions of "fantasy" as the casual viewer may think.

The only issue might be the drow, but honestly thinking on it, CGI allows for little changes needed. If you're going more for live-action.

But then, something animated might be better there.

But that would require WotC to probably acknowledge the richness of the setting from the previous 4 editions more to use or borrow stuff from.
 

That brand, that potential, the money it could make, is worth more than the entire TTRPG industry put togther. It's generational money. It's what Marvel has, what Disney has, what Warner Bros thinks it has (hahaha, Space Jam 2), what every corporate owner of IP really wants deep down. I find it entirely plausible that WotC wants that. And it's evident to me that WotC considers the OGL and it not giving them quality control over products made with it to be a risk to that. It is something they've tried to address before, and will certainly try to address with this revision.
The trouble with this is, all that shows is that WotC are incompetent.

Like literally bad at their jobs, bad at understanding their audience, bad at estimating risks.

The OGL has been around for 23 years. In that time, basically nothing reputationally-damaging to WotC has happened because of it. WotC's own products have done some damage, though not a huge amount, because they're WotCs. If you had the Hadozee situation in an OGL game (and I'm sure there's stuff that's OGL that's worse), all that happens is people write off that developer, not WotC. There's no blowback to WotC.

Further, destroying the OGL doesn't achieve their goal, because as has been much discussed, you don't actually need the OGL nor the SRD to make a book and say "5E Compatible", possibly even "Compatible with Dungeons & Dragons, 5th edition" (as long as you don't use any trade dress - Legal Eagle was very clear he believes that would fly). So all they've achieved is pissing people off and maybe setting 3PPs free of the OGL and free to make stuff that is exactly as much or as little of a "threat" to WotC and the D&D IP as it was before!

If they wanted to protect the D&D IP better, the approach is blindingly obvious:

1) Create a new logo for 3PP books that has an element of trade dress - the equivalent of the famed "Nintendo Seal of Approval" (ironically Nintendo long ago abandoned this and the Switch gladly will sell games full of bouncing tits and so on to kids - funny how that hasn't sunk the Switch, eh?),

2) Create an SRD for 1D&D, and don't make it OGC.

3) Create a GSL 2.0 which enforces whatever restrictions you like. If they were smart, this wouldn't include true poison-pill, though it would include "you can't publish the same product for both GSL and OGL".

4) Offer people access to selling their books on Beyond. Leave it up to the companies involved to get the content creation right with Beyond's tools. Take 30% or whatever of their sales (more if you like!).

Now have a clear separation between WotC-approved and "everything else". All your goals are met. You didn't have to attempt to destroy the OGL 1.0a.

But they didn't do that. What they did was greedy and incompetent in the worst possible way. Even if they shut down the OGL 1.0a, unless they start a lot of lawsuits that are unlikely to go well for them, or get into incredibly murky waters by trying to ban non-OGL 1.1/2.0 stuff from Kickstarter (unlikely to go well for either them or Kickstarter - even if it's legal the PR damage to Kickstarter would be huge and would continue eating at it like acid for literally years). They asked for absolutely idiotic things they didn't even care about.

So this idea that they were "being honest" is obviously wrong. They were not. At best, IP threat was one of a number of concerns. They're backpedalling desperate and trying to present it as the main concern, but it obviously wasn't, or they'd have offered a much better deal.
 

Nebulous

Legend
So glad I was one of them. It was by far the fastest way voice displeasure and it hit them exactly in the one place they look to as their primary future income stream, DDB

EDIT: And saying fans are "overreacting" is classic abuser behavior. First, they said that we didn't win, both sides won. Now they say we are overreacting. Imagine your abusive spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend spoke like that to you. All your friends would be telling to to GET OUT of that relationship.
Yeah, it does seem a bit like gaslighting. I think what bothers me more than anything else (so far) is the leak saying that WotC + Hasbro higher ups regarding the community as obstacles to their money. Now, I am not a DDB subscriber and I haven't bought any WotC books in three years, but that still pisses me off. D&D needs to be controlled by someone who actually gives a damn about the game.
 

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