D&D General Extra Credits: The History of D&D Hasbro Refused to Learn

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I agree that it certainly didn't help matters, but what directly drove them under was owing tens of millions of dollars to Random House and other creditors because TSR was printing books they couldn't sell in order to secure advance money. As well, they had a terrible financing arrangement that locked up their money right at the start of the fiscal year, making them unable to cope with contingencies. From its beginning, TSR practiced the "kicking the can" method of financial management, which was inevitably going to bite it in the butt.
Indeed, though a more customer-friendly outlook during the 90s would doubtless have mitigated this at least a bit.
I don't see it this way at all. Corporate greed is a given for every successful company in a capitalist system, in the sense that maximizing profit/growth is a survival imperative. WotC, both before and under Hasbro, has also undertaken some unusually non-greedy actions. For example, one of WotC's first actions after purchasing TSR was to settle its debts, even going beyond contractual obligations (e.g. returning original artwork to the artists for resale). Under Hasbro, the OGL and Roll20 may have been strategic (and thus arguably greedy) in inspiration, but certainly stand out as usual as far as large corporations go; you're not going to see Disney or Sony dump a huge amount of their core content into the Creative Commons any time soon.
The OGL predates Hasbro's involvement.

WotC in its original 1990s form was largely a company run by and for gamers, and as such they did do some very non-greedy things.

One example is that they had an amazing set-up over three (or four? I forget) stories of a building in Seattle's U-District. There was a huge card-gaming area in the basement (they held some of their flagship M:tG tournaments there) plus some dedicated tables* for RPG play, the main floor was a retail store plus display area, with an attached gaming-themed restaurant. And a bit of the main floor and all of the public-accessible upper area was the video arcade to end all video arcades. All of this was remote from WotC's corporate HQ, which was (and still is) 20-ish miles to the south.

Hasbro bought WotC in 2003. By 2005 (maybe even 2004) that whole gaming complex - which wasn't exactly a money-maker - was gone.

* - these tables were custom-designed for RPG play, probably cost a few thousand bucks each, and I've never seen anything like them since.
I also think blunders are not necessarily less forgivable. A lot of people lost jobs and were taken advantage of through TSR's mismanagement, and after awhile the line between "blunder" and "greed" becomes pretty blurred. It wasn't a blunder that TSR tried to remove Arneson's name from AD&D, for example.
True.
 

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Parmandur

Book-Friend
One thing that I don't think gets mentioned much is that, according to an interview with her in the When We Were Wizards podcast, Gary Gygax's first wife, Mary Jo Powell, she did a lot of uncredited editing work on OD&D.



I used to work in ILL. The breadth of what ILL can get is indeed pretty amazing. One time a customer came looking for a dissertation published in WW2-era occupied Poland. There were only two copies available in the entire world and we were able to fulfill that request.
Listening to that podcast now, thanks for the rec.

Totally badass.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I thought Hasbro bought WOTC in 1999 or the like.
Yes, Hasbro bought WotC in 1999. The OGL came out and that gamestpre were open for years under Hasbo. Creative Commons happened under Hasbro.

And TSR and pre-Hasbro WotC were greedy all the time: that's how WotC became a part of Hasbro, for instance, or how WotC designed the Magic the Gathering economy the way they did from the start. "Gamers making stuff for gamers" are not less greedy than other people.
 




CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing (He/They)
Exactly. Make history entertaining all you want, but you still need to get the history right. If you change history to make it entertaining, you’re not doing history.
Meanwhile, on the "History" Channel:
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EDIT:
This is why you'll never have a show on cable. ;)
Drat, @Incenjucar beat me to it.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
The thesis: Hasbro is trying to regain control of how the game is played and create a more standardized experience with less outside influence (from 3pp developers.) Like TSR did with 2e and WotC did with 4e. Those changes generally went badly, cause developers and players to seek out alternatives.
I'm not sure the premise really holds. I didn't play 2E, so I'm not the best judge of that edition, but having read it and played the hell out of AD&D, if I had to compare them, I'd say AD&D is the more explicitly "locked down" of the two editions. Gygax goes on at length about how only RAW AD&D is real D&D in the books whereas in the 2E books there's mounds of optional rules all over the place. So I'm not sure the premise that "the corporation dictates how the game is played" really holds. From what I've heard about 3E, it's much the same in reverse. Lots of "things must be done this way and no other" in the feat chains, building monsters in specific ways, and rules for everything.
 

The rules of the game are different from the business practices of the company.
I'm not sure the premise really holds. I didn't play 2E, so I'm not the best judge of that edition, but having read it and played the hell out of AD&D, if I had to compare them, I'd say AD&D is the more explicitly "locked down" of the two editions. Gygax goes on at length about how only RAW AD&D is real D&D in the books whereas in the 2E books there's mounds of optional rules all over the place. So I'm not sure the premise that "the corporation dictates how the game is played" really holds. From what I've heard about 3E, it's much the same in reverse. Lots of "things must be done this way and no other" in the feat chains, building monsters in specific ways, and rules for everything.
 

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