Fixing the Mess

After Patreon announced a wildly unpopular change that caused fans to leave their platform in droves, they reversed course. Was it enough?

recycling-4091874_960_720.png

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Not Just the Cool Kids​

We previously discussed how Patreon, focused on its largest creators, ended up making changes that harmed smaller but far more numerous creators, who lost their fans in droves. Fortunately, Patreon reversed course within a week. Their reversal gives some hope for what a path forward for the Open Game License might look like.

Jack Conte, CEO of Patron, took to Reddit for an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session. Jack took several tough questions head on, but Reddit member Yuuri might have summed it up best:
What can we do, together, as creators and staff at Patreon, to avoid this disheartening cycle of "we hear you, we're taking your feedback, we're listening" only to get a big pie shoved right in our faces? I have been eager to help and give feedback at every turn. I've seen the stuff Patreon is working on and am excited for changes (hello App). But times like this kill all hope and instead of working on my art, I am here pleading with Patreon on behalf of my peers who are not informed or have the time to speak out like this. Personally, I'd like to see creators of all sorts come together to on a panel that is in direct communication with Patreon, I need to know that when changes like this are even floated, there are advocates for us in the room explaining why and how these changes impact us. Not the just the top creators on Patreon, not just the big crossover artists with 10's of thousands of Twitter followers. Not just the cool kids. I want people with tried and true records of giving feedback and working with Patreon to get the call to make this $#!+ better and help avoid instances like this.
The reference to the "cool kids" was a nod to what Patreon had publicly acknowledged previously, that top 2 percent of Patreon's customers, known as Financially Successful Creators (FSCs), were a disproportionate focus on Patreon's efforts. As the blowback to Patreon's fee structure demonstrated, small creators mattered too.

Conte outlined his response, and grouped Patreon's efforts to improve into three broad categories: contrition, better listening, and better communicating.

Contrition​

In addition to reversing the change they announced, Conte apologized. He apologized on Patreon's blog. He apologized to the press. And he apologized in the Reddit AMA.
We’ve heard you loud and clear. We’re not going to rollout the changes to our payments system that we announced last week. We still have to fix the problems that those changes addressed, but we’re going to fix them in a different way, and we’re going to work with you to come up with the specifics, as we should have done the first time around. Many of you lost patrons, and you lost income. No apology will make up for that, but nevertheless, I’m sorry. It is our core belief that you should own the relationships with your fans. These are your businesses, and they are your fans. We recognize that we need to be better at involving you more deeply and earlier in these kinds of decisions and product changes. Additionally, we need to give you a more flexible product and platform to allow you to own the way you run your memberships. I know it will take a long time for us to earn back your trust. But we are utterly devoted to your success and to getting you sustainable, reliable income for being a creator. We will work harder than ever to build you tools, functionality, and income, and our team won’t rest until Patreon is making that happen.
Apologies can be tricky, because it requires authenticity and transparency. A general apology from a company's public relations department isn't sufficient. It requires a face to the company, a spokesperson in some authority, to make the appropriate apology. Conte has always been out in front of Patreon since it launched, and thus was a natural choice to make the apology. And whoever makes the apology needs a thick skin, because no matter what the apology actually contains, someone won't be happy with it.

Better Listening​

When Patreon made its change to its fee structure, they touted responses to Net Promoter Score (NPS) that were -50, along with quotes to go with it. Patreon was listening to somebody, but whoever they were didn't represent the majority of Patreon's customers. To that end, Conte promised a regular live hangout with creators and Patreon leadership, an audit and optimization of the process they used to gather feedback from our creators, and members of the leadership team committing to connecting with creators on Discord each month.

One of the startling aspects of the current Open Game License controversy is how much the new license seemed concerned about creators ... when for years, thousands of creators were largely on their own. If the current or future owners of Open Game Licenses plan to engage the community, they'll need to really engage them, not just with a new license, but a community that helps guide them so we don't find ourselves in this mess again. That means forums, live chats, and accessibility to leadership on a regular basis.

Better Communicating​

Patreon also hired a new Chief Product Officer who would focus on the "feedback loop with creators" along with a recurring creator newsletter from the product team about roadmap updates.

Similarly, any OGL initiative will need a steady rhythm of communication to keep creators in the loop. And it certainly means no Non-Disclosure Agreements, which were an attempt to intentionally separate out some creators from others.

What We Can Learn from Patreon's Mistake​

Patreon prides itself on being accessible to the general public, and that brand has paid dividends. Patreon's currency is in the success of its creators graduating to become FSCs capable of making a living off the platform alone. But that appeal is grounded in the possibility that you have to start somewhere, and anyone could become financially independent if they had enough patrons. It's the Thousand Fan Theory, and it takes a lot of work to get there.

Patreon survived its controversy, retrenched, and continues to grow. The platform and company is by no means perfect, but as of June 2021, Patreon had in excess of 6 million patrons nearly 200,000 creators, with the FSCs earning as much as $200,000 per year -- many of them tabletop gamers! Patreon is now valued at $4 billion.

Patreon served as a warning of how large companies built on the backs of small creators can lose sight of how important they are: as creators, as customers, and as fans. Losing one means losing all three, and that can be devastating in the long-term to an industry that prides itself on the free sharing of ideas. Patron learned the hard way what matters most: share your plans often and early, ask questions and listen to the response, and most of all be humble.

As the Open Game License (or lack thereof) spawns competitors and new ventures, it's good advice for anyone planning to earn the gaming community's goodwill.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

FormerLurker

Adventurer
A Hasbro plant? LOL 🙃
Moderate voice if reason.
I was part of too many Twitter mobs condemning people for failing to immediately respond (like DriveThru RPG during the "Tournament of Rapists" fiasco. Getting angry and demanding immediate response doesn't fix anything.

I prefer to give people time to respond and see how they actually react. Yeah, I cancelled my dndbeyond to help things along and have plans to set all my titles on the dmsguild to $0 to stop making any money for WotC. But I'm also patiently waiting for an official statement and official release of the OGL.

Cancel culture is toxic. I refuse to be a part. Don't tell me the worst thing someone did, tell me what they learned and if they tried to fix their mistake.
Right now WotC and its corporate suits made a pretty big mistake. I want to see if they can fix things first. I don't want to punish or hurt the good people in the D&D tram who love the game and hobby for what their bosses are doing...
 

log in or register to remove this ad


FormerLurker

Adventurer
No problems, citation delivered:
It's also being discussed in the various OGL threads - multiple companies have come forth that they got this, and with contracts to sign.
Vague tweet. Are they saying THEY received the OGL with a contract or just repeating what they've heard?

But, okay, I'll accept contracts were sent out. Doesn't really change the fact WotC hasn't made a formal announcement and there's all kinds of ways they can spin this or retract the OGL 1.1. (I'd rather they lie to save face than double down on a bad decision because they don't want to be called liars...)
Plus, if they decide not to move forward with the terrible OGL 1.1 and no one forgives them... why should they keep the old OGL? They've already lost those players. Not forgiving someone when they eff up encourages them not to bother trying to fix mistakes in the future.

Plus, as a reality check, the vast majority of posters here were around for the GSL and 4e. And they still forgave WotC for that attack on Open Gaming. (Those that didn't and stuck with Pathfinder and never returned to D&D are a tiny minority.) Let's not kid ourselves that if WotC walks back this license, in eighteen months when 6e drops most people here will happily buy the books. Outrage fades.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
We previously discussed how Patreon, focused on its largest creators, ended up making changes that harmed smaller but far more numerous creators, who lost their fans in droves. Fortunately, Patreon reversed course within a week. Their reversal gives some hope for what a path forward for the Open Game License might look like.
This is different.

If you offer a service, and announce say a price hike, or some other disadvantageous change, yes, you can walk back that change with no loss of trust.

But in this case it is the trust that's gone. Nobody will trust WotC with their businesses, their Kickstarters and their projects even if they drop the entire idea and announce they're going back to OGL 1.0(a).
 

Voadam

Legend
This is different.

If you offer a service, and announce say a price hike, or some other disadvantageous change, yes, you can walk back that change with no loss of trust.

But in this case it is the trust that's gone. Nobody will trust WotC with their businesses, their Kickstarters and their projects even if they drop the entire idea and announce they're going back to OGL 1.0(a).
WotC could offer a revised 1.1 that instead of de-authorizing and the rest, is 1.0 with more terms to make the irrevocable nature clearer and take out of their hands the room to threaten to yank the rug on OGL stuff in the future.

The trust would be in the license, not in the corporation.

That in my opinion would be ideal. (Plus adding a full OGC SRD instead of a non-ogc or a barebones one, plus a 4e one would be nice, and all the 3e non-OGC and pre-3e stuff for a true ideal:)).
 

Pax Drowana

Explorer
Another great article on the Patreon debacle, and subsequent fix. One thing you point out, and that is sorely lacking from Wizards, is that there was a real person issuing the apology, Jack Conte wasn't (isn't) just the CEO of Patreon, he was (is) also a respected creative in his own right - he created Patreon as a result of his own work as part of music duo Pamplamoose. Generic faceless apologies from corporate PR accounts are never going to satisfy a creative endeavour with such an involved fanbase.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
WotC could offer a revised 1.1 that instead of de-authorizing and the rest, is 1.0 with more terms to make the irrevocable nature clearer and take out of their hands the room to threaten to yank the rug on OGL stuff in the future.
Sure, theoretically WotC's executives could realize they are utterly wrong and have lost the company all its trust, and perform (figurative) seppuku in public, to apologize and show remorse... which is basically what's needed at this point.


But I wouldn't hold my breath.
 

But, okay, I'll accept contracts were sent out. Doesn't really change the fact WotC hasn't made a formal announcement and there's all kinds of ways they can spin this or retract the OGL 1.1.
If people have signed contracts, then, well, they're bound by them. WotC would have to publicly announce that those contracts are void, and probably have their lawyers write to everyone who has signed them, formally negating those contracts. They could go back on a simple promise not to enforce them.

Sending out contracts for signature is a commitment that's stronger than a public announcement.

WotC could offer a revised 1.1 that instead of de-authorizing and the rest, is 1.0 with more terms to make the irrevocable nature clearer and take out of their hands the room to threaten to yank the rug on OGL stuff in the future.
At this point, a 1.2 or 2.0 is a better bet. A revised 1.1 would create lasting confusion.
 

Crusadius

Adventurer
At this point, a 1.2 or 2.0 is a better bet. A revised 1.1 would create lasting confusion.
According to a few youtube commentators (link is to one such commentator called DnD Shorts), a version 2.0 may be released after a suitable delay until people forget, with 1.1 being pulled (claiming "it was a draft all the time" as mentioned above). It appears that a loss of DDB subscriptions is what they are listening to.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Not "no one." A statistically small percentage.

There are millions of D&D players. How many backed MCDM and Kobold Press' latest kickstarters?
MCDM's titles sell to about ~25k backers average per book. Probably sold to probably 1% of D&D DMs (I can share my napkin math if anyone cares).

Across the OGL-sphere, combining all products sales in a year, probably does not come close to 10% of the sales of all WotC products in a year. No napkin math for this one, since WotC does not share their sales numbers - although maybe I could extrapolate if I had a graph of the growth of players over time (which they DO share, somewhere)

I think where WotC mis-calculated is that the OGL-sphere is not a monolith. It's probably ~500 publishers/hobbyists, many of whom are deeply embedded in a specific corner of the overall D&D community. And speaking of community, it feels like the exec/legal team did not factor in the breadth of said community when making their calculation, instead only focusing on the sales numbers themselves. If they thought about the table-top/analog market much at all

I think whether this alleged new OGL1.1 is "real" or not isn't actually germane to WotC's next steps

What I'll be curious to see is if this whole thing has blown over by the time the movie drops
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Vague tweet. Are they saying THEY received the OGL with a contract or just repeating what they've heard?
Fine, bigger citation: OGL - Gizmodo Reveals OGL v1.1's 'Term Sheet' Carrots For Selected Publishers

But, okay, I'll accept contracts were sent out. Doesn't really change the fact WotC hasn't made a formal announcement and there's all kinds of ways they can spin this or retract the OGL 1.1.
This really is moving the goal posts, since the point you were saying before was that "WotC hasn't done anything yet".

(I'd rather they lie to save face than double down on a bad decision because they don't want to be called liars...)
Well, they did lie to save face in their OGL announcement to the public that said OGL 1.1 was sent out for feedback, since we know since that it's been sent out with contracts offering sweetheart deals and NDAs back in December.

But their walk back left a number of things unmentioned and therefore likely still on the table, so they are also doubling down on a bad decision.
 


Patreon also active managed the crisis, and made their actions clear as they were addressing it. Also, Patreon had good messaging about the “why” at the time of the announcement. Even if it was poorly received, there was an understandable reason.

WotC’s “bunker down and wait” response is almost legendary in length. It confirms that this was their intent, with no Plan B.

After this, more than a simple “mea culpa” is needed to restore trust.
Trust? I don't see that as an issue for consumers. If people want to play to the most popular RPG, they will buy WoTC products.

The key issue is whether the small publishers choose to continue to work on products of WoTC's, or not. If they are smart, they would carefully disengage.

But this assumes that WoTC will pull back. It is quite possible that they deliberately leaked this rumor in order to test the waters.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
 


Maybe I could have held my breath after all. Huh.
No one has fallen on their sword for this yet. And there is no guarantee that they won't try and do this again at some point in the future, since they haven't announced that they will make the OGL irrevocable, just that they won't be trying to revoke it at this point in time.
 

Related Articles

Visit Our Sponsor

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top