OGL Hasbro/WotC has crossed the Trust Thermocline

Parmandur

Book-Friend
But if you found out that the company owners and management of your favorite company are total bastards, who treat their employees terribly, disrespect the RPG community, and only see you, the fan, as an "obstacle to their money" . . . . you might be less inclined to purchase their products, even if you LOVE those products.
If it came out that WotC was a cesspit of abuse like Activision or Ubisoft, for sure. This...ain't that. And I assume every company, privately or publicly held, however nice, views me as a resource, so that doesn't phase me.
 

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Sure, obviously, they are a large corporation and I am a customer...that's how the relationship works. They don't care about me, I don't care about them. If they produce something that I want, then I buy it. If they don't, then I don't buy it. Turns out that since 2014, the only things they put out that I didn't want were Acquisitions Incorporated and Rick & Morty, but they could still put out something I don't want (has tonhappen eventually). Other companies put out stuff that I want, so I buy it (Call of Cthulu, Dungeon Crawl Classics, several Midgard books, just got tye PbtA Avatar in the mail) When they don't, I don't. None of this constitutes a friendship or relationship, it's all transactional.

Well that's great for a rational economic actor such as yourself, but mostly the whole reason businesses invest in their brand is so that customers form attachments to it. The idea that companies just try to make the best product that consumers buy or don't buy is just not how brand identity works. Wotc further saw dnd as a "lifestyle brand." You can see this even in their recent statement and the emphasis they put on their "community." In the past you saw it with how they used influencers on social media to introduce products and do actual plays. Well right now all that talk of community is not credible, and the influencers (many of whom were part of the 3p ecosystem) are upset in very vocal ways. So that strategy is off the table, at least for a while.
 

mamba

Hero
Well that's great for a rational economic actor such as yourself, but mostly the whole reason businesses invest in their brand is so that customers form attachments to it. The idea that companies just try to make the best product that consumers buy or don't buy is just not how brand identity works. Wotc further saw dnd as a "lifestyle brand." You can see this even in their recent statement and the emphasis they put on their "community."
yes, I can see them trying to be a lifestyle brand, but I also see how they treat their community, and all the marketing in the world cannot overcome what they did there

In the past you saw it with how they used influencers on social media to introduce products and do actual plays. Well right now all that talk of community is not credible, and the influencers (many of whom were part of the 3p ecosystem) are upset in very vocal ways. So that strategy is off the table, at least for a while.
I am fine with that, in fact I want them to tell just how badly WotC treated their community and to promote competitors
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Well that's great for a rational economic actor such as yourself, but mostly the whole reason businesses invest in their brand is so that customers form attachments to it. The idea that companies just try to make the best product that consumers buy or don't buy is just not how brand identity works. Wotc further saw dnd as a "lifestyle brand." You can see this even in their recent statement and the emphasis they put on their "community." In the past you saw it with how they used influencers on social media to introduce products and do actual plays. Well right now all that talk of community is not credible, and the influencers (many of whom were part of the 3p ecosystem) are upset in very vocal ways. So that strategy is off the table, at least for a while.
Yeah, I mean, that was patently cynical horse manure before. But they will still be able to use that strategy when the dust settles, as they have before.

The lifestyle brand isn't "WotC is my boyfriend," it is "black dragons spewing acid are Sick" and suchlike. That's not going away.
 

There can be a conversation on how WOTC and Hasbro can regain trust in the future, but it absolutely cannot be with the current management. At the very least Cynthia Williams needs to be shown the door, and preferably Chris Cocks, Tim Fields, and Dan Rawson, as well.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
WotC claimed recently that about 20% of the user base for D&D are DMs - losing 10% of your player base is bad but not a death blow I’d say; losing half of the 5e DMs would be a sea change.

Edit: And that’s aside from the posts I’ve started seeing on Reddit that essentially read, “…so, D&D sucks now, I guess?”
Exactly. DMs are the most likely to be plugged into the wider industry and interested in 3PP. So when the 3PP are threatened or disappear, it’s DMs who show the most concern. Importantly, DMs are almost by definition not casual players. They tend to be whales in the sense of super users.

DMs are 20% of WotC’s customers…but they spend the lion’s share of the money. That’s literally part of their “under monetized” complaint. So if the surge of cancellations is predominantly DMs, who make up most of the sales, the impact on WotC’s bottom line could be huge.
 

I was reading a GeekWire interview with Cynthia Williams, and I just have to share. Disclaimer: No one, including me, actually knows if she's been driving these decisions. That said...oy.

GeekWire: Speaking of which, as a former Xbox employee, what do you feel like you brought from that to your new job at Wizards?
CW: When I started talking to Chris Cocks [Hasbro CEO and the former Wizards president] about joining Wizards of the Coast, I knew that the fanbases for Magic and D&D are even more fanatical than Xbox or PlayStation fans. That’s really what I brought, was the understanding of the stewardship that you have for these brands that are part of people’s lifestyles and identities.

 

mamba

Hero
“what I brought, was the understanding of the stewardship that you have for these brands that are part of people’s lifestyles and identities.”
“…and how to best squeeze the most amount of money out of their foolish appreciation for a brand, leaving only an empty, mangled husk behind”

Yeah, you have shown us what you mean by ‘understanding’ and ‘stewardship’. Neglect is better than this form of stewardship.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
The erosion was there. It had been growing pretty steadily. This is just the move that made the cliff face crumble.
Yeah, it’s a weird analogy, but I think I kinda get it. I’ll sometimes use the analogy of “boiling the frog slowly,” where if you have a frog in water and raise the temperature slowly enough, it won’t notice the change and will stay in the water until it’s boiled alive, but if you increase the temperature too quickly, it will jump out. This is kind of the same idea, but getting colder instead of warmer, and with the addition of a point beyond which it doesn’t really matter how slowly you go, once you cross that line it’s too damn cold.

So, in WotC’s case, I would say revoking the OGL is that “thermocline.” The line that they can’t cross without losing consumer trust, no matter how gradually they try to ease us into it. I’m not sure that’s what the article is actually trying to say, but it’s how I’d apply the analogy to this situation.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
The fact that we are the target audience for 3pp (long time hardcore fans that are on a site that is from a 3pp) is 40% is bad but not "oh everyone is leaving this game" levels. I wonder if it is a blip on casuals radar.
It probably is, but the nature of the hobby is that the hardcore fans have an outsized influence over the casual fans’ habits. The people who are invested enough to have strong opinions like this are also more often the driving force behind decisions about what their playgroup plays. That’s why, for example, 4e didn’t grow as quickly as WotC expected it to, leading to a premature end despite respectable financial success. It’s a phenomenon WotC seems to consistently fail to account for.
 

BigZebra

Adventurer
Yeah. I get that when it's a billion dollar company. But look at the individual creators. My friend Levi out there writing zines every few months. Sacrosanct and Steampunkette on these boards who have had Kickstarters going on. Morrus and the ENP crew.
Certainly, I would hope, people on these boards would view supporting a small creator differently.
I'll grant you, the OGL isn't out yet. If it comes out and it's as lousy as we saw, you're not just making a transaction. People who support WotC are spitting in the faces of independent content creators.
WotC may not be your friends, but the people they are posed to mess over are.
Don’t fool yourself. They also represent a business and would probably throw you out to get three new customers in return. And that’s fine. That’s how that works. Just buy what you like. It’s not helpful to antagonize either.
 

Yeah, it’s a weird analogy, but I think I kinda get it. I’ll sometimes use the analogy of “boiling the frog slowly,” where if you have a frog in water and raise the temperature slowly enough, it won’t notice the change and will stay in the water until it’s boiled alive, but if you increase the temperature too quickly, it will jump out. This is kind of the same idea, but getting colder instead of warmer, and with the addition of a point beyond which it doesn’t really matter how slowly you go, once you cross that line it’s too damn cold.

So, in WotC’s case, I would say revoking the OGL is that “thermocline.” The line that they can’t cross without losing consumer trust, no matter how gradually they try to ease us into it. I’m not sure that’s what the article is actually trying to say, but it’s how I’d apply the analogy to this situation.
The thing is, the frog will, in fact, try to jump out if the water gets too uncomfortable, it just might not start doing so until it's too late if the temp rises slowly enough.

And the Thermocline specifically applies to products and brands where emotional engagement is a core feature. Emotional engagement and consumer loyalty is critical to TTRPGs. That means there's sort of a "trust commons" that gets built up over time. A multitude of micro-infractions for consumers don’t just harm an individual’s experience; they damage that trust commons until the trust thermocline is breached for large groups of users at the same time. Which then causes the avalanche.

It's more like poison building up in a system than the boiling frog -- enough ill-will caused by a thousand tiny cuts builds up until the point at which a consumer decides that the mental cost of staying with a product is outweighed by their desire to abandon it. It's not one cause that leads to an effect -- rolling back the proposed OGL changes won't bring people back, because their loyalty was already thinning.
 

I was reading a GeekWire interview with Cynthia Williams, and I just have to share. Disclaimer: No one, including me, actually knows if she's been driving these decisions. That said...oy.

GeekWire: Speaking of which, as a former Xbox employee, what do you feel like you brought from that to your new job at Wizards?
CW: When I started talking to Chris Cocks [Hasbro CEO and the former Wizards president] about joining Wizards of the Coast, I knew that the fanbases for Magic and D&D are even more fanatical than Xbox or PlayStation fans. That’s really what I brought, was the understanding of the stewardship that you have for these brands that are part of people’s lifestyles and identities.


Our games teach that diversity is a strength. D&D in particular will teach you that together, you can overcome tasks, challenges, or an adventure that you wouldn’t have been able to on your own.

:unsure: Pretty sure she wasn't expecting this to get turned against her. But she really, really should have seen this coming.:ROFLMAO:

The fact that she didn't, and went ahead with this, means this was only ever noises she was making with her mouth, not a sincere statement.
 

macd21

Adventurer
I really don’t see this as an example of the trust thermocline phenomenon. If anything, I think trust levels in WotC were high. The biggest issue to hit them since the launch of 5e was disappointment in Spelljammer and the whole Hadozee incident, but they weren’t enough to erode the trust they’d built up. Fans have been generally approving of their products.

The Thermocline phenomenon is evidenced when some minor infraction seems to provoke an apparently unwarranted backlash. But OGL 1.1 wasn’t minor, and the backlash wasn’t unwarranted. Customers aren’t cancelling their DnD subscriptions because they’ve been quietly annoyed by WotC for years and this is the final straw. There’s customers cancelling subscriptions who loved WotC a week ago, but are now furious.
 

I really don’t see this as an example of the trust thermocline phenomenon. If anything, I think trust levels in WotC were high. The biggest issue to hit them since the launch of 5e was disappointment in Spelljammer and the whole Hadozee incident, but they weren’t enough to erode the trust they’d built up. Fans have been generally approving of their products.

The Thermocline phenomenon is evidenced when some minor infraction seems to provoke an apparently unwarranted backlash. But OGL 1.1 wasn’t minor, and the backlash wasn’t unwarranted. Customers aren’t cancelling their DnD subscriptions because they’ve been quietly annoyed by WotC for years and this is the final straw. There’s customers cancelling subscriptions who loved WotC a week ago, but are now furious.
I'd argue that there's been plenty of minor trust violations, both in the handling of 5e and in the MTG sphere, which have been eroding things for a while. Some of the things they've done might not have eroded your trust, but it definitely eroded someone's.

For instance, you might not like the people who complain about WotC's attempts at greater diversity, or think their complaints are anything more than reactionary garbage, but I guarantee those are customers who've had their trust eroded. Their money is just as green as yours, I'm afraid.

Or, to take another tack, A5E would not exist if people were 100% fine with 5e as-is. 3PPs are (were) a great safety valve for discontent -- if you didn't like something, there were sources to get your issues addressed. Until WotC decided to everyone relying on the OGL in the teeth, and now that safety valve is gone.
 

Muso

Explorer
Oh good lord.

Not releasing your favorite settings is not an erosion of trust. Publishing Magic/D&D crossovers is not an erosion of trust.

Perhaps YOU didn't want those products, but I did. As did others.

Now WotC trying to de-authorize the OGL in an attempt to increase the monetization of D&D at the expense of the open-gaming community . . . . now that's a huge erosion of trust right there.
At that time for me it was the begin of my personal erosion of trust. They promised something (old settings) and released something completely different. Then other issues in the quality of other releases and now this OGL scandal. You quoted one post of mine without considering the previous one. Please, consider the whole thing.
 

macd21

Adventurer
I'd argue that there's been plenty of minor trust violations, both in the handling of 5e and in the MTG sphere, which have been eroding things for a while. Some of the things they've done might not have eroded your trust, but it definitely eroded someone's.
And if those minor trust violations hadn’t occurred, do you think the OGL 1.1 wouldn’t have resulted in this backlash?

It’s not enough that trust violations erode someone’s trust. The mistrust has to be widespread, across a significant percentage of the fanbase, with the result that one more minor trust violation is the last straw. I don’t think that was really the case with WotC. Yes, they occasionally did things that annoyed some of the fans, but overall I think people had a positive, or at worst neutral, attitude towards them. But OGL 1.1 wasn’t a minor violation of trust. It wasn’t a final straw, on top of a mountain of older straws. And so it angered even WotC fans.
 

And if those minor trust violations hadn’t occurred, do you think the OGL 1.1 wouldn’t have resulted in this backlash?

It’s not enough that trust violations erode someone’s trust. The mistrust has to be widespread, across a significant percentage of the fanbase, with the result that one more minor trust violation is the last straw. I don’t think that was really the case with WotC. Yes, they occasionally did things that annoyed some of the fans, but overall I think people had a positive, or at worst neutral, attitude towards them. But OGL 1.1 wasn’t a minor violation of trust. It wasn’t a final straw, on top of a mountain of older straws. And so it angered even WotC fans.
I'm not arguing that OGL 1.1/2.0 isn't an egregious violation of a large swath of the fanbase's trust. Just that I don't think the reaction would be this bad without some prior footwork.

Such as the 4e GSL, which set a precedent.
Such as 5e only having Character and DM-focused content bundled into Adventure Paths up until Xanathar's.
Such as most of the 5e Adventures requiring extensive reworkings to really be playable.
Such as Spelljammmer being carved into pieces and sold as a trio of books to boost profits on it.
Such as Monsters of The Multiverse only being available initially as part of an expensive trio of "showcase" books that most people who'd want it already had.
Such as Monsters of The Multiverse invalidating two whole previous books, for somewhat dubious reasons.
Such as terribly racist content making its way into Curse of Strahd, only to be reworked later due to it being picked apart.
Such as over-corrections in Van Richten's Guide to the previous point sterilizing much of what had made Ravenloft an interesting setting in the first place.
Such as the slow drip-feed of books over the course of years.
Such as making a big deal of removing questionable content in books like Van Richten's Guide and Monsters of The Multiverse, only for no one to catch the problems with The Hadozee before it went to print.
Such as the "fireside chat" where we were told that D&D players were "undermonitized," signalling the EAification of the hobby.
Such as having to purchase books at full price to use them on D&D Beyond, while never having official PDF releases ever.

There's more, but I hope I've demonstrated the issue that got us to where we are now, before the OGL debacle blew our trust to smithereens.

These are all issues that there was much grumbling about, long before now.
 


Muso

Explorer
I'm not arguing that OGL 1.1/2.0 isn't an egregious violation of a large swath of the fanbase's trust. Just that I don't think the reaction would be this bad without some prior footwork.

Such as the 4e GSL, which set a precedent.
Such as 5e only having Character and DM-focused content bundled into Adventure Paths up until Xanathar's.
Such as most of the 5e Adventures requiring extensive reworkings to really be playable.
Such as Spelljammmer being carved into pieces and sold as a trio of books to boost profits on it.
Such as Monsters of The Multiverse only being available initially as part of an expensive trio of "showcase" books that most people who'd want it already had.
Such as Monsters of The Multiverse invalidating two whole previous books, for somewhat dubious reasons.
Such as terribly racist content making its way into Curse of Strahd, only to be reworked later due to it being picked apart.
Such as over-corrections in Van Richten's Guide to the previous point sterilizing much of what had made Ravenloft an interesting setting in the first place.
Such as the slow drip-feed of books over the course of years.
Such as making a big deal of removing questionable content in books like Van Richten's Guide and Monsters of The Multiverse, only for no one to catch the problems with The Hadozee before it went to print.
Such as the "fireside chat" where we were told that D&D players were "undermonitized," signalling the EAification of the hobby.
Such as having to purchase books at full price to use them on D&D Beyond, while never having official PDF releases ever.

There's more, but I hope I've demonstrated the issue that got us to where we are now, before the OGL debacle blew our trust to smithereens.

These are all issues that there was much grumbling about, long before now.

Interestingly, your list of criticisms is partly coincident and partly very different from mine and I think that: 1) it is normal (we are different people, of different ages and live in different countries) and 2) therein lies the point. In different ways, many fans were a bit unhappy about several things WoC did in the past. The OGL affair is the famous straw that broke the camel's back and caused an avalanche.
 

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