OGL Hasbro/WotC has crossed the Trust Thermocline

Muso

Explorer
The real question I think now is: will WoC learn from this and try to fix it, or will they pretend to listen to the fans and still try to pursue the exact same goals?
 

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Also, isn't it mostly the GM/DMs who actually buy RPG products, making the percentage of actual paying customers bigger? I mean, yeah, players might buy the player-facing books, but probably not adventures?
Not only is that true, but on top of that, 5E is unique among D&D editions in that it really hasn't put out many books a player would ever consider buying.

Typically players buy books that have a bunch of player-facing content in them, and don't also have a ton of stuff that's clearly DM-directed. There are only two such books for 5E (apart from the PHB), in 8 years. Xanathar's and Tasha's. It's possible some players would also buy the dragon book, but it was marketed in a very DM-oriented way.

This is in huge contrast to 2/3/4E.

All of them pumped out "splatbooks" which is what players usually buy. 2E had Handbook after Handbook, just a hose of player-facing content. Then Skills & Powers and all that too, which was player-facing.

3E even more so. Endless splatbooks. PrCs being in the mix just made it more extreme!

4E had multiple "PHBs" full of player-facing material, class-based splatbooks, and then the Essentials line was also extremely player-friendly - certainly both the Essentials books were bought by my players.

Now 5E did recognise something important:

If you only sell to the DM, and making far fewer books, your sales become vastly more efficient, in terms of sell-through and real use at the table. But the problem is, that means DMs are even more your main audience than they are in previous editions. So you'd really better not piss them off. And given they also tend to be far more hooked-in to RPG news, far more likely to be interested in 3PP products, and are the only person in the group even remotely reliably capable of moving the group to another game, this sort of thing is EXACTLY what you want to avoid.

However, I don't think WotC's current leadership even understands the DM/player distinction, let alone that they've been selling to DMs. I'm sure Winninger did, and Perkins and Crawford do, but Dan Rawson or Cynthia Williams? Unlikely based on this. This reeks of failure to know your audience.
 
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The real question I think now is: will WoC learn from this and try to fix it, or will they pretend to listen to the fans and still try to pursue the exact same goals?
The latter.

Their unctuous faux-apology shows that.

They so quickly dropped the most obviously-evil bits of the OGL 1.1 that it's hard to understand why they even did them except greed/arrogance, but they kept the red line point of deauthorizing the OGL 1.0a and destroying the concept of OGC.

They literally don't get what the problem is. They don't understand their audience on a basic level. They don't understand who is actually buying their books, and I strongly suspect they don't understand the difference between a DM and a player, and part of the reason they think D&D is "under-monetized" is that not everyone is buying all the books, and not every Beyond sub is a master-tier sub.
 


Muso

Explorer
I also think the same. After the catastrophe of 4E they recovered well with the development, play testing and release of 5E, showing that they have learned (at least in part) from the mistakes they made before. Today it seems that they just don't understand what is going on and why they can't put their plans into action. Either there will be a change at the top or I fear it will get worse and worse.
 

The Scythian

Explorer
However, I don't think WotC's current leadership even understands the DM/player distinction, let alone that they've been selling to DMs. I'm sure Winninger did, and Perkins and Crawford do, but Dan Rawson or Cynthia Williams? Unlikely based on this. This reeks of failure to know your audience.
In the now infamous December 8th investor presentation, the example that WotC president Cynthia Williams gave of D&D being under monetized was this:

"So when we think about our future monetization, we start here. Dungeon Masters, which are the people who guide you through the adventure, they only make up about 20% of the audience, but they are the largest share of our paying players. For the rest of the players at the table, we believe digital will allow us to offer a lot more options to create rewarding experiences post-sale that helps us unlock the type of recurrent spending you see in digital games, where more than 70% of the revenue in digital gaming comes post-sale. The speed of digital means that we're able to expand from what is essentially a yearly book-publishing model to a recurrent spending environment..."

They understand the distinction, and they're in the process of restructuring their entire business model to get more money out of non-DM D&D players. That's what 6e is all about. The end goal isn't simply a new edition of D&D. It's moving the game from the dining room table to a state-of-the-art VTT with impressive graphics and other features, which will become a platform to sell everything from subscriptions to virtual currency to virtual miniatures to game materials (like classes, feats, spells, monsters, etc.) to customizations (for virtual dice, virtual miniatures, digital character sheets, etc.) and other things that I lack the business savvy to imagine.

WotC didn't just stumble into the OGL debacle because they don't understand the composition of their customer base. It's part of a larger plan.
 

mamba

Hero
That's what 6e is all about. The end goal isn't simply a new edition of D&D. It's moving the game from the dining room table to a state-of-the-art VTT with impressive graphics and other features, which will become a platform to sell everything from subscriptions to virtual currency to virtual miniatures to game materials (like classes, feats, spells, monsters, etc.) to customizations (for virtual dice, virtual miniatures, digital character sheets, etc.) and other things that I lack the business savvy to imagine.
they can do that and stay at 5e. Nothing in 6e helps with that
 

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.

Honestly... kind of? The real themocline is a depth, and if WotC wasn't already a little deep (if manageably so), maybe it could have at least reassured the community a bit more that it was taking their voices to heart. I do think that while some people wouldn't trust them, there are a certain amount of people who look at the list of mistakes @Dire Bare put out and this ends up showing that those weren't isolated, they were a growing pattern of behavior.

So yeah, they might have a bit more ability to control the community if not for previous mistakes. This is perhaps a less apt example of the issue the thermocline is trying to get across (That small changes can yield huge backlash because the dam bursts on a build-up of resentment and irritation with a company), but sometimes people cross the thing by diving straight down rather than on a very shallow incline.
 

The Scythian

Explorer
they can do that and stay at 5e. Nothing in 6e helps with that
The very act of creating a new edition helps with that. It changes D&D from merely the latest edition of that weird game where you sit around the dining room table and play with books and funny dice, to One D&D, the evergreen final edition of the game that will be built around a state-of-the-art VTT and suite of digital tools.

To be clear, I'm not saying that it would have been impossible for them to make a state-of-the-art VTT and suite of digital tools for 5e. However, they're obviously going in a different direction.
 

raniE

Adventurer
In the now infamous December 8th investor presentation, the example that WotC president Cynthia Williams gave of D&D being under monetized was this:

"So when we think about our future monetization, we start here. Dungeon Masters, which are the people who guide you through the adventure, they only make up about 20% of the audience, but they are the largest share of our paying players. For the rest of the players at the table, we believe digital will allow us to offer a lot more options to create rewarding experiences post-sale that helps us unlock the type of recurrent spending you see in digital games, where more than 70% of the revenue in digital gaming comes post-sale. The speed of digital means that we're able to expand from what is essentially a yearly book-publishing model to a recurrent spending environment..."

They understand the distinction, and they're in the process of restructuring their entire business model to get more money out of non-DM D&D players. That's what 6e is all about. The end goal isn't simply a new edition of D&D. It's moving the game from the dining room table to a state-of-the-art VTT with impressive graphics and other features, which will become a platform to sell everything from subscriptions to virtual currency to virtual miniatures to game materials (like classes, feats, spells, monsters, etc.) to customizations (for virtual dice, virtual miniatures, digital character sheets, etc.) and other things that I lack the business savvy to imagine.

WotC didn't just stumble into the OGL debacle because they don't understand the composition of their customer base. It's part of a larger plan.
The problem with that plan is ... we already have video games, and if you want to do video game stuff, then video games are better. This seems to be geared up to puncture the D&D fad bubble with lots of players leaving the hobby and instead of WotC being set up to quietly go into maintenance mode with say one release a year and letting third party creators take the risks that might bring people in to buy a PHB every now and again, they're going to develop an expensive system that requires constant maintenance just as their customer pool is shrinking.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
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.
I think many fans are conflating two different things, that work together in tandem to pull them away from WotC as customers.

One, is WotC making decisions on the direction of D&D that are NOT a violation of trust, but simply don't align with what SOME customers want out of D&D. WotC never "promised" to release all the classic settings first before adapting Magic settings to the game. Never. You may have wanted that to happen first, but it wasn't a promise or a breach of trust. Still, if WotC isn't putting out products you want, your enjoyment is being "eroded".

Quality issues CAN be a breach of trust, but quality is subjective. A book you might think poor quality, I might think is awesome. Most of WotC's books have been well received by fans overall, the biggest gripes within the online community recently have been over the format of the Spelljammer release, with feelings it was an attempt to charge more for less content.

There are a lot of smaller events that actually WERE breaches of trust, that have brought WotC closer and closer to this "thermocline of trust". I posted a list of past WotC actions that bothered me up in post #59.
 

mamba

Hero
The very act of creating a new edition helps with that.
not if it is backwards compatible, which this one is
To be clear, I'm not saying that it would have been impossible for them to make a state-of-the-art VTT and suite of digital tools for 5e. However, they're obviously going in a different direction.
they are, all I am saying is that there is no reason to, and you seem to agree here…
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Comparisons with physics stuff are misplaced - physics and chemistry react according to predictable laws of physics.

But there's nothing of the sort here. Humans don't operate according to scientific laws.

Instead the comparison risks drawing the focus away from what's truly important:

The OGL's value lay in the trust. Not the legal protections. Now that trust is gone, and nothing WotC can realistically do will bring it back. But not because of some law of physics.
 


CapnZapp

Legend
That was very much the opposite of my experience as a publisher (well, VP of Product Development for a publisher).
No, I mean the value is in you trusting WotC not to sue you, a trust generated by you feeling confident you not being sued. Not because of any legal precedent or court statements.

Now that trust is gone, regardless of whether the OGL will actually change or not.
 

Now that trust is gone, regardless of whether the OGL will actually change or not.
I don't know if you're tying yourself into knots on the "trust" thing, or if I'm just failing at reading comprehension. The "value" of the OGL was in the contractual rights conferred by the legal document. That has been "devalued" by Wizards' efforts to revoke it. If, tomorrow, Wizards releases a 1.0b that adds the word "irrevocable," the value will be restored. It may not be Paizo or Kobold Press or MCDM or whatever, but publishers will line up to leverage that value and publish content for D&D.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I don't know if you're tying yourself into knots on the "trust" thing, or if I'm just failing at reading comprehension. The "value" of the OGL was in the contractual rights conferred by the legal document. That has been "devalued" by Wizards' efforts to revoke it. If, tomorrow, Wizards releases a 1.0b that adds the word "irrevocable," the value will be restored. It may not be Paizo or Kobold Press or MCDM or whatever, but publishers will line up to leverage that value and publish content for D&D.
I don't think that will work. Because there's nothing stopping WotC from simply biding their time and altering the OGL again later on. That's the trust the other poster is talking about. We know they want to kill the OGL. That's not likely to change. They could let it stand another 20 years or kill it tomorrow. The fact that they might kill it tomorrow puts publishers in a monumental bind and puts their businesses at risk. The margins are already small enough that most publishers would err on the side of not risking their entire business in trusting WotC to not do this again in 6 months or a year.

Publishers have to trust WotC to not pull the rug out from under their feet. Publishers now know with 100% certainty they cannot trust WotC to leave the rug alone. The trust is gone. So publishers will no longer use the OGL. They will likely either skirt copyright where they can by publishing compatible adventures or they will switch to the ORC. Several publishers have already said that's exactly what they're doing. All because they can no longer trust WotC to leave the OGL alone.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Wotc further saw dnd as a "lifestyle brand."
And they're right about that -- it is a lifestyle brand. What they failed to reckon with is that being a lifestyle brand cuts two ways. Yes, it can engender tremendous customer loyalty. But it also means that customers can get absolutely furious if you mess with things that they view as essential.

Moreover, in this case, there is the issue that the D&D brand is not synonymous with the Wizards brand in the minds of the community. Wizards is the steward of D&D, not the creator of it; a distinction which was reinforced in the 4E era when a lot of people decided WotC had failed in its stewardship, and decamped for Pathfinder. Because of this, Wizards does not automatically benefit from customer loyalty to D&D and can in fact be hurt by it.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I don't know if you're tying yourself into knots on the "trust" thing, or if I'm just failing at reading comprehension.
Okay so let me try to make it simple.

People on the interwebs discuss the OGL. Can WotC revoke it? Are their changes legal? Will people contest it in court?

All these questions completely miss the point.

The point is that the trust is gone. This trust came from a belief (now shattered) that WotC wouldn't do this.

Whether they actually can do this is completely beside the point. Whether they backtrack or weasel or apologize-not-apologize is completely beside the point (and worthless as long as they insist on retaining the right to make future changes).

All because the trust is gone.

Just about the ONLY action they can take to "save the OGL" would be to turn it over to EFF. Or legally connect it to a truly open license such as Creative Commons. Or something - I am not a lawyer. Permanently (perpetually, irrevocably, you name it) giving up all their rights to the open source movement somehow.

Anything short of that will fail. Again not because of any particular legal wrinkle.

But because the trust is gone.

I really don't know how to explain it simpler than this, so if you still don't comprehend my language, we will just have to leave it - this is my final attempt.

Cheers
 

Muso

Explorer
One, is WotC making decisions on the direction of D&D that are NOT a violation of trust, but simply don't align with what SOME customers want out of D&D. WotC never "promised" to release all the classic settings first before adapting Magic settings to the game. Never. You may have wanted that to happen first, but it wasn't a promise or a breach of trust. Still, if WotC isn't putting out products you want, your enjoyment is being "eroded".

Quality issues CAN be a breach of trust, but quality is subjective. A book you might think poor quality, I might think is awesome. Most of WotC's books have been well received by fans overall, the biggest gripes within the online community recently have been over the format of the Spelljammer release, with feelings it was an attempt to charge more for less content.

There are a lot of smaller events that actually WERE breaches of trust, that have brought WotC closer and closer to this "thermocline of trust". I posted a list of past WotC actions that bothered me up in post #59.

Now I understand better what you mean, thanks. In fact I think the erosion of trust or at least how much one appreciates a certain product is very subjective. Your list in message #58 is somewhat similar to mine but somewhat different. Precisely for subjective issues of personal stories and different origins. In Italy, for example, the translation of the manuals into Italian had been entrusted to a company (Asmodee through GaleForce9) in which the historical translators of D&D work and who have translated all the past editions starting from AD&D2E. They were doing a great job. At some point the WoC revoked Asmodee's license and decided to publish their own translations of the manuals. The quality of the translations has plummeted to embarrassing levels. Despite the protests of the whole community we only got very vague standard answers and the release of errata that did not cover all the issues entered. Things like that in the Monster Manual beholder is translated as "beholder" and in other manuals it is translated as "onnivedente" (that can be roughly translated as "all-seeing"), in some manuals the bugbear is translated as in past editions, i.e. "bugbear", while in others it is called "urgoblin ". This is just to give a few small examples. But this has caused a significant erosion of trust in the Italian public.
Going back to the topic of the topic, I think a lot of people had their confidence eroded in different ways but not yet to the point where they passed a certain threshold. This OGL scandal has overstepped many who were only partially disgruntled. Indeed, the WoC behaved as if it wanted to saw the branch it is sitting on.
 

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