D&D General Is DnD being mothballed?

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Umm, wasn't that the whole argument that Ben Riggs put forward? That the books sold in the first couple of months and then nose dived thereafter?

I didn't realize there was actually anyone who thought that 3.5 had stable sales by the tail end. I'm rather surprised that you think this.
That wasn't the point that I took away from his seminar, no. That there was drop-off over time was both expected and unsurprising, but there was nothing that I noted which suggested that things weren't stable (heck, Riggs even noted that he didn't even have sales numbers for the last few years of 3.5; his chart didn't go past 2006).

Likewise, I'll point out that there are distinctions to be made between "stable" (which strikes me as an imprecise term) and the idea that the release schedule was necessarily going to result in disaster. The former point is something to discuss unto itself, but the latter point is (as Staffan correctly noted) self-evidently not true.
 

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Iosue

Legend
If you explore a bank robbery or murder, people can get upset over you exploring it too, not just about you committing it.
Look, I'm not at all saying that people shouldn't have gotten angry. I think ultimately the leak and subsequent backlash was a net good. Even if WotC had already decided to completely reverse course after meeting resistance from the TPP, it was good that they got very strident feedback from the fanbase, demonstrating conclusively to the Hasbro suits that OGL was not just some funky outdated license or just so the fans could make non-commercial stuff, but rather an aspirational ideal tremendously valued by the community.

What I'm arguing against is the narrative that WotC, as a strategy, just callously and unilaterally tried to cancel the OGL, completely oblivious to the optics or wishes of the fans, and only the backlash stopped them. I know that for many that is the full extent of the narrative. But that is not what happened.
  • They floated the idea of royalties and limiting the OGL only to static media. No one cared.
  • They tried to get TPPs onboard with their plans before releasing the new license (and if you want to be mad about the strong arm tactics, go ahead).
  • When they didn't get buy-in from the TPPs, they didn't release it when they had planned to.
I don't know where they would have gone after that. Nobody does. OGL 2.0? We don't even know the provenance or date of that, and in any event, it was also not released. We can speculate until the cows come home, but my point is only that WotC's strategy was to get TPP buy-in for the new license, they didn't get it, they paused to re-calibrate their strategy and then everything blew up in their face.

In my opinion, any discussion of WotC's strategy vis-a-vis the OGL has to deal with the hypothetical that WotC got buy-in from the TPPs. (I also think the possibility that, not getting buy-in from TPPs, WotC would have abandoned revoking the OGL without the leaks happening should also be considered, but I'm aware that's almost certainly a bridge too far for most.)

Now, Alzrius doesn't want to discuss that hypothetical, and that's fine. But that's the only reason I noted that people were upset with what WotC explored doing, and not what they actually did. Because what they actually did was offer term sheets to TPPs, hold off on releasing "OGL" 1.1, write a smug apology, write a better one, release OGL 1.2 for feedback, and after receiving the feedback released 5e into the Creative Commons. And none of that, aside from the first thing, was part of a strategy, those were just reactions to events.

(And just to be clear, if anyone is mad with WotC for even thinking about revoking OGL 1.0a, that's fine with me.)
 

Umm, wasn't that the whole argument that Ben Riggs put forward? That the books sold in the first couple of months and then nose dived thereafter?

I didn't realize there was actually anyone who thought that 3.5 had stable sales by the tail end. I'm rather surprised that you think this.

I think people forget how mad folks were about 3.5 when it was announced. Not everyone was upset, and most of us made the switch. But in all the controversies that have followed, I do think people don't often remember this was seen as a somewhat shady move to get people to repurchase all the same books, updated to 3.5. I think many of us reluctantly bought 3.5 books because we felt we had to. But the dislike of the strategy and the realization, at least for me (can't speak for others) that 3.5 just increased and made worse aspects of 3E I wasn't a huge fan of, made me quickly lose my interest. Between that, and between my disappointment with the Castle Ravenloft adventure for 3E, I was a lot less enthusiastic about buying 3E books toward the end of its run (which is one of the reasons when 4E came out, I just lost all interest in WOTC D&D).
 

Iosue

Legend
That wasn't the point that I took away from his seminar, no. That there was drop-off over time was both expected and unsurprising, but there was nothing that I noted which suggested that things weren't stable (heck, Riggs even noted that he didn't even have sales numbers for the last few years of 3.5; his chart didn't go past 2006).
So he was essentially missing 2007-2008, the year 4e was announced and the year it was released. I think we can reasonably assume that 3.5 did not do as well or better than previous years in those two years.

Then, counting only 3.5's prime years, it did not sell as much as 3e did, and that's with cutting off part of 3e's biggest selling period, which Dancey claims would have doubled 3e's total. So 3.5 did about half of what 3e did. And we know that 3e was prematurely cut short because sales were flagging.

Personally, that doesn't sound like a healthy product line cut short only because Hasbro wanted WoW money. In fact, reviewing that thread, you wrote,
So why were the numbers for 3.X so much lower than even 2E? According to him, the Hasbro execs were of the opinion that it was because World of Warcraft (which released in late 2004) was eating their lunch.

3e sold at best 40% less than 2e, and 3.5 sold 50% of that. And these numbers were considered low by the Hasbro execs. And they blamed WoW, released in late 2004, so what they were really looking at were low numbers in 2005-2006. That doesn't sound stable to me.
 

Staffan

Legend
Well, no, the gazateers in SKT and DragonbHeiat are not "small," theybare larger than old TSR products that would cover the same territory. Theybare also not the only ones: Icewind Dale, Baldur's Gate, Tomb of Annhilation, Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Princes of.the Apocalypse, Out of the Abyss, and Curse of Strahd fit that bill, as well. Yes, regional douecebooks are baked into Adventure books now, but the material is being released.
The sourcebook part of Dragon Heist is 23 pages long. That is significantly less than the 160-page 3e City of Splendors, or the 304-page (plus monsters) total of the 2e boxed set.

The gazetteer in Storm King's Thunder is a bit chunkier at 58 pages. That's still less than the 160-page Silver Marches or the 2e 192-page The North boxed set.

I admit that the comparison is somewhat fraught because the 3e books had quite a lot of player-facing material, and often lengthy NPC stat blocks that took up a lot of page count, but the numbers are still quite different.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
So he was essentially missing 2007-2008, the year 4e was announced and the year it was released. I think we can reasonably assume that 3.5 did not do as well or better than previous years in those two years.
That's presumptive, but even if it's true, I'm not sure what the relevance is. Because the issue of how well 3.5 was doing was largely brought up strictly with regard to "the execs saw how explosive WoW was, and wanted D&D to get a piece of that." There's nothing to suggest that the bottom was dropping out of 3.5, and that it was no longer earning more than it took in.
Then, counting only 3.5's prime years, it did not sell as much as 3e did, and that's with cutting off part of 3e's biggest selling period, which Dancey claims would have doubled 3e's total. So 3.5 did about half of what 3e did. And we know that 3e was prematurely cut short because sales were flagging.
I'm not familiar with the idea that 3E was "cut short because sales were flagging." Quite the contrary, my understanding was that 3.5 was part of the strategy from day one of 3E's life (as per an old article from Monte Cook wherein he says "See, I'm going to let you in on a little secret, which might make you mad: 3.5 was planned from the beginning.") How it eventually came out wasn't quite the same as it was originally planned to be, granted, and Cook grants that it was a few years earlier than planned presumably due to an expected slump in sales happening slightly earlier than anticipated, but the idea for a revision midway seems to have always been the case.

That said, "not selling as much" isn't proof-positive of "it wasn't sustainable and/or profitable." Which has kind of been my point all along.
Personally, that doesn't sound like a healthy product line cut short only because Hasbro wanted WoW money. In fact, reviewing that thread, you wrote,


3e sold at best 40% less than 2e, and 3.5 sold 50% of that. And these numbers were considered low by the Hasbro execs. And they blamed WoW, released in late 2004, so what they were really looking at were low numbers in 2005-2006. That doesn't sound stable to me.
You'll also note that, in addition to saying that his research was preliminary, Riggs noted that 3.X PHB sales were roughly equal to those of 2E, and were accomplished in a shorter time. Likewise, I disagree with your presumption that those numbers aren't "stable," where stable means reliably taking in enough income to keep operating. Nothing Riggs says suggests that WotC was in danger of not being able to keep the lights on (at least as far as D&D went; M:tG would have kept them going regardless), whereas he outright states that the executives were seeing a larger phenomenon and wanted a piece of it. That broadly tracks with what Ryan Dancey said, regarding D&D being a $25M-$30M business, versus the $50M-$100M Hasbro wanted it to be.

To summarize, the idea that 3.5's sales were bottoming out, and that they weren't profitable (in terms of taking in more money than was spent) seems to be entirely based around the idea of drawing inferences based around extending the idea that sales slow down over time. Now, sales do slow down over time, but that doesn't mean that at the time 3.5 ended, there was anything to suggest that there was (or was imminently approaching) negative profitability, especially when we're actively being told that the switch to 4E was in search of more money for reasons of seeing (presumed) greater opportunity, rather than fleeing insolvency for the brand.
 
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mamba

Legend
What I'm arguing against is the narrative that WotC, as a strategy, just callously and unilaterally tried to cancel the OGL, completely oblivious to the optics or wishes of the fans, and only the backlash stopped them. I know that for many that is the full extent of the narrative. But that is not what happened.
  • They floated the idea of royalties and limiting the OGL only to static media. No one cared.
  • They tried to get TPPs onboard with their plans before releasing the new license (and if you want to be mad about the strong arm tactics, go ahead).
  • When they didn't get buy-in from the TPPs, they didn't release it when they had planned to.
not sure 1) is true, but the backlash would have been smaller if this were the only change, sure

In my opinion, any discussion of WotC's strategy vis-a-vis the OGL has to deal with the hypothetical that WotC got buy-in from the TPPs. (I also think the possibility that, not getting buy-in from TPPs, WotC would have abandoned revoking the OGL without the leaks happening should also be considered, but I'm aware that's almost certainly a bridge too far for most.)
yeah, that is a hypothetical, not a particularly likely one given how things went until they blew up, but not entirely impossible either

I am ok with not relitigating this, but pretending that WotC was just talking things through with 3PPs in a friendly and cooperative manner and an open ended result where 1.0 staying was just as likely as a compromise with which everyone is happy is just not what happened
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
that sounds a lot more like causation when all we really have is correlation.

We have no evidence in either direction, all we know is that this is the best selling edition, and healthier for longer than previous ones too
The interpretation of evidence does not have to be correct. Evidence is a fact that indicates that a belief is true. If you are at a restaurant at the time of a murder and your finger prints are on the knife(because you used it to eat a steak), that's evidence that you killed the person, even if you didn't.

A correlation like the slow release rate may not equal causation, but it is an indicator that their idea that the slow release rate is the reason or a large part of why 5e is doing well could be true. They might be wrong about that as there are a LOT of other factors that all hit at the same time with regard to 5e, but it is evidence. As those other factors are evidence that there are other reasons why 5e is doing so well.

The problem is that we don't have enough evidence to prove things either way, not that there's no evidence in either direction. For all we know we are all correct. The slower release rate is a major factor in how well 5e is doing, but 5e would do even better if it released 1 more book of crunch a year. No way to know.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
The sourcebook part of Dragon Heist is 23 pages long. That is significantly less than the 160-page 3e City of Splendors, or the 304-page (plus monsters) total of the 2e boxed set.

The gazetteer in Storm King's Thunder is a bit chunkier at 58 pages. That's still less than the 160-page Silver Marches or the 2e 192-page The North boxed set.

I admit that the comparison is somewhat fraught because the 3e books had quite a lot of player-facing material, and often lengthy NPC stat blocks that took up a lot of page count, but the numbers are still quite different.
Ah, see, my comparison is the FR books from the 80's, which I've been going through recently. Didn't vonsider late stage 2E or 3E products in that regard, since they haven't been on my radar. Storm King's Thunder and Baldur's Gate section, specifically, are as long as a full 64 page TSR product, and Dragon Heist's Enchridion is actually pretty similar in size too he equivalent chapters in FR1 (complicated since the test of that book is basically baked into the rest of Dragon Heist).
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
So he was essentially missing 2007-2008, the year 4e was announced and the year it was released. I think we can reasonably assume that 3.5 did not do as well or better than previous years in those two years.

Then, counting only 3.5's prime years, it did not sell as much as 3e did, and that's with cutting off part of 3e's biggest selling period, which Dancey claims would have doubled 3e's total. So 3.5 did about half of what 3e did. And we know that 3e was prematurely cut short because sales were flagging.

Personally, that doesn't sound like a healthy product line cut short only because Hasbro wanted WoW money. In fact, reviewing that thread, you wrote,


3e sold at best 40% less than 2e, and 3.5 sold 50% of that. And these numbers were considered low by the Hasbro execs. And they blamed WoW, released in late 2004, so what they were really looking at were low numbers in 2005-2006. That doesn't sound stable to me.
Yeah, my takeaway from that seminar was that 3E and 3.5 basically fell flat on their faces.
 

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