News Digest for the Week of April 7

Hello everyone, Darryl here with this week’s gaming news! D&D Creator Summit highlights, Hasbro quarterly earnings call, new video games for Pathfinder, new Shadowrun release, and more!

For a quick summary of the week’s news, Jessica Hancock will bring you up to speed with EN Live's This Week in TTRPG every Friday.

Don’t forget, you can keep up with all the week’s gaming news in detail with Morrus’ Unofficial Tabletop RPG Talk. This week, Morrus, Peter, and Jessica talk about Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves in theaters now!

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In case you missed it elsewhere on EN World this week:
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This week marked the D&D Creator Summit held by Wizards of the Coast. The summit started with opening remarks from Wizards of the Coast CEO Cynthia Williams before moving into the “Morning Sessions” which started with a Q&A with Amy Dallen from the marketing team at D&D Beyond. Questions about the methodology of selecting who was invited to the event took over the latter half of the Q&A, but prior to the criticisms we learned…not a whole lot. Dallen did not have information about the system requirements of technical specifications of the D&D Beyond VTT, did not have information about support for languages other than English (other than to point out the Italian localization of the Player’s Handbook is available on D&D Beyond), and is unaware if there will be any changes to the DMs Guild with the move to One D&D.

This was followed by a presentation from multiple members of the D&D and D&D Beyond team mostly about D&D Beyond. The focus was on plans for the future to turn D&D Beyond into an “amusement park” as the official gateway for D&D content, news, and offerings taking over from the official Wizards of the Coast D&D site, which is being deprecated. This was followed by another Q&A which addressed questions of localization, mobile and console support, equity in international pricing, availability of previous editions, and a lot more.

The afternoon session focused on the upcoming Virtual Tabletop starting with a presentation and ending with a Q&A. According to Kale Stutzman, Game Director of the D&D VTT, he was the one who originally pushed for the VTT (not someone higher-up from Hasbro) as Wizards of the Coast did not have an in-house solution to remote play. The goal is to automate the more tedious functions of the game (inventory management, calculating bonuses, etc.) while still allowing the freeform play that gives tabletop RPGs an advantage over video games. “This is not a video game”. The Q&A asked about the playtest (currently in-house “friends and family” but will be opened to “a few influencers”), what platforms the VTT will be available on, homebrew support, monetization avenues, accessibility features, diversity on the development team, and other questions.

Another more general Q&A started that addressed the trust issues with Wizards of the Coast following the OGL debacle and in particular the harassment that partner creators (including freelancers) dealt with fallout and silence from Wizards of the Coast, inclusivity and diversity efforts from the company, the use of “AI” content (“AI is completely incompatible with our processes. We work with people.”), and other issues.

The presentation closed out with Jeremy Crawford and Chris Perkins speaking about changes to the Dungeonmaster’s Guide and Player’s Handbook coming in 2024 with a statement that it is not a new edition or even a “5.5e” but a revision of the existing edition and rules with new presentation that maintains compatibility. The PHB will be getting all-new art while the DMG and MM will be a mix of existing and new art. Rules changes are about how they can “make the things that squeak for you at the table no longer squeak” and clarifications with the example of Leomund’s Tiny Hut having a floor or not. They’re also sorting feedback into what edition people came into the game with to see “edition bias”. There was another Q&A addressing inclusivity and diversity with one question specifically about the coding of the Monk class, balance issues, high-level play support, what’s changing specifically with the DMG and why, and whether or not the D&D Beyond versions will be updated (no, these will be considered “new books” because of all the new content so it seems you’ll have to purchase them a second time) among other questions.

Also mentioned during the final session was the next Unearthed Arcana, which would focus on the six core classes and also introduce a new weapons table with “Mastery Traits”, which have been leaked in advance of the UA release. The new properties feature an additional benefit unlocked via class abilities with a particular weapon. For example, mastery with the club features the “Slow” ability that slows the target and “Flex” allows two-handed damage with a one-handed weapon. Other properties listed on the Mastery table include Nick, Puncture, Cleave, Topple, Sap, Graze, and Push.

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Now for the financial news from Wizards of the Coast and Dungeons & Dragons. The film Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves brought in an opening weekend of $33 million in the domestic (American) box office with an additional $38.5 million in international box office including $4.3 million in the UK. While the film will likely lose the #1 spot to Super Mario Bros opening this weekend, it did out-perform expectations and is expected to have a 45-50% drop-off from the opening weekend (for comparison, John Wick 4 released the previous week had a 62% dropoff). While it’s not massive record-breaking blockbuster levels, the D&D film had a lot to overcome including the legacy of the previous live-action films and the “Game Adaptation Curse”. At this rate, it’s likely the film will earn back its budget at the box office and will likely be a big success on home video once the film hits streaming services and Blu-ray.

Meanwhile, Wizards of the Coast also had its shareholder earnings call for Q4 2022. This cites a 20% growth in users for D&D Beyond since its acquisition in May 2022 (this wouldn’t include any fallout from the OGL controversy in January 2023). Wizards of the Coast and Digital Gaming also grew 5% in constant currency, “outperforming a games market that, by most measurements, was flat to down”. (Note: “Constant currency” is a term in investment that adjusts for fluctuations, particularly in foreign currency exchange rates, that can present a misleading growth or loss.) Tabletop game revenue grew 12% while digital declined 23% (which was expected as Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance launched during the same period in 2021 along with the mobile release of Magic: The Gathering: Arena). Hasbro sees Magic, D&D, and digital as investment properties for the company even though adjusted operating profit was down 2% to $538.2 million, attributed to higher production costs and royalties due for the Universes Beyond sets for Magic: The Gathering. CFO Deb Thomas also stated that the profits from Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves and related tie-in products will likely come in Q3 2023 and into 2024.

Wizards of the Coast did address the question of the OGL controversy and its impact. From the transcript:

Jason Haas -- Bank of America Merrill Lynch -- Analyst

Thank you. That's helpful. And then you mentioned that -- I think you described it as a misfiring on some of the proposed changes to OGL. Was there any sort of financial impact to that in the first quarter? I think that-I guess the controversy is kind of behind us at this point.

But just curious if there's anything to look out for in 1Q.

Chris Cocks -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I mean, we had some -- we had some subscription cancellations, but they were comparatively minor in the totality of both the D&D P&L and the Wizards P&L. You know, of course, we take anything like that seriously. We're in contact with the people who canceled. And, you know, in general, what we're finding is a lot of them are very open to restarting their subscriptions.

D&D Beyond is a great platform. It's a really good value, and it's something that's been a good growth factor for us. You know, we find it -- we feel, you know, about eight months into owning the asset, it's been a really good purchase for us. It was EPS accretive within six months of joining the company, and we had over 20% user growth through the end of 2022.

And the revenue growth was roughly commensurate with the user growth as well. So, you know, I think D&D should be on pace for a healthy 2023 with everything we have going on.

The call also mentioned that the company plans to reveal the new science fiction IP from Archetype Studios, the video game company started by Wizards of the Coast with several ex-BioWare developers including James Ohlen (Baldur’s Gate I & II, Dragon Age: Origins) and Drew Karypshyn (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect). So it looks like we may soon get our first information about that property since it was announced in 2019.

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A few more bits of D&D-related news. First, WizKids is expanding once again their collection of life-sized replicas with an owlbear cub. The 11 inch tall figure is made of soft foam and hand-painted “to show off each and every fluffy baby feather”. The figure is scheduled for a Q1 2024 release with a pre-order price of $129.99. Also, the mobile open-world strategy RPG Dragonheir: Silent Gods announced a promotional tie-in with Dungeons & Dragons that will add Drizzt Do’Urden and other iconic characters to the game. The turn-based game is set in a fantasy world where you take on the role of a Chosen One who can bring heroes from other words in the multiverse to assist in your battle against an evil three-headed dragon, so that explains how Drizzt ends up there. The game is currently in playtesting for Android, iOS, and PC with a scheduled full release sometime this year.

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Speaking of video game licenses, Paizo announced a partnership with BKOM Studios to create two new Pathfinder video games. From the announcement:

"We are so excited about this collab," says Frederic Martin, CEO of BKOM Studios. "We absolutely love role playing games (lots of us at BKOM are already part of that community) and already were fans of the Pathfinder brand. In Paizo, we found the ideal partner with whom to collaborate to materialize a common vision. After 26 years in this industry, there are people whom you know you want to work with again. And John Feil (Director of Licensing at Paizo) is definitely one of them. We can't wait to reveal more about the projects we've been working on with John and his colleagues," he adds. "The upcoming titles are perfectly aligned with BKOM’s vision to bring unique and meaningful gaming experiences on PC and consoles."

"We at Paizo are incredibly excited to be working with BKOM," says Mark Moreland, the company's Director of Brand Strategy. "Their track record is impeccable, and we can't wait to expand the Pathfinder brand into new digital spaces with them."

BKOM Studios work is mostly in mobile games and some “lite” RPG titles, though they were a contracted developer on the most recent entry of the Age of Empires franchise doing UI and accessibility work for Age of Empires IV. The first game from this deal will launch on Steam later this year while the second is in early development.

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Catalyst Game Labs released Wisper Nets, a new campaign book for Shadowrun Sixth World. Information is power, and the runner team has been sent to the corporate enclave of Manhattan to uncover hidden information. How much can value can they squeeze out of the information without drawing too large of a target on their backs? Especially as several powerful financiers have recently been sent to prison for using just such paydata in insider trading. The PDF is available now for $19.99 on DriveThruRPG while the hardcover is currently hitting store shelves with a retail price of $49.99.

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Two big shake-ups happened in senior personnel at RPG companies this week. Steve Jackson Games announced a new CEO for the company, Meredith Placko. She replaces former CEO Phil Reed, who will remain at the company as member of the Senior Staff and Board of Directors and will continue to act as Art Director and lead the company’s crowdfunding efforts. Placko is co-founder of Turbo Dork, manufacturer of acrylic paints for miniatures, and also worked at NBC as a media producer and on-air host. Steve Jackson wanted to make clear that SJG is not acquiring Turbo Dork and they will remain an independent company.

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Over at Chaosium, executive editor James Lowder has stepped down from his position. No replacement has been named at this time, but Susan O’Brien will take over day-to-day management of the fiction program while vice president Michael O’Brien will take over matters involving licensing and contracts. Lowder said in a statement made on Facebook, “Basically, I've taken the job as far as I can. […] I'm not retiring or anything, just headed back to the Freelancer Wastes. I look forward, in particular, to spending a lot more time writing and designing, though I'm always available to consult with publishers interested in improving their treatment of creators.”


That’s all from me for this week! Don’t forget to support our Patreon to bring you more gaming news content. If you have any news to submit, email us at news@enpublishingrpg.com, and you can get more discussion of the week’s news on Morrus’ Unofficial Tabletop RPG Talk every week. You can follow me on Twitch to get notifications when I go live, follow me on Mastodon for RPG chat and general nonsense, subscribe to Gamer’s Tavern on YouTube for videos on gaming history, RPG reviews, and gaming Let’s Plays, or you can listen to the archives of the Gamer’s Tavern podcast. Until next time, may all your hits be crits! Note: Links to Amazon, Humble Store, Humble Bundle, and/or DriveThru may contain affiliate links with the proceeds going to the author of this column.
 

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Darryl Mott

Darryl Mott

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Interesting news at SJG. Feels like this is an overall win, especially as it seems like Phil's personal kickstarter campaigns have started to take off even more in recent years

Also it'll be good to have new blood at SJG, and someone who mixes it up a bit diversity wise... but a telnet rpg group? wow
 

aramis erak

Legend
Interesting news at SJG. Feels like this is an overall win, especially as it seems like Phil's personal kickstarter campaigns have started to take off even more in recent years

Also it'll be good to have new blood at SJG, and someone who mixes it up a bit diversity wise... but a telnet rpg group? wow
in the late 1980's there was a tn3270 VTT. I do wish I could find it again... It had MacOS and Windows versions. Including mouse support if using a TN3270 client....
 

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