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News Digest for the Week of February 18

Hello everyone, Darryl here with this week’s gaming news! TTRPGs and NFTs, product updates for Dungeons & Dragons, activist hedge fund wants Wizards of the Coast split from Hasbro, updates to Cyberpunk 2077 and Baldur’s Gate 3, and more! Don’t forget, you can keep up with all the week’s gaming news with Morrus’ Unofficial Tabletop RPG Talk! This week, Morrus and Peter talk about science...

Hello everyone, Darryl here with this week’s gaming news! TTRPGs and NFTs, product updates for Dungeons & Dragons, activist hedge fund wants Wizards of the Coast split from Hasbro, updates to Cyberpunk 2077 and Baldur’s Gate 3, and more!

Don’t forget, you can keep up with all the week’s gaming news with Morrus’ Unofficial Tabletop RPG Talk! This week, Morrus and Peter talk about science fiction RPGs.


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In case you missed it elsewhere on EN World this week:
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I wish the NFTs had not come to tabletop gaming, but so do all who live to see such times. Before we get into the news, a quick definition of NFTs. NFTs or non-fungible tokens are a digital token typically used to represent “ownership” of a digital asset of some sort – images, videos, music, etc. They can be traded or sold through exchanges using cryptocurrency. The goal of NFTs as currently implemented is to create scarcity for digital assets because the NFT itself cannot be copied or downloaded the way other digital files can be. The technology has faced criticism since its popularity began to rise in 2021 due to the environmental impact of the power use behind the technology and the rampant use of artwork, music, and other intellectual property without permission of the artist or rights holders. For more information about the underlying technology, I wrote a long reply to the “TTRPGs, Blockchains, and NFTs” article posted to EN World this week.

Late last week, a company named Gripnr announced its plans to create a “5e based TTRPG NFT protocol”. The company has placed Stephen Radney-MacFarland (D&D, Star Wars Saga Edition, Pathfinder) as lead designer. No further information has been provided about this project or how NFTs will be used in a tabletop roleplaying game.

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Last week, two of the largest distributors for digital products for tabletop roleplaying games, DriveThruRPG and Itch.io, both made statements denouncing NFTs and stated neither company would involve NFTs or other blockchain technology in their businesses. Kickstarter, however, has now tripled down on their plans to shift the company to blockchain technology despite concerns. In a statement, Senior Director of Communications Kate Bernyk stated “we have no plans to allow NFTs on the platform at this time.” However, the company also posted a statement to their website that it plans to move forward with shifting the platform to a blockchain model. The statement says they will make sure that any platform is “tested”, the new organization will be a “Public Benefit Corporation”, and they are committed to limiting their environmental impact and that “offsets are not enough”. They did not address concerns about fraud, scams, IP theft, or other issues critics of blockchain technology raised, nor did they state how they will limit the environmental impact of their use of a blockchain.

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Meanwhile, a DAO (short for “decentralized autonomous organization”, or basically an organization that pools together assets like cryptocurrency in order to accomplish a specific coal) called mtgDAO received a cease-and-desist letter from Wizards of the Coast after posting for sale NFTs of Magic: The Gathering cards without permission. In the C&D letter, Wizards of the Coast stated that they had not yet made a decision on whether or not to implement NFT technology in any of their products. This echoes a previous non-committal statement from the company made in April 2021. The mission statement for mtgDAO stated that “Wizards has created value for me personally and thousands of other players”. Magic: The Gathering has a reported player base of over 40 million as of 2021. The group planned to implement NFT technology into the game “so players can trust the scarcity of their investments.” Last year, an Alpha Black Lotus sold for over $500,000 at auction. The long-term goal of the group is to “just buy the Magic brand from Wizards of the Coast”. Last week, Hasbro held its annual shareholders call where they stated Wizards of the Coast posted over $1 billion in revenue and made up 72% of the operating profit for the entire company.

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In our final NFT-related story this week, Chaosium announced they will suspend its licensing deal with the company VeVe to create NFTs of Chaosium-related properties. The deal was announced in July 2021 and received little attention at the time as criticisms of NFTs were still mostly limited to online communities and social media accounts of independent artists. However, awareness of the deal rose in the wake of other stories about tabletop gaming and roleplaying games involved with NFTs and created a backlash. Chaosium announced they have halted plans for future NFT releases and that Chaosium will “never require anyone to own an NFT/digital collectible to enjoy any Chaosium product or game”. This mirrors similar incidents in the video game space where the developers of the upcoming S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 and the company behind the Worms franchise both announced plans to add NFTs to their games and immediately backpedaled on the announcements following heavy criticism.

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Wizards of the Coast announced a delay in the European release of the Critical Role adventure Call of the Netherdeep. The hardcover will be available in Europe on April 5, 2022 due to “kraken related shipping delays”. Call of the Netherdeep is an adventure crossing multiple continents from the scarred Wastes of Xhorhas to the land of Marquet taking characters from level 3 to 12. The adventure book is still scheduled for a March 15, 2022, release in North America and is available for pre-order.

In other Dungeons & Dragons product news, Hasbro posted a video highlighting new releases for 2022 which included not only Call of the Netherdeep but a new starter set. The set is titled Dragons of Stormwreck Isle and features a blue dragon breathing lightning on the cover. An image of the set shows two booklets, a small pile of character sheets, and a set of blue polyhedral dice with white numbers. No release date is posted yet, but a Businesswire report of the full listing of Hasbro products states the approximate retail price will be $49.99, which if accurate would make this the highest price for a Dungeons & Dragons starter set, which typically range from $19.99 to $29.99. UPDATE: Ray Winninger, the head of D&D at Wizards of the Coast, confirmed on Twitter that the $49.99 price was incorrect and that the actual retail price will be revealed when Wizards officially announces product details.

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An ”activist hedge fund” named Alta Fox Capital released a statement calling for Hasbro to spin Wizards of the Coast off as its own company. The 100-page PDF states that because Wizards of the Coast makes up the majority of the profit for Hasbro, it would serve shareholders better to split it off as its own company. They claim that Hasbro uses the profits generated by Wizards to finance less-profitable ventures within the company and, as a separate company, those profits would instead go to shareholders rather than invested in future products. While many statements in the document show a lack of knowledge of the tabletop gaming market (for example, an entire page is devoted to comparing Magic: The Gathering to sports collectibles like baseball cards), the PDF does contain a wealth of information about the financials of Wizards of the Coast and its brands.

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Free RPG Day for 2022 has been announced: June 25 for North America and July 23 for the rest of the world. While no announcement has been made for specific products at this time and the official website does not have a listing, ICv2 reports that participating companies include 9th Level Games, Catalyst Game Labs, CMON, Dave Taylor Miniatures, Darrington Press, Goodman Games, Infinite Black, Loke Battlemats, Magpie Games, Mantic Games, Paizo, Privateer Press, Q-Workshop, R. Talsorian Games, Renegade Game Studios, Steamforged Games, and WizKids. Gamers can now search for retailers participating in the event with more to be added, while retailers can place their orders starting now until May 29.

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Two of the largest tabletop roleplaying-based video games received big updates this week. CD Projekt Red released Patch 1.5 for Cyberpunk 2077, the big next-gen upgrade for consoles. The patch updates the graphics to 4K 60 FPS (“with small & rare frame-drops”) on the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X (30 FPS with ray tracing enabled), and 1440p 30 FPS for Xbox Series X. The patch also includes new content including additional weapons, new player apartments, a hairdressing mirror for changing your characters’ appearance, upgrades to NPC AI both in and out of combat, fixes to player perspective while driving, and a complete rebalancing of the game’s skill system. This new skill system added an entirely new skill tree and major changes to existing skills, which required that those playing the game prior to the update re-assign all their skill points. Of course, it wouldn’t be Cyberpunk 2077 if there wasn’t some technical issues, as many Playstation users have reported that the disc version of the game data is corrupt following the patch and PC players reporting crashes on launch due to audio driver conflicts. CD Projekt Red reported on their forums they are aware of the issues and currently investigating them. UPDATE: CDProjektRed released a patch early on Saturday, February 19, that reportedly fixes the PS4 crash issues.

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While Baldur’s Gate 3 is still in early access, that hasn’t stopped Larian Studio from updating it with new content. The latest patch adds the Barbarian class and two subclasses, the Wildheart focusing on animal companions and the Berserker which enhances rage-based abilities. Additionally, thrown weapons and improvised weapons have been added, updates to the user interface, new magic items, a “room portal” system that conceals the occupants of unexplored or closed-off rooms, and a host of minor improvements and balance tweaks.

And in a bit of fun, one Twitter user submitted a bug to the team complaining they were unable to kiss the mindflayers.

“For some reason the cutscene where I kiss the mindflayer doesn’t play. This is a reproducible error. I really like the mindflayers and would like this problem fixed or perhaps have a mindflayer companion as a suggestible fix.”

Larian Studios replied to “Resident Monster Appreciator”:

“Our writing and cinematic team originally were planning to have this scene in the game. But on further discussion we came to the conclusion that to have a truly romantic moment with the mindflayer it all needs to be done telepathically. I know that for us mere humans this might look more disappointing but we have to respect the wishes of the mindflayer too. We have to find the right balance between what we want, and what they want.”

The author of this column accepts no responsibility for the consequences of kissing mindflayers, despite reports of mindflayer kisses being described as “mind-blowing”.


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, 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


“just buy the Magic brand from Wizards of the Coast”

Not going to lie, when I was a kid I always said if I won the lottery I would buy TSR. I guess I just lost focus. Time to dump my 401k into a meme coin and hope it goes crazy.
 

Sure, we’ll just buy the company that produces $1b in revenue annually. No, we’re not a massive company ourselves, why do you ask?

I know it’s good to have dreams, but this seems delusional.
 

Crusadius

Adventurer
Activist Hedge Fund? It appears they own 2.5% of Hasbro shares and want a big say at the table that will eventually net a big payout for them, no matter what it does to the company afterwards.
 


Abstruse

Legend
Activist Hedge Fund? It appears they own 2.5% of Hasbro shares and want a big say at the table that will eventually net a big payout for them, no matter what it does to the company afterwards.
Yes, them wanting a big say at the table is what makes them an activist hedge fund.

An "activist hedge fund" is a hedge fund that, rather than just investing in a company then collecting the dividends, takes a more active role in attempting to influence the company. They talk to the Board of Directors to make recommendations (or sometimes demands), wage proxy wars, liquidate assets, force through sales or mergers, etc. They can be a good thing - voicing concerns shareholders have had about management ignoring their wishes for the company - or a bad thing - strongarming companies into making moves that cause active harm to once-stable companies for short-term gains. It varies from fund to fund, company to company, situation to situation, and your personal point of view. The term feels loaded because typically the word "activist" is used to refer to political activists, thus indicating an outside political motivation for the hedge fund's activities.

Though honestly if you want more information, I'd recommend banking or economics outlets because I'm about at the limit of this particular subject. The only reason I even know that much is I worked IT for an investment firm for a couple of years.
 



Abstruse

Legend
Just wanted to comment in case anyone misses the updates in the article, two of the stories have more information now:

First, the $49.99 retail price of Dragons of Stormwreck Isle is not correct, according to Ray Winninger. The price will be announced when WotC announces the product details officially.

Second, CDProjektRed has released a patch for PS4 users that reportedly resolves the issue of corrupting installs from physical discs after upgrading to the 1.5 patch.
 

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