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 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.
 


Abstruse

Legend
It will take more than an upgrade to make Cyberpunk 2077 a winner. They managed to take a lot of good ideas and fail to fulfill any of them.
According to reports from people who worked there (I don't have links handy, but the stories are easy to find as are YouTube videos about it), they blew about 2-3 years of the design time because the leads kept changing their minds about what they wanted and/or wouldn't give firm answers to important questions like gameplay or engine requirements. They were reportedly more focused on the aesthetic and various side-missions and NPCs than the core gameplay or how important aspects of the game would function.

Which is how we ended up with the "out of sight, it's a valid spawn zone" problem for police. Where you could be inside a closed cargo container or highrise balcony with no way in or out with a wanted level, turn around, turn back to find a cop behind you. Turn back around again, there's another cop. Which of course people were using to farm for XP and cash. They wanted a GTA/Mafia style police response in the game but the systems in the game just don't support it. It reminds me more of a Skyrim mod than a proper

But based on what I've read and my experience, the problems with CP2077 are at the core. Systems that needed to be there just aren't there and it's not something that can be just patched in. They released a late alpha build as a completed game and now that it's in the wild, it's too late to do the proper teardown and rebuild a lot of the systems need. I'd say that if it was released as Early Access instead it wouldn't be so bad, but I don't think "early access" would be a proper description of the state the game was in at launch.

I haven't played v1.5 yet, but I have played a few hours of...I think it was 1.3? It's probably about as functional as it's going to get. They might be able to whip it into better shape...maybe...but my guess is it'll be mostly minor bug fixes and maybe some new content since they seem to have done as much as they can do with the game as it got sent out (and they need to get devs moved over to the Witcher 3 next gen update so they can try to boost sales). If your expectations are low enough, it's worth the $10 console versions are going for frequently at Best Buy or on Amazon, maybe a bit more if you are or were a fan of Cyberpunk 2020. I'd say it's about on par with an unpatched/unmodded version of KOTOR2 or Fallout: New Vegas in terms of stability and usability (not so much on the writing though but, as I said, I didn't get very far either). But yeah, it's just my personal feeling, but the vibe I get from the devs is they just kinda want to be done with the core game and each patch is less a proper attempt to fix it and more going to customers "Is this good enough yet?" and hoping they'll be exhausted enough to just say "Fine, sure, I guess."
 

According to reports from people who worked there (I don't have links handy, but the stories are easy to find as are YouTube videos about it), they blew about 2-3 years of the design time because the leads kept changing their minds about what they wanted and/or wouldn't give firm answers to important questions like gameplay or engine requirements. They were reportedly more focused on the aesthetic and various side-missions and NPCs than the core gameplay or how important aspects of the game would function.
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Yeah, it isn't, IMO, salvageable. It is a pretty game, and it does have a huge area to wander through, but that's about it. The inventory system is clunky, it has a major problem with weapon stats shown in inventory being different than when the weapon is equipped, the core plot is repetitive and dull, and the side missions are just random firefights. You can spend a lot of money upgrading your vehicle, for example, but it's pointless; the fast transport system gets you around town fast and for almost nothing.

In the end, it is simply dull. Thankfully, I had read the reviews and picked it up on sale, because I'll never play it again.
 

ReshiIRE

Adventurer
At this stage I'm not sure if CD Projekt Red care that much. Cyberpunk 2077 sold extremely well despite all the negative press and the apocolyptic release, especially on last generation consoles, and does seem to still be somewhat selling especially on PC.

I fear this won't be a No Man's Sky situation, where the reputation hit is so strong and pronounced and the team so unhappy with release that they dedicate their time to regain their reputation and to increase lifetime sales. I think this might be more like the typical AAA response to games with significant problems.

What I think is damning for Cyberpunk 2077 to me is the response of critics like Noah Caldwell-Gervais a few months after launch, about how a game in a genre noted for its critique of capitalism and especially excessive, unrestricited capitalism, avoids effective criticism of those issues and due to the whole disaster, has become an example of it; how the game's writing otherwise is restrictive, does not deal well with choice, and has few quests that really build upon the future or theme allowed; or in general, how the game is a wasted opportunity.

I have a feeling that the game will be like Fallout 4; remembered as good to mediocre with significant problems, but is overall not memorable and somewhat boring, unlike previous products in their series / by their developer. Which, in many ways, is worse than ti simply being bad.
 

I have a feeling that the game will be like Fallout 4; remembered as good to mediocre with significant problems, but is overall not memorable and somewhat boring, unlike previous products in their series / by their developer. Which, in many ways, is worse than ti simply being bad.
Fallout 4 was, and is, awesome.

CP2077 sold, that is true, but it also had $2.23 million in refunds. It did make a profit, but not on the anticipated scale, and not the long-term cash cow that was hoped for. If you remove the pre-release sales, it isn't nearly so impressive.
 

ReshiIRE

Adventurer
Agree to disagree on Fallout 4 - I am personally much more of a fan of Fallout New Vegas. I think Fallout 4 has a lot of potential in different areas but it really needed tighter writing and quests that linked up much more together.

That is a fair point about presales versus sales afterwards. The real danger for CD Projekt Red is their next title and proving it won't be a Cyberpunk esque situation - which why it might be prudent not to focus so heavily on Cyberpunk 2077 and to either make a much better sequel or another new title.

I do think it says something that Cyberpunk Red seems to be doing pretty well but is mostly staying within its depicitation of the world. I really feel had Cyberpunk 2077 been a knock out success we would have seen a Cyberpunk 2077 source book by now...
 

Agree to disagree on Fallout 4 - I am personally much more of a fan of Fallout New Vegas. I think Fallout 4 has a lot of potential in different areas but it really needed tighter writing and quests that linked up much more together.
That's exactly what a Commie would say.

It has the Brotherhood of Steel, and the ability to shoot androids, so clearly, you are wrong. :devilish:

FNV was pretty damn good, story-wise.

That is a fair point about presales versus sales afterwards. The real danger for CD Projekt Red is their next title and proving it won't be a Cyberpunk esque situation - which why it might be prudent not to focus so heavily on Cyberpunk 2077 and to either make a much better sequel or another new title.

I do think it says something that Cyberpunk Red seems to be doing pretty well but is mostly staying within its depicitation of the world. I really feel had Cyberpunk 2077 been a knock out success we would have seen a Cyberpunk 2077 source book by now...
Agreed. And a good point about the burden of the next game. They won't get the pre-release sales volume until they're restored their credibility.
 

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