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Revolutions are Always Verbose: Effecting Change in the TTRPG Industry

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Fundamentally I don't think that there's room in the RPG business to support more than a tiny number of full time professionals partly (as has been discussed) because there is too much competition by people creating RPGs for the love of it and partly because of how ludicrously cheap they are in terms of hours of entertainment per pound or dollar.

...

At that good value it's amazing anyone can make money out of relatively rules light RPGs. I think it's why rules heavy and metaplot dominated the 90s, and there was a massive splurge of D&D books 2e and through 3.X; if you want to hire a large staff what do your people do when you've put the books out?

That's why the post was specific about Hasbro / Wizards.

Wizards made Hasbro 46 cents of profit for every dollar of revenue in 2020. Source.
D&D saw a 33% boost in sales in 2020 alone. Source. The same source shows that D&D Beyond doubles subscriptions in 2020, and so on.

Look, this isn't about killing a golden goose, or assuming that growth like that lasts forever- but some of those profits could be put into the labor force. IMO.
 

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Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Cottage industry doesn't typically operate with the usual "employer/employee" relationship, and isn't often considered "professional employment". Two people working in their craft room, garage, or on a laptop at their kitchen table, selling on etsy or DMs Guild or wherever aren't necessarily going to be able to make ends meet with that they are doing.

And, that's okay, if everyone involved is on board with it. But we then should recognize that some of the smaller operations are more like buying a dice bag off etsy than they are buying a game from a game publisher.
One of my favorite luthiers has a day job as a nurse. Like me, I’m sure he WISHES he could just do guitars, but he’s doing OK anyway.
 

That's why the post was specific about Hasbro / Wizards.

Wizards made Hasbro 46 cents of profit for every dollar of revenue in 2020. Source.
D&D saw a 33% boost in sales in 2020 alone. Source. The same source shows that D&D Beyond doubles subscriptions in 2020, and so on.

Look, this isn't about killing a golden goose, or assuming that growth like that lasts forever- but some of those profits could be put into the labor force. IMO.
The second post you quoted was general to the industry and so's this thread. Should any business treat its employees not just fairly but well? IMO yes I agree with you. The post you were quoting was about how there's only a tiny number of chances for full time work, implicitly (and I'll make it explicit her) talking about how the rest of the industry can't do that.

In 2021 WotC/D&D is in an entirely different position to literally anyone else in the industry, even Paizo. Perhaps especially Paizo; as of Q1 2021 Pathfinder 1e had more than twice as many Roll 20 campaigns as Pathfinder 2e and Paizo recently announced the shutting down of Pathfinder Online. They're probably still second in the industry - but I've no idea who third would be. Probably either Chaosium or what used to be FFG?
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
The second post you quoted was general to the industry and so's this thread. Should any business treat its employees not just fairly but well? IMO yes I agree with you. The post you were quoting was about how there's only a tiny number of chances for full time work, implicitly (and I'll make it explicit her) talking about how the rest of the industry can't do that.

Maybe, but perhaps an industry that depends on screwing people over, unpaid labor, and the like ... needs to have some correction.

It would be hard to accept in other industries, right? "Oh, a lot of people need jobs, so it's okay to pay less than the minimum wage."

I honestly don't have a good answer for it. It seems that a lot of effort is being put into efforts that don't actually cost corporations/businesses very much, and very little effort is put into trying to get companies/businesses to treat employees well. IMO, etc.
 

Maybe, but perhaps an industry that depends on screwing people over, unpaid labor, and the like ... needs to have some correction.
That was part of my point with the ridiculous value you get out of an RPG book and using Apocalypse World as an example. I genuinely do not think that an RPG industry (as opposed to a couple of companies and a few people with a side hustle) is viable, especially in 2021. There's more material out there and even out there for free than anyone can reasonably use.

Here's Fred Hicks of Evil Hat saying how much he earned running Evil Hat full time (mostly below minimum wage), and in 2015 at 5 cents a word Evil Hat paid over the industry norms and was known to be behind only WotC, Paizo, and Pinnacle (Deadlands). Evil Hat (Fate, Dresden Files, and others) are pretty successful by the standards of RPG publishers. When Fred was paying himself $450/month as a full time job he wasn't ripping off people he wasn't paying very much. If anything he was subsidising them.

Both referring to it and thinking of it as an industry rather than a monetised hobby with a few whales in the water are deceptive IMO. Now holding e.g. WotC, Paizo, and Asmodee/FFG to higher standards is IMO 100% justified. But outside WotC and the rest of the top division (whatever it is) it's not so much ripping people off as there simply not being much money and there being a lot of people, including publishers, who will take trivial wages because they love their hobby.
 

I've considered that myself, we all want to see an adventurous and flush RPG market, but the reusability of RPGs is a major obstacle-- in theory, you could buy a few products and be saturated with rules for years, hell some indies have traditionally treated that as a matter of morality that they're gonna sell you one book and you'll be all set. But being paid a living wage necessitates more material being created and sold than that, and we can't handle it by increasing prices accordingly to how much playtime you can get out of one product because there's enough competing RPGs to create a race to the bottom to get a decently sized base of customers.

This is further embellished by how easy it is to write RPG material, I'm not saying the skills to do it well aren't valuable, and having an actual team def helps. But I know for a fact its accessible to a casual hobbyist, because I've been that casual hobbyist producing high quality content for free over on r/unearthedarcana.

Things get a little better the more mainstream the hobby goes because more customers means everyone's slice of the pie is a little bigger, and eventually that is translating to gains for obscure titles, but ultimately it does make the 'career RPG designer' thing hard, I don't think I would ever even try to sell RPGs without a day job for that reason. It could very easily go catastrophic.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Look, this isn't about killing a golden goose, or assuming that growth like that lasts forever- but some of those profits could be put into the labor force. IMO.

Do we have solid documentation on the current pay rates at WotC (and, by extension, Fandom/D&D Beyond), to say they aren't putting money into the workforce?
 



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