WotC Third party, DNDBeyond and potential bad side effects.

darjr

I crit!
Mike put his thoughts into one of his podcasts

I tried to get all my thoughts in a single cohesive segment of my weekly RPG Talk Show. You can find it here:


@SlyFlourish posted a comment in another thread and I think it's worth discussing in a separate thread.

Copying the message over from his post so it’s more accessible.

SlyFlourish
I have controversial thoughts on this.

Adding other 5e publishers' material to D&D Beyond increases WOTC's dominance in the overall TTRPG hobby and they've proven they cannot be trusted to act in the overall hobby's best interests.

During the last (only?) D&D Community Summit I heard community members lobbying for WOTC to include third party publishers into D&D Beyond as though it was good for the 5e TTRPG community. I don't think it is.

It's good for those publishers blessed by WOTC to be accepted into D&D Beyond. They get access to a WOTC's large D&D Beyond customer set (that they bought for $145 million) with an excellent non-exclusive license deal.

It's good for WOTC who gets a taste of products they didn't have to write. They also get to look like good guys: "Hey, we're supporting scrappy independent publishers like Darrington Press and Ghostfire Gaming".

Maybe it's good for GMs who prefer to have all their stuff under D&D Beyond and don't mind letting WOTC vet which 5e published material they can buy there.

But it certainly increases WOTCs dominance in the 5e TTRPG hobby, and we know they can't be trusted to always act in the best interests of the hobby overall.

And what about those benefits for other 5e publishers publishing on Beyond? WOTC is both the owner of the platform and a direct competitor publishing on the same platform. Consider WOTC's advantages:

  • Other 5e publishers have to pay a fee to WOTC. WOTC's own products don't have to pay that fee.
  • WOTC gets to see all the data for sales for all products. Publishers only likely get to see their own.
  • I doubt publishers get access to direct customer data like the opportunity to subscribe them to the publisher's newsletter.
  • WOTC gets to decide who to allow to publish and who not to. They probably get to choose which products are published.
  • WOTC gets to advertise their own stuff for free. If they advertise products from other publishers, they're either being extraordinarily nice or charging them.

Publishing other 5e publishers' products on D&D Beyond makes D&D Beyond an even stronger gravity well for the 5e hobby overall. It hurts other publishers like EN World and Kobold Press whose variants of 5e almost certainly won't be available on D&D Beyond. The more dominant D&D Beyond becomes in the overall 5e hobby, the more we must trust one company to do what's right for the hobby. That's a dangerous place to be.

All of the control WOTC hoped to achieve by deauthorizing the OGL, they seem to be gaining with D&D Beyond.


I have controversial thoughts on this.

Adding other 5e publishers' material to D&D Beyond increases WOTC's dominance in the overall TTRPG hobby and they've proven they cannot be trusted to act in the overall hobby's best interests.

During the last (only?) D&D Community Summit I heard community members lobbying for WOTC to include third party publishers into D&D Beyond as though it was good for the 5e TTRPG community. I don't think it is.

It's good for those publishers blessed by WOTC to be accepted into D&D Beyond. They get access to a WOTC's large D&D Beyond customer set (that they bought for $145 million) with an excellent non-exclusive license deal.

It's good for WOTC who gets a taste of products they didn't have to write. They also get to look like good guys: "Hey, we're supporting scrappy independent publishers like Darrington Press and Ghostfire Gaming".

Maybe it's good for GMs who prefer to have all their stuff under D&D Beyond and don't mind letting WOTC vet which 5e published material they can buy there.

But it certainly increases WOTCs dominance in the 5e TTRPG hobby, and we know they can't be trusted to always act in the best interests of the hobby overall.

And what about those benefits for other 5e publishers publishing on Beyond? WOTC is both the owner of the platform and a direct competitor publishing on the same platform. Consider WOTC's advantages:

  • Other 5e publishers have to pay a fee to WOTC. WOTC's own products don't have to pay that fee.
  • WOTC gets to see all the data for sales for all products. Publishers only likely get to see their own.
  • I doubt publishers get access to direct customer data like the opportunity to subscribe them to the publisher's newsletter.
  • WOTC gets to decide who to allow to publish and who not to. They probably get to choose which products are published.
  • WOTC gets to advertise their own stuff for free. If they advertise products from other publishers, they're either being extraordinarily nice or charging them.

Publishing other 5e publishers' products on D&D Beyond makes D&D Beyond an even stronger gravity well for the 5e hobby overall. It hurts other publishers like EN World and Kobold Press whose variants of 5e almost certainly won't be available on D&D Beyond. The more dominant D&D Beyond becomes in the overall 5e hobby, the more we must trust one company to do what's right for the hobby. That's a dangerous place to be.

All of the control WOTC hoped to achieve by deauthorizing the OGL, they seem to be gaining with D&D Beyond.
 
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darjr

I crit!
I think the one thing they can't now get is absolute coercion via the law or courts. Not with the CCBY.

I do think it's the one final thing the architects of that horrible OGL 2 wanted, control over the brand. In essence get every one off the OGL, they've effectively done that.

The financial items and "profit" sharing were sweeteners, probably to get others within wotc to go along. I think you can tell because they quickly abandoned those things.

Ruining the OGL community and getting people not to use it but use the CCBY I think clears up the brand confusion that they were most worried about.

That's my take anyway.

This other stuff can be bad too. Don't get me wrong. But I think it's now all besides the point with respect to the OGL fiasco.
 


mamba

Legend
Offering 3pp products on DDB certainly has the potential to increase WotC’s dominance. To me the question is whether they behave as good citizens, in which case I do not care, or try to strongarm people off other VTTs.

WotC providing better value is not strongarming, even though their size alone gives them advantage, but ending the licensing deals with other VTTs, or making their conditions worse, would definitely qualify.

I am in ‘wait and see’ mode, for one I would like for WotC to support more VTTs (esp Foundry), or better yet, for there to be an open format for the data that any VTT can (choose to) support, so we do not need to buy the same material multiple times. For another I do not trust them after the OGL stunt. Fortunately I can afford to wait and do not have to decide right now which VTT I tie myself to.
 

SlyFlourish

SlyFlourish.com
Supporter
I agree with their concerns.....but as a selfish human who isn't perfect, I love this. I want more and more stuff in the tools I use most. It's also great for the people that get their stuff there. I mean, watching the Dungeon Dudes talk about this, they were so emotional and happy.
We love it until it no longer serves us the way we want.

As an example, not being able to filter out particular source material from the character builder is a constant problem for my groups. Are they assigning resources to fix that? It's a particular problem now that they're including more and more stuff but it's been a problem for a long time. No, thank you, I don't want to include Strixhaven material into my dark fantasy game.

When they prioritize development around growth instead of bolstering up features to support their existing customers, that's a problem for us.

And the bigger they get, the fewer options we have if we want to leave and go somewhere else.

Shard, for example, lets you filter out source material, but it doesn't have the D&D core books there.
 

SlyFlourish

SlyFlourish.com
Supporter
My whole big rant does bring up the question of what I want from WOTC as it relates to D&D Beyond.

Here's my list from a few months ago when we first started hearing about this.

For Customers

  • D&D Beyond should offer some way for customers to download their digital products – ideally PDFs – of both third party and WOTC-published products.
  • D&D Beyond should offer an authenticated application program interface (API) so DMs and players can use material they purchased on D&D Beyond in external tools or services. This API should also let players import material from other publishers who release their content in an appropriate format. Let me upload that Kobold Press subclass directly into D&D Beyond.
  • Players and DMs should be able to filter options in the D&D Beyond character builder so they can select which sources can be used in the character builder for a campaign. For example, a DM should be able to limit characters to only using options from the Player’s Handbook and Xanathar’s Guide but not other sources, even if players own other books online. The existing filter on sources doesn’t limit what options a player can choose when building a character from the sources they’ve purchased.

For Publishers

  • The storefront should have an open and transparent process for moderating and choosing which products can be published there and which products can not. WOTC should offer clear standards and guidelines for publication.
  • The store should have no “DM Guild Adept”-like inner ring of publishers. Such systems can become corrupt and unfair – putting more importance on “who you know” than the quality of your work.
  • WOTC should continue to publish D&D products on other storefronts such as DriveThruRPG, Roll20, and Fantasy Grounds. WOTC should begin selling D&D products on additional platforms such as Foundry, Demiplane, and Shard Tabletop.
  • The storefront should let third party publishers email customers with offers on other products, sales, and promotions when customers opt-in to such marketing.
  • The D&D Beyond storefront should let publishers include outbound links to their own homepages on storefront pages and emails.
  • Publishers should be able to use crowdfunding (like Kickstarter) for products intended to be published and fulfilled on the D&D Beyond storefront.
  • Publishers should have options for regional pricing to sell products at reasonable prices in countries with a significant income disparity from North American and European countries.
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
We love it until it no longer serves us the way we want.

As an example, not being able to filter out particular source material from the character builder is a constant problem for my groups. Are they assigning resources to fix that? It's a particular problem now that they're including more and more stuff but it's been a problem for a long time. No, thank you, I don't want to include Strixhaven material into my dark fantasy game.

When they prioritize development around growth instead of bolstering up features to support their existing customers, that's a problem for us.

And the bigger they get, the fewer options we have if we want to leave and go somewhere else.

Shard, for example, lets you filter out source material, but it doesn't have the D&D core books there.
of course, but this is true of everything in the universe. When Shard dies and gets no updates, we won't love that either (an example, no prediction here).
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
My whole big rant does bring up the question of what I want from WOTC as it relates to D&D Beyond.

Here's my list from a few months ago when we first started hearing about this.

For Customers

  • D&D Beyond should offer some way for customers to download their digital products – ideally PDFs – of both third party and WOTC-published products.
  • D&D Beyond should offer an authenticated application program interface (API) so DMs and players can use material they purchased on D&D Beyond in external tools or services. This API should also let players import material from other publishers who release their content in an appropriate format. Let me upload that Kobold Press subclass directly into D&D Beyond.
  • Players and DMs should be able to filter options in the D&D Beyond character builder so they can select which sources can be used in the character builder for a campaign. For example, a DM should be able to limit characters to only using options from the Player’s Handbook and Xanathar’s Guide but not other sources, even if players own other books online. The existing filter on sources doesn’t limit what options a player can choose when building a character from the sources they’ve purchased.

For Publishers

  • The storefront should have an open and transparent process for moderating and choosing which products can be published there and which products can not. WOTC should offer clear standards and guidelines for publication.
  • The store should have no “DM Guild Adept”-like inner ring of publishers. Such systems can become corrupt and unfair – putting more importance on “who you know” than the quality of your work.
  • WOTC should continue to publish D&D products on other storefronts such as DriveThruRPG, Roll20, and Fantasy Grounds. WOTC should begin selling D&D products on additional platforms such as Foundry, Demiplane, and Shard Tabletop.
  • The storefront should let third party publishers email customers with offers on other products, sales, and promotions when customers opt-in to such marketing.
  • The D&D Beyond storefront should let publishers include outbound links to their own homepages on storefront pages and emails.
  • Publishers should be able to use crowdfunding (like Kickstarter) for products intended to be published and fulfilled on the D&D Beyond storefront.
  • Publishers should have options for regional pricing to sell products at reasonable prices in countries with a significant income disparity from North American and European countries.
I'm not sure why they'd do that full last list.....and we don't demand it of anyone else. I get your concerns, I really do, but some of this is just no realistic for a business to do. I mean, if they sold stuff on Foundry and there was a full character builder there, why would anyone use the WotC tools ever again?
 


SlyFlourish

SlyFlourish.com
Supporter
Ok, so WOTC isn't going to say "Mike Shea! You're right! Here are all your books in PDFs!"

So what can we do to strengthen our hold on this hobby we love?

  • Make sure we can download the books and products we love. Buy them physically and in PDF. Back up your digital files.
  • If you "buy" material on a platform, be ready to abandon that platform if it sucks or dies. You're just leasing stuff.
  • Try different tools. Try different platforms. Have an escape plan.
  • Work with your players to enjoy playing the game with pencil and paper again. Pull on their nostalgia for the "old ways".
  • Play systems that don't require as much of a dependence on digital tools (I'm digging Shadowdark RPG).
  • Learn how to optimize play with pen and paper. You don't need to write down every skill bonus. Write down page numbers from books for abilities.
  • Be comfortable running online games on different platforms. Let players use physical dice and books at their own table.

What else?
 

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