Friday 14 November 2014

Revisiting Old Predictions

We often make predictions, but how often do we go back to see how accurate they were? Alexis did me a solid this morning by reminding me of this blog post that I responded to way back in 2012. I am pretty sure that wasn’t Alexis’ intention, but let’s treat it as if it were.

My base prediction was:

It wasn’t the fault of fans that a toxic atmosphere was created, nor is it the fault of fans that 4e wasn’t well-received. Nor will the success or failure of D&D Next be due to anything other than the success or failure of WotC to put out a good product, market that product well, and undo to whatever extent they are able the ill-will their handling of the 4e release created.

And they have definitely taken some steps in the right direction, although I think that the NDAs for the beta playtest are a really bad idea (not required by most recent rpgs, including Pathfinder and Dungeon Crawl Classics, despite Mike Mearls’ claim to the contrary), and I don’t think 5e will fly without the OGL.

The systems that are doing well right now have the right combination of “good system + goodwill”, and I don’t think Hasbro is going to allow WotC the leeway needed to recreate the goodwill that was seen with the advent of 3e.

The rest of the discussion is actually, I think, worth reading. You will notice quite a bit of “IMHO” and “I think”, and this is largely because, as is obvious, no one can really be so sure what the future holds!

(1) The success or failure of D&D Next (now 5e) is the result of a combination of the product and of the goodwill WotC can generate.

If comments from Mike Mearls are anything to go by, 5e is a real success, and Hasbro is happy that target numbers have been reached. I doubt that anyone is going to claim that this is the result of “toxic fans” or a lack of good will towards WotC. In fact, between the time that I wrote my responses in the blog post and the release of 5e, WotC went out of its way to address the ill will generated with the 4e release strategy.

It is of interest to me that Mike Mearls continues to hedge in relation to the OGL, or what licensing 5e will eventually have. This suggests rather strongly that, despite 5e materials being created right now under the OGL, the system will have a different licensing arrangement. A return to the OGL would have been announced early, because it would generate interest and goodwill.  On the other hand, by deferring the question, WotC can hope to build up enough interest and goodwill related to the system itself that, whatever the eventual licensing, people will be too invested to quit.

And that was, AFAICT, the initial scheme:  Play it for a year, and then we’ll tell you the details about the licensing. Maybe.

(2) The NDA was a bone-headed move.

The NDA did was prevent prolific and prominent bloggers from discussing D&D Next explicitly. It was violated almost immediately, and anyone who wanted them could easily obtain the playtest materials.

But, in this case, perhaps that was the point. By making these materials appear hard to obtain (and that clandestinely), WotC may well have raised the interest in 5e in a way that an open playtest would not have.

(3) Hasbro will not allow the leeway needed to give 5e the goodwill seen with 3e’s release.

The jury’s still out on this. Certainly, that 5e is a better system than 3e or 4e has been touted regularly on various blogs and forums. Equally certainly, renewing access to early editions in PDF (and sometimes print) formats has generated a lot of goodwill. There is certainly a sense that WotC is listening.

As an obvious corollary, if 5e is wildly successful, that will be because of Wizards, not because of the fans. They will have produced and marketed a good product, and overcome the ill-will generated around the release of 4e. It will be an achievement.

Yes, I said that. So far, WotC does seem to have managed that achievement. In part, I suspect, by postponing the licensing announcements until player investment is heavy.

For 5e to be “D&D Next” it needs to feel like coming home…like a game that DM’s can take ownership of. It needs to not feel like a game you play only at the whims of WotC’s legal department.

I still hold this to be true. Whether or not DMs will feel that ownership once they discover the licensing terms is a whole ‘nother matter.

Well, I already know my opinions. Please “hijack” this blog by telling me what you think. I promise not to perma-ban anyone for not simply regurgitating my own thoughts!*

*And, yes, Alexis, that is me tweaking your nose. And no, I did not discover your blog post by searching from "searching for a name" on Google to stir up some controversy in order to maintain readership. Your blog is still on my reading list because, despite the many posts about how everyone else sucks, you do occasionally have very interesting things to say.


  1. "It is of interest to me that Mike Mearls continues to hedge in relation to the OGL, or what licensing 5e will eventually have"

    In his AMA on Reddit he said that "a big drawback we face is that when we say we'll do something, people hold us to it. D&D is an order of magnitude larger than any other tabletop RPG. If we say we're going to do X and then don't deliver, we catch far more grief than any other publisher . . ." ( and that seems to be the reason why he's so hesitant to say anything even though Chris Perkins has already confirmed that we're going to be seeing it and it's just a matter of when, not if (

    1. Yep. If WotC says there will be an OGL, then people expect there to be an OGL. But that is only a drawback if WotC says there will be an OGL, and there is no OGL. It makes sense that WotC will not say there will be one, if there will not be.

      On the other hand, it makes sense that WotC does not want to say that there will not be an OGL, even if there will not be. They've learned how their GSL caused bad blood and all. A loss of goodwill.

      So, we have a halfway state where WotC cannot say that there will not be an OGL, and cannot say what the licensing will be. Play for a year or so, and then we'll iron out what kind of licensing there will be, and hopefully by then you will be heavily enough invested that you will not pull out when we tell you there will be no OGL.

      I predict there will be no OGL. I strongly suspect that everyone at WotC is well aware of that by this point. I would be happy for WotC to prove me wrong.

    2. "I predict there will be no OGL. I strongly suspect that everyone at WotC is well aware of that by this point."

      That would be a hard one to hold to since Chris is telling everyone that one will be coming and he's one of the major players for D&D at Hasbro right now. Unless of course he's trolling all of us . . .

    3. I would love to be wrong, but that is a generous reading. "Yes - we're working on plans right now to allow people to use the D&D system to create their own stuff." is not the same as saying there will be an OGL.

      It seems to be more of an answer to "Will there ever be some sort of community license that will let third parties (or motivated fans) publish "officially works with 5E" modules?" than "Will WotC every consider licensing anything like the OGL ever again?"

      In the reddit chat you linked to, nowhere does anyone say there will be an OGL, although the question is asked more than once.

    4. I have to agree: I'll believe they're using the OGL when I see it.

      And I'm actually sure that the guys at WotC, particularly Chris Perkins, do genuinely want to use the OGL with this new edition. I'm just not convinced that it's actually their call - and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the legal/marketing/whatever team at WotC feel differently, and quite likely have more say in the decision.

      All IMO, of course.

    5. Damn, didn't realize I gave you a double link to reddit instead of the EN World article where Perkins confirmed that the OGL would be coming back. Here's the correct link:!-And-Other-Short-Stories!#.VGj-l8l5URc

    6. If they follow through with this, I will be happy to be wrong.


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