Hasbro rolled a “natural one” – an automatic miss – to convince fans that rewriting its two-decade-old open game license was about anything but boosting revenue.
Their child company, Wizards of the Coast (WOC), which owns the smash hit table-top role playing game “Dungeons and Dragons,” had changes to its open game license leaked, sparking an uproar among the fan base.
In 2000, WOC released OGL 1.0, which allowed third party creators to use WOC characters, rules, game systems, and products in their creations. This symbiotic relationship has led to the emergence of a cottage industry that includes some hit shows like Critical Role, Dimension 20, Not Another D&D Podcast, and Dungeons and Daddies: Not a BDSM Podcast which, in turn, brought more attention to the game and WOC than had been in decades.
Some have called this past decade a renaissance for D&D, with pandemic lock-downs only contributing to the game’s meteoric resurgence in popularity.
A week ago, a leaked OGL 1.1 was released that, largely, undid this relationship and, among other things, required some major third party creators to pay upwards of 20-25% royalties to WOC for use of their game system and products.
This has caused a massive backlash among the fan base with 67,000 signing an online petition and costing the company an estimated $400,000 loss in monthly revenue. After a week of dealing with popular revolt, Hasbro released a statement walking back their new license.
“It’s clear from the reaction that we rolled a 1. It has become clear that it is no longer possible to fully achieve all three goals while still staying true to our principles,” the company released in a statement. “It will not contain any royalty structure.”
“You’re going to hear people say that they won, and we lost because making your voices heard forced us to change our plans. Those people will only be half right. They won—and so did we.”
Reception to the announcement has been cold among those demonstrating against the company. While some noted this was a win, others claimed this changes nothing and WOC still intends to change the OGL. The boycott resulted in an estimated 40,000 canceled subscriptions with that number rising daily. Rage within the fan base only swelled as recent comments from WOC’s president came to light.
“D&D has never been more popular, and we have really great fans and engagement,” Wizards of the Coast President Cynthia Williams told investors in December during a UBS virtual fireside chat. “But the brand is really under-monetized.”
D&D has seen a surge in popularity with third-party content creators, being featured in Netflix’s hit “Stranger Things,” and will surely see another bump from the upcoming movie “D&D: Honor Among Thieves.” The release of OGL 1.1 has officially been delayed.