Tuesday, February 9, 2016

How Long Before Hasbro Buys Out OneBookShelf?

How long before Hasbro buys out OneBookShelf? Sure, it's a question that can't be answered yet, but it is an interesting thought.

All of WotC's digital products are being sold through OBS (except it's VTT products, which are on Fantasy Grounds - that's a whole 'nother post)

At this point, WotC / Hasbro is the dominant publisher on OBS and the Dungeon Master's Guild is going to lead to a HUGE amount of licensed D&D 5e products. That glut has the potential to seriously tilt the online market towards 5e if it hasn't already. Assuming a limited pool of money to be spent by consumers on RPG products, the Dungeon Master's Guild can seriously drain that pool.

When does it become more profitable for Hasbro to own it's online distributor for it's PDF releases?

What does this mean for the smaller publishers?

When the Dungeon Master's Guild was announced, most of the fear I heard was "it's going to be the D20 era again, with a few gems hidden in piles of dung." Now, I think the fear should be for the market shift and the potential harm to publishers that aren't in the DM's Guild Market (which has huge restrictions and lack of ownership - again, another future post)

The last event that had this much influence on online distributing of RPG products came with the RPGNow / DriveThruRPG merge. Was that merge good for consumers and small publishers? I truthfully don't know, but less competition rarely benefits those spending the cash.

Now, has the current trend benefiting WotC / Hasbro and has it boosted D&D 5e? Is it adding dollars to the coffers of OBS? Of course to all. The question is: What is the long term cost to the hobby?


  1. Alright, so I'm behind the times, but isn't DM's Guild primarily for publishing adventures? The part of the d20 glut that wrinkled my nose the most was the dearth of source material and how much of it tripped over the rest. (I recall at least three different companies publishing rules for naval/maritime stuff, for instance)

    As for OBS, I don't really care who owns it as long as the non-D&D stuff remains available and the small guys don't get screwed out of profit.

  2. I have 6 products on the DMsGuild and NONE Of them are adventures. Looking at the top products, very few are in the Top 100.

    Why is it important who owns it? Hasbro won't give a shit about anything but the revenue stream. For those that are familiar with Magic Online, its a terrible, unreliable and old interface, but there is no reason for Hasbro to fix it because the money just pours in 24/7.

  3. Is Facebook bad for social networking? The problem is that numbers attract numbers and OBS passed that threshold long ago. The only competition on are the places oriented to more to general publishing like Lulu and Amazon/Createspace.

    As for the DM's Guild, I will say I think that it is just over right side of the line of being a fair deal. In exchange for using all of Wizard's IP for 5e and the Forgotten Realms, you fork over 50% of revenues, and you have to share your IP with everybody else in the DM's Guild for use ONLY in the DM's Guild. And you agree not to release the same product outside of the guild (if it was a generic 5e supplement).

    Now you still have full copyright to your original material. Wizards (or anybody else) has to come to you in order to use it outside of the DM's Guild. If you want to use your IP outside of the Guild you can outside of the restriction of having the same product available inside the guild and outside of the guild.

    My personal recommendation is this. If you have an idea that only make sense if it uses Forgotten Realm IP, then use the DM's Guild. In the rare instance if an idea relies on closed content by Wizards (for example Mind Flayer) again use the guild. Otherwise use the Open Game License and the 5e System Reference Document.

  4. I think the effort it would take the WotC team to explain to Hasbro execs what the DMsGuild/DNDClassics thing even is, let alone how its tied to OBS, would take more effort than it's worth when Hasbro then weighs the remaining profit not received (piddling compared to actual official D&D pdf sales I bet) against the cost and hassle of maintaining the site. If it were that valuable to them they could just set up their own shop and run it as the official D&D brand PDF store. Given they can't even divest resources to fan forums on their own home page this seems unlikely.

  5. # Nicholas Bergquist, Your mention of the fumbled fan forums might work against your point.). Buying one book could provide the manpower and expertise needed for WoTC to rebuild and maintain a proper web presence in addition to any benefits from controlling the distribution.

    1. Well...actually yeah after I wrote that I was thinking that a wholesale purchase of OBS, in which staff was retained, could put them in a good position....so I concede that could be an advantage to such a purchase. Assuming OBS ownership wanted to sell, that is.

    2. What makes you think WOTC would keep all the staff?

  6. I'm more worried that the DMs Guild will completely eclipse the 5e 3pp on one bookshelf, completely supplanting creator ownership in favor of Forgotten Realms *copyright WotC*

    I'd love to see Spahn do a White Star 5e (not saying it's realistic to hope) but I doubt anyone would even notice with all the DMs Guild new product announcements I see on every RPG site I visit.

    1. DMG stuff is pretty invisible if you stick to the regular OBS sites. I think the real problem is creators spending too much time on FR shovelware rather than writing interesting new stuff out of concern that if it's not on the DMG it won't get noticed.

    2. You caught me, I tell a lie. When I wrote, "Every RPG site I visit," I really meant "EN World." (Nothing against EN World.) That one's on me.

  7. I hope not. The stock art products I am trying to push on OBS are designed with OSR buyers in mind. I am not sure how things would go for a lot of indies and non Hasbro big game companies if they took over.

  8. Whatever we may think about the d20 glut, at least folks were playing the game. I think you're dwelling too much on the unhappy byproduct of that.

  9. On the surface, it looks like a good idea, but when you look closer, it's a lot more complex.

    WotC has already demonstrated that it sucks at digital projects. Managing a software team is not at all like managing a publishing team.

    For them, it makes more sense to keep outsourcing to OBS because they are able to expand their revenue stream without the overhead of technology investment and employee headcount.

    Getting OBS employees to move from Georgia to Washington state could be a serious challenges and starting up a new team from scratch to maintain the existing software without having existing employees to do knowledge transfer would be a major challenge.

    Basically, with OBS, they have only a small amount of risk (similar to their "Morningstar" partnership). If the project fails, they look for a different partner. By bringing it in house, the bring on a huge amount of risk and headcount for a relatively small amount of revenue.

    Outsourcing is still the best solution for them.


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