Hasbro is making headlines in all the wrong places

For the most, nerds often see themselves as a marginalized group. There are classic nerd stereotypes of people who are unattractive and poorly adjusted socially. Do an image search in Google for the term “nerd”. The results shouldn’t be particularly shocking. The concept has bred a cliche, and a common trait among nerds is that they play Dungeons & Dragons.

Ever since Hasbro took over WotC and by extension D&D, it’s been a rocky road. However, once 5e came out as “the world’s most popular role-playing game”, the game and the company have largely gone from strength to strength. Maybe nerds weren’t so awkward anymore. It has been newsworthy and there have numerous articles written over the last 5 years taking note of the game’s increasing popularity. That changed radically in the last couple of months.

WotC announced changes to the OGL and the response was swift. Articles started popping up everywhere, and then a message from WotC was published on D&D Beyond. The statement was an attempt to calm the fervour that had arisen from the proposed changes to the 20+-year-old OGL. I’m not really sure it worked, but it was an opportunity for WotC to hit the pause button, so to speak. Changes are still coming, but no one is sure what they are going to be. WotC did walk back a couple of the more controversial changes, but the TTRPG industry has apparently decided to abandon D&D. Multiple publishers have announced plans to fill the rift WotC is going through by abolishing OGL 1.0a by creating new licenses of their own.

What about Hasbro? WotC is a subsidiary of the entertainment giant, and while the two are joined into one larger entity, WotC is largely on its own with regards to handling D&D. The answer to this can be found in the business press. While a lot of entertainment outlets have been keeping an eye on how gamers have reacted, other outlets have kept track of Hasbro’s bottom line.

The first article I saw was in CNBC, which focused on WotC delaying changes to the OGL. The important thing to note here is that Hasbro is a publicly traded company and CNBC wrote up the article as if Hasbro was calling the shots, not WotC. Then I saw an even more surprising article pop up in my news feed, a piece from The Motley Fool.

The Motley Fool largely deals with investing and stock trading, it’s a finance/business publication, basically. While I’m not much of a trader, I’m familiar with the organization. The Fool’s piece on Hasbro didn’t really go into the issues surrounding the fan discontent, rather it focused on the impacts the dust-up was having on the company. Hasbro claims everybody won the dispute over the changes, but I, like The Motley Fool, and many other people can’t see how this is anything but a failure for Hasbro.

The fact that financial presses are writing about how this blow-up might negatively impact Hasbro’s profits, as well as anger shareholders, demonstrates the scale of the OGL fallout. If a major corporation has to plan on briefing investors on its poor decisions, then the problem is a big one.

Furthermore, and in a more positive light, this proves that D&D has truly grown up. It has now become a discussion topic for corporate boardrooms. The viability of the game could impact shareholders’ fortunes, and what can even be said about that? It’s one thing to envision the game as a business. Even back when TSR was still a functional entity D&D was an economic force in gaming. Making it to the boardroom and possibly into priority financial reports for one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world is something else. Nerds are no longer hiding in the shadows, and one of their coveted trademarks is fully in the spotlight.

On one hand, I hate all this controversy. It’s a pointless dispute that could have been avoided. Hasbro didn’t need to do all of this. It was a poor choice aimed at deriving even more money from an already profitable game. I don’t think anyone is really happy with what has resulted in the fallout of changing the OGL.

On the other hand, I’m really excited to see how gaming evolves now that the entire industry seems poised to walk away from D&D, more or less entirely. The game that birthed the hobby will now be a part of its past, not it’s future. A year ago, I wouldn’t have predicted that this was the way that things were going to go, but now that it’s happening, I’m not sure it should be any other way.


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