Why Open Gaming Is Good For Business
The OGL was largely single-handedly responsible for reviving the RPG industry overall and it and 3e took D&D from a bankrupt and largely irrelevant position back to its current state of RPG primacy and pop-culture relevancy.
Let me note something about real world economics. A healthy market sector means more for everyone. My IRL company has been posting record revenues for many consecutive quarters. Our stock took a big hit lately. Why? Because our major competitors posted big losses. This cast the entire sector in a bad light. Doing well in a bad sector isn’t any better than doing poorly in a good sector, and is arguably worse, to investors.
Industry economics are different from “small company” economics and you have to make the adjustment. The naive businessman says “us doing well is good, our competitors going well is bad.” The smart businessman knows that’s not true. It’s time Wizards looked at this from a big economic picture point of view. My company (a leading hardware/software manufacturer in its niche field) actively releases free standards and spends money to get the rest of the industry on board with them, because that gets more support, more product, more activity, and more customers to the standard. Wizards and D&D got that exact benefit out of 3e and the OGL.
Competition never drove anyone out of business unless they were a) a small storefront or b) sucked and deserved it. Competition is good. In fact, speaking with VCs at Web coferences, they prefer for there to be competition before they invest in a field; that way they know it’s likely to be lucrative! Read a business book published in the last decade before making any more GSL/open gaming “decisions.”
The best thing you could do right now is to say “Actually, we’ll release 4e under the existing OGL.” Then, this weekend, mail 4e galleys to all the third party publishers who have expressed interest in the GSL. (Yes, without the $5k per head fee.) Throw in some extra swag. Put an NDA in (assuming there’s not already one in place with most of these guys from 3e) saying “the books are under NDA until June, do not open if you don’t agree.” Say “Hey, sorry, what can we do to help you get some D&D 4e product out ASAP?” That’s leadership. Market leadership is the way to great success. There’s only so many people you can or want to directly hire. But if your industry follows you, they may as well work for you! You get the glory, the movie licensing deals, and the profit from being the preeminent provider of the thing. Everyone else wants to contribute to your success, not sabotage you, because they share in the overall success.