Back in 2008, Mike Mearls wrote about whether open gaming had been a success… Right before Wizards pulled the plug on it. Death to open gaming was their clear intent, especially when they added a clause to the new very non-open GSL forbidding use of the OGL by people looking to use the GSL.
And now, by Wizards’ own numbers, the people playing D&D has gone from 6 million in 2007 to 1.5 million now. So is D&D dying?
Grognardia brought to my attention this post by Ryan Dancey (archtiect of the OGL) on the Paizo forums about his view of how the OGL succeeded.
In the end, D&D isn’t dying – it’s free. Hasbro can jack with it now all they want, but it was freed once and for all by Dancey, and so Paizo and the OSR and everyone else can play D&D and spread it far and wide, regardless of what kid film licensed property some suit wants to push this year.
Let Hasbro make all the soda and tennis shoes they want, and we get to play D&D and safely disregard whatever flavor of the month they are peddling. Power to the people!
Do we have any numbers on how many people are playing Pathfinder and other non-4 variants?
Just that Game Trade said that 4e and Pathfinder were tied for #1 in hobby sales last quarter.
Granted I prefer 3.x/Pathfinder over any edition of D&D so I freely admit my bias, but even with that I still think the OGL was the best thing to ever happen to the hobby. WotC/Hasbro were wrong to give it up and go to the GSL.
Even if the community supporting the OSR games and Pathfinder is half of that playing 4e, that is still a lot of customers that WotC/Hasbro lost. I feel they and the industry would have been better served by taking 3.x and making it better.
While I think Paizo came real close, Pathfinder still has its issues. Despite the fact that I am a die-hard Pathfinder fan and love the game, I admit it could still use some tweaking. WotC could have listened to and corrected fan’s complaints, streamlined the system and released it as 4e, retaining backwards compatibility and we would have avoided a large portion of the edition wars. If I remember correctly, 3.x was the best selling of any edition and I think will have the longest lifespan in terms of continual support. There it just so much that can still be done with 3.x. I think game designers have barely tapped the potential of what the system can do/be. Thankfully the OGL is still out there for everyone to keep trying.
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I think other companies should certainly try some of the same.
I don’t care as much for D&D anymore, but I know I’d do some crazy stuff if I had an Open World of Darkness or some other system like that, that is currently closed, even if just to experiment.
Well, exactly. And though you can argue that a market leader like D&D has something to lose from openness, the 99% of little bitty games can do nothing but benefit. If you’re only going to put out one or two books anyway, you may as well allow your user base to add product support for you!
I consider the OGL to be the greatest gift our hobby has ever received. Sure, it lead to the Great D20 Glut but it also lead to a *whole* lot of super cool things. Such as one of my favorites, Everstone: Blood Legacy. I have a full review on my YouTube channel.
To be honest, it’s bad for the hobby regardless. This wasn’t just 6 million players that got pissed with D&D and took their business to other RPG companies. This was likely about 3 million people who decided that rather than pay for any books at their local gaming store, they’d pony up the money for World of Warcraft and never have to run a game again or look with futulity at a gaming board at that local gaming store with no games that they wanted to be a part of.
Remember that between 2007 and now, a lot of change has occurred in the MMORPG market and not all those players play both WoW and tabletop anymore. More and more people I’ve talked to who are into WoW miss their table top games, but don’t have a GM to play with.
To be honest, if D&D used to have 6 million players, then let’s estimate that there used to be maybe 10 million players of all games in 2007. I’d say that number hasn’t gone up and that’s not good for anyone, whether you’re Paizo or WotC. A good friend of mine wrote a post about this back in October. You can look at the trends for Paizo too and they’re stable, but they sure didn’t pick up the dregs who had a falling out with WotC, or at most, those dregs are keeping them stable. Anyway, it’s a good post.
Note: If you hate Malcolm Sheppard because he has controversial views about gaming, that’s fine. But he’s running the best D&D variant I’ve played in forever and all his notes are on his website.
It’s also interesting to note that the OGL as a document is used on more than just DnD now. The lawyer hours that went into constructing a license that could then be used by other ventures to open up their non-DnD games is also a (perhaps unintentional) gift to the gaming community as a whole.
Check out games like Spirit of the Century to see where else the OGL has cropped up.