Wednesday, April 05, 2023

Should D&D Stop Being An RPG

For what it's worth, I wanted to share my thoughts about the future of Dungeons & Dragons. D&D is a tricky thing. It's a game, and it's an industry. There was a time, long ago now, where those two aspects were nearly indistinguishable. As a game, it's a hobby loved by many people, myself included. These people play the game, create content for the game, talk about the game, and form a pretty great community of like minded individuals who all share this common passion.

As an industry, D&D is the property of Hasbro. It is a business. As a business, its purpose is to earn revenue. Money isn't a dirty word. Hasbro isn't the devil. They are doing what every business does, leveraging their property to produce the greatest revenue possible. That's what they are supposed to do. To this end, they are focusing on D&D as an intellectual property. They are making toys, games, clothes and movies that carry the D&D IP. 

The earning potential of D&D as an IP far outweighs its ability to earn as a role-playing game. The role-playing hobby is still very much a niche market. That's not the problem. The real problem is that D&D has grown too big for its niche. There are so many great RPGs out there that aren't D&D, but these games make less than pennies compared to D&D.

The recent outrage over Hasbro's intention to remove the open gaming license speaks a great deal to how much of a strangle hold Dungeons & Dragons has on the RPG hobby. Companies other than Hasbro rely on D&D related sales for their own well being. This is because D&D related products still outsell other products within the hobby by a wide margin.

What if Hasbro said, "screw all this drama" and pulled D&D out of the RPG marketplace? What if Hasbro decided to focus on movies, video games and t-shirts, and all that big money stuff. Then, all of the other publishers producing great game content for the RPG hobby might actually manage to make a little money. Wouldn't that be better? The sad thing is, Hasbro IS focusing on the big money stuff, and still making D&D regardless, but the game we play, the hobby we love … it's Hasbro's lowest priority.

As an RPG product, D&D is the "red-headed step child" of the D&D IP. As a hobby, driven by a community of passionate gamers, role-playing games grow and evolve to become better and better experiences at the table top. As an IP, D&D is about selling merchandise. The Hasbro supported game experience needs to leverage that IP. The "hobby" part of D&D is gone. Only the open gaming license has kept that part of the game alive over the past 20 or more years. That's why the outrage.

I say, forget the outrage and let D&D leave the hobby. Hell, I say, "Push it out." The hobby will survive. The people who love role-playing games will continue to support them, and will do so more successfully once they are no longer hidden by the dark shadow that is D&D. Dungeons & Dragons may have been the impetus that created the RPG hobby, but … and this is important … Dungeons & Dragons isn't the hobby. Role-playing games - they are the hobby! 

In my opinion, the best way to support the hobby, the real hobby - role-playing games, in the future, is to stop supporting Dungeons & Dragons. Let Hasbro have their IP and let them know that we want our hobby back. I won't be supporting Dungeons & Dragons any longer, not because I wish the IP or Hasbro any ill, but because I believe that I am taking a step toward making our hobby healthier in the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment