This is a Transcript of Episode 115 of Brainwaves
Direct Quotes are in italics
Mistakes noted in bold italic and will be corrected on the following cast.
[Brainwaves Intro Music]
Iain McAllister: Hello everyone, I’m Iain McAllister
Oliver Kinne: and I’m Oliver Kinne and this is Brainwaves episode 115 bringing you the best in tabletop gaming news. These are the headlines for the week of 6th of February 2023
Wizards casts counterspell
ITB employees think outside the box
All this and more on this episode of Brainwaves
Iain: A little correction before we start the cast folks. When I was interviewing Linda Codega on the last cast she said the Gypsy allegory race in ravenloft was called the Rabani but they’re called the Vastani. I didn’t check that at the time sorry about that.
The pronoun used above for Linda is wrong. It should be they not she. I wanted to preserve what I said for the transcript. An apology has gone out on Twitter and direct to Linda. There will also be an apology at the top of the next cast.
Iain: yes our first story today actually hearkens back to our last episode. On our last cast we covered in some detail the origins of the Open Gaming License, OGL, for Dungeons and Dragons and the controversy surrounding Wizards’ planned changes to the license.
A little reminder that the OGL has allowed companies to make content for Dungeons and Dragons since third edition D&D and many companies had built their future around that license. When Wizards tried to make some major changes to it recently that would be an end to how open the license really was there was a massive backlash from the community.
Since then Wizards have opened up the process regarding changes to the OGL and sought feedback from the community in a post on DND Beyond on the 27th of January Kyle Brink, the executive producer for D&D, updated the community on the current responses to ogl 1.2 as it has now been referred to.
We will now read from that post in full:
Oliver: When you give us playtest feedback, we take it seriously.
Already more than 15,000 of you have filled out the survey. Here’s what you said:
- 88% do not want to publish TTRPG content under OGL 1.2.
- 90% would have to change some aspect of their business to accommodate OGL 1.2.
- 89% are dissatisfied with deauthorizing OGL 1.0a.
- 86% are dissatisfied with the draft VTT policy.
- 62% are satisfied with including Systems Reference Document (SRD) content in Creative Commons, and the majority of those who were dissatisfied asked for more SRD content in Creative Commons.
These live survey results are clear. You want OGL 1.0a. You want irrevocability. You like Creative Commons.
The feedback is in such high volume and its direction is so plain that we’re acting now.
- We are leaving OGL 1.0a in place, as is. Untouched.
- We are also making the entire SRD 5.1 available under a Creative Commons license.
- You choose which you prefer to use.
This Creative Commons license makes the content freely available for any use. We don’t control that license and cannot alter or revoke it. It’s open and irrevocable in a way that doesn’t require you to take our word for it. And its openness means there’s no need for a VTT policy. Placing the SRD under a Creative Commons license is a one-way door. There’s no going back.
Our goal here is to deliver on what you wanted.
So, what about the goals that drove us when we started this process?
We wanted to protect the D&D play experience into the future. We still want to do that with your help. We’re grateful that this community is passionate and active because we’ll need your help protecting the game’s inclusive and welcoming nature.
We wanted to limit the OGL to TTRPGs. With this new approach, we are setting that aside and counting on your choices to define the future of play.
Here’s a PDF of SRD 5.1 with the Creative Commons license. By simply publishing it, we place it under an irrevocable Creative Commons license. We’ll get it hosted in a more convenient place next week. It was important that we take this step now, so there’s no question.
We’ll be closing the OGL 1.2 survey now.
We’ll keep talking with you about how we can better support our players and creators. Thanks as always for continuing to share your thoughts.
Executive Producer, Dungeons & Dragons
Iain: So to summarize that a little bit they’re leaving the original OGL or what they call ogl 1.0a in that piece completely untouched and the majority of the Dungeons and Dragons rules will be available in a Creative Commons Systems Resource Document (SRD) for anyone to use as they see fit.
Now after the original announcement many publishers and designers said that they would be creating their own open gaming license and system resource documents. The biggest of those was Paizo who are the publishers of Pathfinder and they claim to have up to 1500 publishers signed up with them.
Over two tweets Paizo said this:
Oliver: We welcome today’s news from Wizards of the Coast regarding their intention not to de-authorize OGL 1.0a. We still believe there is a powerful need for an irrevocable, perpetual independent system-neutral open license that will serve the tabletop community via nonprofit stewardship. Work on the ORC license will continue, with an expected first draft to release for comment to participating publishers in February.
Iain: Now it’s worth noting here that our friends over at the Smart Party podcast which is an RPG podcast in the UK we urge you to check out, were recently discussing the OGL along with Mat from Steamforged Games who publish The Dark Souls RPG under 5th edition, amongst other games. They had heard that some of the publishers on the list that Paizo claimed to have had these 1500 Publishers were interested in the ORC but hadn’t really signed on the dotted line as yet.
So this seems like a huge win for the community with the slight caveat that we still don’t know what a new version of the OGL is actually going to look like if there is one at all. The move to put Dungeons and Dragons, a lot of the core rules, into a Creative Commons was a massive move that surprised the community the reaction across the community was one of shock almost, and it does feel to me like they’ve pulled the rug out from underneath Paizo, what do you think Oliver?
Oliver: yeah I mean I don’t really know too much about it but yeah watching videos and developing obviously the community has responded and the community has won quite rightly uh I think. Some of the decisions that uh were made were clearly just about making money and not really realistic.
If you look into the business model that they were thinking about you know license uh yeah license fees and and how that was calculated I think we mentioned that in the, in the previous cast about what is it is it about revenue is about income where where does it all fit. So yeah hopefully the new OGL will actually be much better and more sensible but we’re yet to see what that’s going to look like until they’re actually being published.
Iain: or maybe it’s all because they’re parent company is in trouble?
Oliver: yes it turns out that Hasbro, the parent company of Wizards of the Coast, has announced layoffs to cut costs. But they also amount to about 15% of the total workforce or around 1000 staff. The decision follows losses at Hasbro of around 17% year-on-year and will save the company around 250 to 300 million dollars by 2025.
CEO Chris Cox said that everything other than Wizards of the Coast and Digital Gaming segment underperformed:
Iain: against the backdrop of a challenging holiday consumer environment
Oliver: he went on to say in a press release on Hasbro’s investor site:
Iain: “We are focused on implementing transformational changes aimed at substantially reducing costs and increasing our growth rates and profitability. While the full-year 2022, and particularly the fourth quarter, represented a challenging moment for Hasbro, we are confident in our Blueprint 2.0 strategy, unveiled in October, which includes a focus on fewer, bigger brands; gaming; digital; and our rapidly growing direct to consumer and licensing businesses. Through this strategy, we are putting the consumer at the center of everything we do, and our Operational Excellence program is on track to drive significant cost savings across the business and improve our overall competitiveness. These strategic pillars helped to improve our results, particularly operating profit margin and revenue growth in key categories, in a challenging fourth quarter, and lay the groundwork for continued progress in 2023.”
Oliver: Regarding the layoffs he said
Iain: “the elimination of these positions will impact many loyal Hasbro employees, and we do not undertake this process lightly. However, the changes are necessary to return our business to a competitive, industry-leading position and to provide the foundation for future success.”
Oliver: We would like to remind listeners that it wasn’t very long ago that Cynthia Williams the CEO of Wizards of the Coast said that D&D is, and I quote, “under monetized”.
So if you put this announcement together with the OGL moves you wonder whether there is a link somewhere. You know we’ve lost some profits so we need to make money back so how can we make money, well here we go D&D is making lots of money can we milk more money out of it. Do yeah I wonder whether there is a link there.
Iain: yeah companies like this obviously have a legal obligation to update their investors and the markets as to what their performance is but Hasbro will have known this announcement is coming for some time uh very likely back in November and December of last year which is when we started to see all the OGL announcements come out and the reassurances that everything would be fine. And then it wasn’t fine.
And yeah and you’ve got to wonder if like that they are looking at like this like this piece says Wizards of the Coast and the digital gaming segment are the only segments of the company that are not underperforming. So there’s two possibilities there either they try to mine more money out of it or they sell it as an asset would they sell Wizards of the Coast?
Iain: possibly. If they’re looking for profit amongst other things. yeah I mean it seems to make you make a lot of money for them so I don’t so I don’t think so but they could do. Who knows?
Oliver: It depends where there focus is well other than big companies being in trouble there are other publishers also in trouble
Iain: Indeed. It seems that issues at Inside The Box in the UK may be reaching a climax.
In a January 26th post to the Sub Terra 2 Kickstarter. Designer of Sub Terra 2, Tim Pinder released a statement in an update. They did this alongside the Spanish, French, and German language Edition Publishers who are in order Second Gate Games, Nuts Publishing and Schwerkraft Verlag.
We’re going to read from parts of that statement now:
Oliver: Dear SUB TERRA backers, fans, and board game community at large,
After recent news about SUB TERRA II being sold in North America, we feel it is time to share what we know about the progress of the project. You as backers of this long-awaited game release deserve to be informed and we want to distance ourselves from the silence offered by Inside The Box (ITB), the original license holder.
First of all, our apologies for not releasing a statement earlier. The silence by ITB didn’t affect only you, but also us as business partners and the designer of the game. ITB have not responded to any of our countless contact attempts. So we understand and share the nervousness that was communicated by many of you on Kickstarter, BoardGameGeek, and other forums.
We are all invested in this project with a huge amount of money (publishers) and time/intellectual property (designer), so the delay, the silence and the associated risk of the project falling through affects us the same way as you, but in an exponentially bigger dimension. Think of us as power backers with thousands of copies at risk, each.
ITB have posted two apologetic updates in the last months, but they did not contain much information, so here are some facts that we can share from our side:
Iain: They go into detail when the game will get to backers of these editions of the game and then address the English edition of the game. From the statement:
Oliver: While we do not have any official confirmation or further information on the English edition, we assume that most of the Kickstarter and retail volume is produced (with the exception of the units in the above list and some other smaller items, mostly cosmetic extras). Hopefully, the molds being paid for by the French and German publishers helps ITB to pay the outstanding amount.
What does this mean for you as an English edition backer? We can only refer you to ITB – we hope they are ok and will post another update this month as promised. Our best wishes to ITB from our side.
Iain: Two days later on the 28th of January an update from Peter Blenkharn appeared on the project. Peter is the head of ITB games in it he says:
Oliver: To all backers,
Last month I promised that I would send out an update by the end of January with whatever news I had.
As I said on the last update, I’ve been busy in the background working on solutions to complete the remaining parts of the project.
I’m not in a position to give you concrete information on exactly when games will ship, in what order etc – as I promised not to do so unless I was 100% confident of the results.
What I can say at this stage, however, is that specific, significant, progress has been made.
I am hoping to be able to give you all a much more clear picture of the remainder of this project soon, but regardless I will update you all by the end of February as promised.
Iain: Peter had posted a very similar update in January.
Later that day an ex-employee posted an update to the kickstarter campaign as they presumably still had access they posted as Inside the Box games. This simply said:
Oliver: Peter still owes his employees wages, missing pension, and redundancy
Iain: in the comments section of the page someone posting as ITB games posted:
Oliver: Ex-employee here. He still owes us missing pensions, wages and redundancy. We’re all out thousands. He’s completely refused to communicate with us. He shouldn’t be allowed near another business.
Iain: It’s worth noting that that comment has since been removed by Kickstarter, presumably at Inside the Box’s request.
So firstly I’d like to say this. I’ve read through some of the comments under the employee comments saying that they are missing wages, and obviously these folks have become desperate posting in this manner to try and get something out of Inside the Box. Some of the comments responding to that were absolutely atrocious. Just worried about getting your games over the well-being of your fellow human beings. If you posted those comments you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves, without any question. Just horrible stuff please don’t do that.
Secondly I’ve never seen a designer do this, a designer for a game go on a Kickstarter campaign and post an update kind of not exactly trashing that company but basically complaining about the lack of communication and not really knowing what’s going on. Being very polite about it it’s very, it’s a very evenly evenly handed post but I’ve never ever seen a designer do that. I don’t know if you have Oliver?
Oliver: no I haven’t. I mean there’s obviously lots of things going wrong behind the scenes and people are getting desperate and you can understand that they want to vent their frustrations rightfully so whether this is the best way yeah I mean
Oliver: we don’t know what is actually going on it’s a bit frustrating that there isn’t more communication happening obviously we do want to see more. So if if anyone can reach out to us with more information you know first-hand information we’re talking about that would be really useful so we can get a much better picture of what’s actually happening, and yeah what what might be happening next.
Iain: yeah absolutely I’ve reached out to Inside the Box through their Twitter account, through their Facebook page, and through the contact form on their own website as well asking for an interview and information and we also put our call on Twitter for ex-employees to get in touch with us. We haven’t really heard of any uh heard from anyone who was a recent employee but if you were a recent employee in the sort of run up to this stuff in the last year or so, year or two even in the run-up to these events then please do get in touch with us we’d like to talk to you. We can keep you completely anonymous if you’d like to be or we can record you on the record it’s entirely up to you but please do get in touch.
And, and let’s face it Peter has definitely mucked up here but he’s very likely under a huge amount of stress and worry right now Pierre if you hear any of this or see any of our Communications then please do get in touch as we would like to talk to you.
Oliver: Now onto the updates
Oliver: Way back in episode 39 we reported on Victoria Mann’s allegations of sexual assault against games designer J.R Honeycutt. In episode 94 we followed that up with the news that J.R. Honeycutt was suing Victoria and her raising funds for legal defence.
We believe this case has now been settled, and a recent post by Victoria seems to confirm that. In a post on medium called Thinking Back Victoria posted
Iain: “This references my previous article. While I was hurting, I wrote the article and wanted JR Honeycutt to feel the same pain I was in. In my Medium.com post, ‘Coming forward to move forward,’ and in other posts, I made on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium, I painted a picture about what happened in my relationship experiences with JR. I am retracting what I originally stated and implied: he did not physically abuse me, he did not sexually assault or rape me, and I have no knowledge that he has ever tried to get other women drunk to take advantage of them. I was hurt at the end of our relationship and I made exaggeration out of this hurt. This was wrong to publicly display that. I deeply regret the harm it did to JR and his reputation.”
Oliver: The previous article Victoria references here was a post that contained the allegations. The post remains live with an additional paragraph added at the top that says
Iain: “I fully retract my statements in the article below for context please see this post” with a link to the statement we’ve just read out
Iain: on the 23rd of January it was announced that designer Serge Laget had died. He was designer of many well-known tiles including Shadows over Camelot, Mystery of the Abbey. and most recently Nidavellir. Designer Bruno Fadutti published a tribute to his friend and co-designer and many amongst the community expressed their sorrow on hearing the news.
The entire team’s thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.
Oliver: Now it’s been a turbulent time in the world of crowdfunded tabletop games over the last couple of years. Shipping issues aside, the sector has seen rivals to Kickstarter enter the fray like Backerkit and Gamefound.
Talking to site Polygon Gamefound laid out its performance over last year. Gamefound had planned to bring in 67.5 million dollars in 2022. The figure represents around 25 percent of Kickstarter’s revenue from tabletop projects in 2021. In the end Gamefound only brought in 28.3 million dollars for new projects, an increase in its revenue of 45%. That’s against kickstarter’s decline of 33 million dollars in the tabletop category.
Gamefound also hadn’t expected backer kit to enter the tabletop crowdfunding business. Backerkit had formerly been the back end of a lot of campaigns helping companies coordinate with backers. When it moved into the crowdfunding space it did with the bang and welcomed big companies such as Cephalofair to its platform.
Marcin Swerkot, founder of Gamefound, told Polygon:
Iain: if those campaigns would be a game found we would definitely be closer to the number of 67.5 million dollars
Oliver: for 2023 Gamefound has adjusted its goal to 50 million dollars in backer crowdfunding.
So even though game found isn’t doing as well as it expected I think it’s obviously doing still quite well indeed as I say we’re talking about kickstarts actually declining on the tabletop category and the excuse ,in brackets, of Backerkit entering the market maybe Gamefound should have thought about that in advance.
But as I say overall I think it’s actually quite exciting to see that Gamefound is doing so well, and I think there was something in the article about requesting information from Backerkit but they’re saying that they are still in beta stage so they don’t want to publish any figures they haven’t obviously launched the crowdfunding side of it but if Backerkit enters as well there’ll be lots of competition so that’s exciting to see.
Iain: yeah I mean competition is good even if these companies don’t succeed in the end it does force Kickstarter to change its game and like try and get those companies back to their platform which might see some improvements in their side of things so that’s that’s always good. I mean I don’t back a lot myself these days but I can see the value of having multiple different platforms for crowdfunding certainly.
Oliver: definitely definitely
Iain: the Belgium board game publisher Pearl Games is closing. Known for games such as Troyes, Brussels 1893, La Granja, and Ginkopolis, it has been operating since 2010. It was bought by asmodee in 2014 who have now announced the company’s closure.
In a press release on 30th of January 2023 the founder of pearl games Sebastian Dujardin says that:
Oliver: “all good things must come to an end asmodee will close the Pearl games studio as of the end of March”
Iain: However there’s a glimmer of hope later in the same press release Sebastian goes on to say
Oliver: we are making arrangements with Asmodee so that can retain the brand and catalog of Pearl Games, moving forward as an independent publisher.
Iain: In fact Sebastian has several games already under development but admits that it will take time to get everything organized. So watch this space I guess. Is this a do you think this is Asmodee looking to consolidate its games business Oliver?
Oliver: so they’ve clearly been on a buying spree for years and now it’s time to see what what the rewards on whether any of those Brands actually still fit into the portfolio of companies and clearly Pearl Games doesn’t quite fit their model, and good on Sebastian to get the rights to the you know brand and the catalog of games and and go back independent as it was originally. So good luck and uh looking forward to seeing more games from Pearl Games
Iain: yeah absolutely I mean maybe Asmodee are looking to the future and looking at the sort of the shrinking Hobby Games Market, Oliver?
Oliver: yes news reaches us from Germany. Sebastian Wenzei from Kulturgutspiel.de reports that the German Hobby Games amd Puzzles markets turnover decreased in 2022 by around 5 percent.
Similarly the Branchenverband Spieleverlage, the German industry body for toy publishers, reports that the German Toy Market as a whole also decreased by five percent. The German hobby games and puzzles markets drop in turnover is the first in eight years.
In 2020 the industry enjoyed a rise of over 21 percent, and in 2021 turnover increased by four percent. For 2023 the industry expects a small amount of growth. The industry’s turnover for 2022 was made up of 20 percent from the children’s games market, around 33 percent from family and adult games, and this is of grown-up game so it must be a different classification in Germany how the games I know group by age, and then there’s 15 percent each from puzzles and card games.
After years of success for escape room games, their demand has notably decreased in 2022. At the same time puzzle and murder mystery games have increased in importance. The biggest spenders in 2022 is the 14 to 35 year age group who mostly bought party games.
So I guess you know seeing drops and after a few increases it’s really expected we had obviously the increases during the pandemic when people couldn’t go out so they’d try to entertain themselves at home and obviously games were one of the things that they did.
And you know you saw the rise of 21 in 2020 I mean that’s that’s a huge increase
Iain: That’s astonishing
Oliver: yeah, so seeing a five percent drop now in toys generally and board games and puzzle games and all that I think that’s not not really too much of a surprise for us. What do you think?
Iain: no not really especially when there’s like a cost of living crisis worldwide and and people are worried about like being able to pay their bills so yeah I can see people cutting back on luxuries like board games, which let’s face it they are a luxury so
Iain: not not a huge surprise especially with a 21 percent rise in 2021
Iain: it’s unsurprising to see that downturn a little bit in the following years
Oliver: it was 21 in 2020 but yeah even even
Iain: sorry 2020 yeah
Iain: just a huge rise, massive. Unsurprising to see that taper off a little bit.
Iain: There’s a bunch of events coming in up some of which I am going to.
Airecon is going to be on the 9th and 12th of March at Harrogate Convention Center. There’s loads of exhibitors there but it’s very much a play focused con. I will be there from about sort of four-ish on the Thursday, right through to the Sunday. Do come and say hi if you see me and I’m looking forward to playing lots of games there.
I’ll be over in Gothcon in Sweden from the 7th to the 9th of April. It’s an RPG focused con but a lot of board games and that kind of thing as well. Really looking forward to that. Hope to see some of our Swedish listeners there if there are any out there.
Conpulsion is back that’s the local Edinburgh con and that’s from the 14th to 16th of April 2023 at Teviot Row House. It is primarily an RPG focused con. It’s had a three-year hiatus but it’s now back and there’ll be more information about that on its website as it reveals what’s going on there. We’ll put a link to that in the show notes.
And finally events wise Moray games Jam is coming out. Now when I was designing games this was something I always met to get along to but never have. It’s running from March 10th to 12th at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Elgin and digital and tabletop groups can enter the jam and there’ll be various workshops from guest speakers and Industry veterans so do check that out if you are a budding designer.
Oliver: woah that’s a long list of events you want to go to nice to see yeah I can’t make Airecon this year it’s a bit of a trip for me I was sort of looking forward to but I’ve been doing the last couple of years so have lots of fun and we’re going to miss each other unfortunately.
Iain: oh no worries I’m sure we’ll meet up at a con soon.
Oliver: which leads us nicely to our Patron shoutout. So thanks again to all of our Discord members who have posted articles first of all and helped us source article images.
We also want to shout out to our patrons James Naylor and Sean Newman. If you want to join our patreon just go to https://www.patreon.com/thegiantbrain or go to our support us page on https://giantbrain.co.uk/support-us-new/ of course you can still get a discount at Metallic Dice Games with the promo code ROLLWITHBRAINS, all one word. And finally if you want to get some nice t-shirts and I think hoodies as well lots of nice apparel at the Sir Meeple site that gives us a little bit of extra money as you buy stuff as well
Iain: Now Jamie isn’t here this episode but that doesn’t mean we will sweep the Monopoly news under the carpet. There’s frankly too much of it and I don’t have a big enough rug.
We’ve mentioned many times on the cast that there’s a new Dungeons and Dragons film on the way, and what better way to celebrate it than by moving around a square board and exchanging money for properties?
It sounds like this version will give Monopoly a bit of a twist. The token you choose matches one of the characters from the upcoming movie and will all have a special ability. The press release implies that you’ll be seeking out adventures and useful items to help you along the way while trying to gather the most gold out of the party. There is even a dungeon master deck for a customized or advanced mode of play.
Iain: and Oliver while I was looking up the story I learned that there are currently 3471 official versions of Monopoly
Oliver: and they’re all in that person’s cupboard aren’t they okay
Iain: I was going to say the gentleman we reported on last time had something like 3200 copies so he’s pretty close to having everything that’s kind of impressive.
Oliver: I think they’re going to buy the Dungeons and Dragons version as well I’m pretty sure if not someone should send them the copy
Iain: yeah and uh according to their list they’ll buy it in several different languages as well
Oliver: of course yeah
Iain: as you would.
Thanks very much for listening everyone. If you like what you’ve listened to then the best way to help us out is to share the podcast and drop us a review and rating on iTunes.
You can follow Oliver on https://tabletopgamesblog.com/ that’s where he puts all his articles. Our Discord is where you’ll find us the most and you can come and play games with us there and there’ll be an invite in the show notes and we post about all our news all our bits and pieces in there all the articles on the site everything gets posted in there.
You can follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook we are The Giant Brain on all those sites. Our website is https://giantbrain.co.uk and you can email us about anything in the cast or any news articles you’d like to get in touch or if you’d like to reach out to us privately and talk to us about any bits of news please do it’s [email protected].
We’ll be back in probably about three weeks time and it might be a little bit delay to the next cast and we’ll see you then thanks again
Oliver: see you then thank you bye