What if WotC is casting “Mislead”?
Just a few days ago, the D&D community erupted after a new open gaming license leaked to the public. Is there a chance this situation could be a contrived attempt to manipulate that community? It might not be that big of a stretch. Companies and other types of organizations sometimes employ a strategy called a “limited hangout”.
An organization may “leak” part of a document or a false document in order to distract the public from a controversial topic.
Let’s look at the facts. In November a “leak” dropped indicating Wizards of the Coast intended to do away with the OGL. Shortly thereafter, WotC stated that they greatly appreciated independent content creators and they actually were making plans for a One DnD OGL. They unambiguously claimed that the rumors were false. However, the “#OpenDnD” movement didn’t go away, so in December, they issued another press release describing some of the changes they were going to make to the Open Gaming License.
On January 4, another leak occurs. This time, we see a portion of the new One DND OGL 1.1. It’s important to note that some rumors indicate this document leaked only days before the new OGL 1.1 scheduled release date. If we are actually looking at a “limited hangout”, they may be trying to gloss over some of the more controversial aspects of the actual OGL 1.1 by intentionally leaking a fake document. Alternatively, they may be gauging the public reaction to the new contract before releasing a final draft.
Do companies do this?
Is it possible? Sure it is. We’re not discussing a never before seen corporate strategy. Pharmaceutical companies used this approach in the early 2000s and during the opioid epidemic.
Is it likely? Honestly, we’re probably looking at a 50-50 chance that this controversy turns out to be a ploy. The public may never know for sure. However, the chances of this mess being an attempt at a “limited hangout” would increase if the official release of OGL 1.1 drops the controversial material.
Unfortunately, there’s no way for us to know until WotC decides to communicate its intentions. I will argue, however, that their continued silence on the matter demonstrates a lack of respect for the community. Third-party content creators really are partners with WotC. They unquestionably played a critical role in the popularity explosion of 5th edition. Yes, these creators made money from their content, but so did Wizards of the Coast. The DM’s Guild provided a percentage of sales made on third-party content, and homebrew adventures expanded the player base. Furthermore, the indie game developer community provided free marketing for the brand.
What’s next for WotC?
In the end, I do not see this situation going well for Wizards of the Coast. You can’t alienate and outrage your core audience this much and not take a hit. This is just the first turn on initiative. Whether WotC has cast “Mislead” or “Chain Lightning”, the next turn goes to the thousands of angry homebrewers who have worked on their craft for years. There is no way Wizards of the Coast walks away from this controversy unscathed.