E3, Wizards of the Coast, and 3rd-Party Publishers

G4 has been playing all day the press conferences coming out of E3 in California. I got to see/hear the presentations from Sony and Microsoft (I missed the Nintendo one thanks to a storm that made my DirecTV go blank for a couple of hours), and they were both interesting and informative as to how a larger-yet-similar industry to my own Hobby Gaming one handles this type of event and process (answer: much better than what I have seen at GTS and Gen Con, and not only because of the much larger budgets).

What really called my attention was how in each of the presentations, the big companies, the big market leaders, lauded and constantly thanked and showed appreciation for the 3rd-party publishers working with them to make their own systems a better value in entertainment and for the betterment of the industry as a whole. Seriously, it was a constant thing, with mentions by name of studios like EA, Ubisoft, Bungee, and even references to smaller design studios as well.

I just could not help but draw a comparison between the positive attitude towards 3rd-party publishers I was seeing from the video game industry market leaders vis-a-vis the way the hobby game industry’s market leader has behaved towards its 3rd-party publishers, specifically with the release of the GSL, a license that is so restrictive and controling of not only their IP, but also of the signatory parties, that more and more companies are simply not putting up with it.

As of today, three companies have publicly announced their intentions to not sign the GSL, these being Kenzer & Co., Adamant Entertainment and Green Ronin Publishing. Of these, Kenzer and Adamant have both already released 4e-compatible material using standard copyright law. In addition, Necromancer Games, though they have stated they will indeed be signing on, have stated that the terms of the GSL prohibits them from publishing the book they most wanted to, the Tome of Horrors, as they don’t want to lose that IP to Wizards via the control ceded via the GSL terms. Goodman Games remains mysterious in what their plans are; though they are indeed releasing 4e material, we don’t know if it will be via the GSL or via copyright, as Kenzer and Adamant have done. To this you can add a great number of small PDF publishers, like myself, that have also declined to sign the GSL.

E3 showed me a glimpse of what it is to have market leaders that value the contributions and innovations of their 3rd-party publishers, and made me wistful that we in the hobby gaming industry do not have such a market leader of our own.


  1. Apples and Oranges

    You do realize of course that those console 3rd party publishers pay good money to those companies to develope/port games onto their consoles. It costs money to license, they pay royalties to MS/Sony/Nintendo. Those companies say yay or nay whether the game is even appropriate to get released in some cases.

    Not saying I agree with the hwo the GSL turned out, but it was to be expected.


  2. Not really apples and oranges. More like apples and apple sauce. We really aren’t that far apart in terms of what we do, just in terms of market penetration and revenue.

    I understand about the fees 3rd-Party console publishers pay; to be honest, even though I never would be able to afford it for my company, I like and advocated a fee-based buy-in for a D&D 4e licensing, as did others (most notably Phil Reed). It would have shut out a bunch of small companies, yes, but it would have been a much better option, ideally with a completely different attitude towards the publishng partners, than the slap-in-the-face unilateral thing the GSL turned out to be.

    So yeah, not apples and oranges at all. Wizards of the Coast had a chance to learn from our rich cousins in the video game world and set a new standard for this industry and steer it into a new direction, something only it as the market leader (arguably the only one) could do. They didn’t, and that is the entire industry’s loss.


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