WotC, MTG, and OGL changes

Edit Jan 27, 2023: It looks like WotC has decided to scrap this entire poorly thought-out plan (at least for now, while people are watching). Still, while this one looks like it has been resolved without any real pain other than the loss of trust Wizards rightfully deserves, most of my thoughts about ownership are still valid, and shouldn't be slept on, because if they've tried it once, they'll try it again. Gotta get that sweet sweet shareholder value.

I know this is a little late to the party, but the ongoing conversation around profit motives and companies that own game properties that are currently popular and, honestly, much beloved is something that's been ignored for a while, and I'd like to add my thoughts to the discourse.

First, this is not surprising: corporations are complete sociopaths (and being a CEO is a job that attracts a disproportionate amount of socio- and psychopaths) - and the behavior and motives behind corporate profit-seeking are entirely by design, precedent, and conscious decision - and quite a few CEOs and board of directors would sell their mom for an extra $1 in "shareholder value" if they could.

In the case of Hasbro, it's a case of a parent company that is essentially just an IP holding company for various toy IP and is not a business that's performing particularly well and its overall profit is almost exclusively being driven by WotC, to the tune of 75% of Hasbro's total profit.

And, as if dragging around the remains of a legacy toy company wasn't enough of a lift, WOTC is now run by people from the video game industry which is, of course, known for it's very fair and reasonable monetization and revenue targeting and hasn't completely devolved into wanting subscription fees and endless micropayments for everything.

And, so, their push for expensive loot boxes (30th-anniversary MTG packs) and micropayments (Arena), and "live services" (their new DND subscription) makes perfect sense: the goal is to extract as much money from your pocket as they can and to do so in a way that makes you keep paying forever. The product doesn't matter, long-term damage to games you love doesn't matter: you're just an obstacle to their money and you should shut up and get out of the way.

The damage that could be caused by the proposed changes of the OGL and the new subscription D&D service isn't something I'm really qualified to talk about in detail, because I don't play D&D and don't really have any particular attachment to any of the popular media (Critical Role, etc.) that would be impacted.

However, I am an MTG player and can say that the combination of endless set releases (from ~4 a year previously to easily double that), the nonstop printer-go-brr of Secret Lairs (even if they take OVER A YEAR to ship!), to nonsense like the 30th-anniversary set, to the destruction of standard and pro play in favor of Arena (which, coincidentally, there's no 3rd party market for cards on, and is a lovely monetization engine), to handicapping LGSes with bad distributor pricing that's more than they sell directly on Amazon for, to just plain... exhaustion.

They're pushing harder and harder to get essentially arbitrary revenue goals met so that they can show growth, so as to increase "shareholder value" and in doing so they've made playing MTG outright hostile; I still play, I still enjoy it, but I know in the back of my head that there's definitely a life clock ticking for the majority of the game.

Formats like Commander are in okay shape, but that's mostly because it's a format that's relatively cheap, easy to pick up, and doesn't strictly require a massive buy-in with inflated card prices being held up so that WotC can sell Secret Lairs and Masters and other higher-than-standard priced sets that they like dropping two or three times a year.

You can spend $5000 on a competitive EDH deck, but you can also spend $50 and get something that's fun; at least, you can until WotC's endless 'every set is for Commander!' push does to it what Modern Horizons did to Modern, what the Reserved List did to Legacy, and what Arena did to Standard: kills it dead, because it's now hundreds of new cards a year and the powered treadmill starts chugging, all in the name of "shareholder value".

Long term, the general approach to revenue - specifically that this quarter has to be higher than last, and next will have to be higher than this - is absolute cancer that, given time, will destroy anything and everything it touches; it has to - endless growth is a lie, and is not real outside of the wet dreams and delusions of the 1%.

So, given that it's very much an institutional problem which won't be fixed because the ones in charge of the asylum are the inmates, what can you do?  Honestly, not buying their product is the only thing they notice because it's the only thing they care about.  Be more of an obstacle between them and your money.  Consider if you really need what they're selling or if you're stuck in FOMO and marketing. For MTG, don't buy the sealed products, just buy singles from a local game store. Or, hell, just print your own proxies. The 30th Anniversary debacle has shown that printing cards that aren't tournament legal is perfectly okay: they did it themselves, then charged you $1000 for the cards.

You can do home-printed ones on paper, or if you want something a little fancier and real-feeling, you can head to MpcFill and get them printed professionally on cardstock that looks and feels almost exactly like the authentic thing (and, given the print quality issues WotC has had in the past few years, possibly even better than).

This has turned into a little more fight-the-power than I originally intended, but if there's a thing you love and care about and it's under corporate stewardship then the endless grind of capitalism will, eventually, come for it, and you should be prepared to see it destroyed for a little bit more revenue and a slight bump in stock price so the execs in charge can cash out and bail.

Figure out how to take ownership of things you care about, and while things like petitions and shitposting on Reddit feel good to vent, you have to stop spending money on products that are being destroyed for the quick buck, because your money is validation for the people making the choices destroying your hobby.