The tabletop gaming industry has had its fair share of controversies over the last couple of years.
Scandals surrounding an Open Gaming License, publishers sidestepping gaming promises for monetary gains, and IP (Intellectual Property) policy changes are just some of the reasons gaming fans are in an uproar.
Let’s take a look at some of the most recent, and prominent, controversies within the world of tabletop games.
The unfriendly introduction of OGL 1.2
To the detriment of fans, creativity, and monetization, the latest OGL (Open Gaming License) update from publisher Wizards of the Coast, sparked controversy among DnD (Dungeons and Dragons) fans and creators on a global scale.
Traditionally, DnD OGL enabled creators to use the game’s core mechanics and ideas in their own works, which in turn facilitated monetization. The new version of the OGL meant retroactively revoking that right for creators. This means a complete restriction on community content being created, while also imposing a heavy new 25% tax on large creator projects.
This change may well cost creators their livelihoods which have been built up in the RPG OGL world for decades. The new rules from Wizards of the Coast are set to completely stifle community involvement and content creation, and it seems as though the publisher fails to see the impact this will have not only on creators but on its own popularity. DnD has risen to such popular heights because of the games community of content creators, they’ve been bringing in new fans for years, without which, it’s hard to say if the game would have reached high demand.
So, why is this important?
Decisions like these make sense from a business point of view. It’s not inherently bad to protect your intellectual property. However, the entire foundation of the DnD community is built upon collaborative creations and fan-made content, and so ultimately the change wouldn’t have worked in this case.
Since the initial announcement of the new DnD OGL release, fans embarked on a mission to reverse the decision, and on 28th January 2023, Wizards of the Coast retracted the release by popular demand.
The Unwanted Rare Card Re-release
Reaching an impressive 30 years in the game, the popular trading card game, Magic: The Gathering (MTG), released its limited 30th-anniversary edition pack late last year. The special release contains some of the oldest and most powerful cards in the game.
While the initial news of the release excited fans, the reality of what those new packs meant soon dampened spirits. The card backs showcase a brand new design that strays away from the traditional and recognizable card back. This means that the new cards are essentially null and void when it comes to playing the game officially or competitively as they aren’t seen as authentic.
What’s more, the new pack contains rare and powerful cards that are on The Reserved List. This is a list of cards that MTG has promised not to reprint in order to preserve their value. Fans have expressed their frustration at the new release as Wizards of the Coast appears to be completely disregarding The Reserve List, while also ensuring that the cards can’t be played in tournaments.
Again, Wizards of the Coast are at the heart of the controversy as the publisher made the decision to release the product in four separate sets, each containing 15 cards, altogether costing $999. Alongside the new card packs being ultimately useless to play, these choices are driving an ever-growing rift between the publisher and game fans.
The Unnecessary IP Policy Changes Targeting Fan Art
UK-based company Games Workshop (GW) recently announced changes to its Warhammer IP policy that has rattled fan creators.
The previous IP policy rules essentially stated that fans could use ideas from Warhammer to build their own creations, so long as they didn’t monetize it, trade it or showcase it in a way that GW didn’t approve of.
This IP policy has since been updated, and the update is specifically targeting fan creations.
Creations should “not include text, artwork, imagery, footage or animation copied from any official Games Workshop material.” Creations should also ‘not be publicly distributed, except for no-charge digital distribution’.
This is a big deal for the likes of r/40klore (The fan-made lore and stories encompassing the dark future of the Warhammer 40000 franchise). Fan-based blogs such as Goonhammer can no longer take snippets from Warhammer books, animations, or any other IP unless it is specifically covered in fair use.
And this is the big one – the updated IP rules go on to state “We have a zero-tolerance policy in respect of infringement of our intellectual property rights.” Fans can no longer use trademarks in YouTube videos, blogs, etc. and creators that have developed fan-made films, animations, games, and apps are now also violating these rules.
This new IP policy is preventing fans from creating and targeting those who already have, while GW tries to monopolize the Warhammer market.
All three of these controversies lead to one thing.
Whether you agree or disagree, if a game is controlled by one company, it can impose any kind of licensing and rules on its IP and make all sorts of gameplay and distribution decisions even if it previously said it never would. This is especially important in roleplaying and card-collecting tabletop games because these games thrive on community involvement and content creation. Entire game worlds are created in roleplaying games, so why take away the players’ ability to develop and enrich those worlds in the name of profit?
Could decentralization save the day?
Blockchain is now one of the best avenues for game development decentralization and fair creator compensation. It turns taxes into flat infrastructure fees without taking away from the transaction value, and the gas fee to make a transaction of $1b or $10 is the same.
With decentralization, creators get rewarded according to the value they bring to the community. No, we’re not talking about tokenomics or NFTs, but full-fledged fan-made art, apps, and worlds. Creators can build the same kind of content and get 100% of the value without royalties to anyone. This essentially removes the monopolization issue that publishers such as Wizards of the Coast and Games Workshop pose, as decentralization means no more taxing and restricting creators, and encourages the community-based approach to RPG that fans want.
Together with Caldera, Game7 DAO, and OP Games, Moonstream is working to create just this – a decentralized ecosystem for games to flourish with community content creation. Moonstream supports the creation of new gaming experiences where game development is a collaborative effort for its communities. Projects like the Loot Project, Legend of the Five Rings, and DnD prove that this can be beneficial to players.
There’s no guarantee that any company owning an IP won’t put profits above their player community. Perhaps the future is in community-owned IPs built on open-source technology.
What if a framework was created, a world for a roleplaying game, and then all the rights to it were given up to the gaming community? Moonstream is creating an ecosystem that encourages collaborative content creation, where creators get compensated by the community, no one company owns the IP, and where no sudden rule changes can be made.
Currently, terms like crypto, web3, and blockchain have a bad rep. This is diminishing and understating the value of the technology. Let’s forget about these terms for a minute and instead, think of it as “decentralized” technology.
Decentralization offers significant power and value for gaming communities. It enables creators to continue creating and instills the age-old community feel back into tabletop games. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what we call the technology, or how we label it. What is important, however, is how it benefits society.
Decentralization is the game changer. Gamers don’t need to be web3-savvy or think about what underlying technology is empowering decentralization. Leave the technicalities to the founders, engineers, and designers. Let the experts discover how best to introduce it to users in a simple, accessible, and ultimately fun way. At the end of the day, decentralization will enable a more fair society and this is the future worth fighting for.