ICv2 caught up with Scott Rouse, Sr. Brand Manager for Dungeons and Dragons at Wizards of the Coast, at GAMA Trade Show to ask about D&D 4th Edition. In Part 1, we talk about changes to the licenses for other publishers and how that affects them. In Part 2, Rouse shares plans for the 4th Edition launch and Game Day, marketing and advertising for the launch, and talks about the potential effect of the new release on the hobby market.
There’s some confusion about the status of the old d20 Open Game License and how you’re transitioning to the analogous Open Licenses for the 4th Edition. Can you go over that?
Let’s start with the Open Gaming License. That is a license that’s a perpetual license. It has no clause for revocation so it will continue to exist out there in the gaming community and publishers will continue to use the open content that was released under that license to publish games. Then we have our d20 system trademark license, and this was a license that allowed publishers to utilize the d20 system trademark. It gave them a few extra perks like being able to refer to trademark products like The Player’s Handbook, The Monster Manual, The Dungeon Master’s Guide, and in exchange, there were some limitations on that license, including character creation, and the advancement of characters with experience points. We wanted the license to support the core rulebooks that we release either under the d20 Modern campaign or under the Dungeons and Dragons campaign, and in June of 2008 that license will be terminated as we release the new game system license.
We’re going to give publishers a sell-off period where they’ll have until the end of 2008 to move through any stock that they have in their warehouses. Once it’s at distribution or in retail, the product can continue to sell through in its natural progression. We’re not going to ask publishers to recall that product and destroy it. But any excess inventory that they may happen to have in their warehouses at the end of ’08 would need to be destroyed. Any subsequent reprints they can still publish through the Open Gaming License, they just have to remove the d20 system trademark logo. That would include both PDF and physical product that continues to be sold after 2008.
On the OGL, you said it applies to material that was released under that license, what material specifically was released under that license?
A number of publishers, including Wizards of the Coast, released content as Open. For us it would be, what we call our Systems Reference Document, which is 3rd Edition (and 3.5 update) D&D rules as well as rules for Modern roleplaying. That System Reference Document, as Open and released under the license, continues to exist in the gamer community.
If I have this correctly, the d20 product that’s currently out there can continue to be sold, it just has to change the logo from d20 to something else?
Those will just revert back to publishing under the OGL.
What’s going to happen to the d20 mark?
We’ll continue to use that as a house organ mark, so it will show compatibility between our products, so any products we release under the Dungeons and Dragons line, Star Wars Saga Edition line, or any modern setting, it would bear that mark and it shows compatibility between miniatures, tiles, book products, that they use the d20 system.
Will retailers be able to continue sell old product with the d20 mark after the end of this year?
Absolutely. We’re not going to recall, or ask publishers to recall any of that product, so it will naturally move through that channel.
So there is no analogous d20 mark?
The license will be similar to the d20 System trade mark. There’s two licenses under the games system license. There’s a license for D&D roleplaying, and what we’re going to allow publishers to do under that license is actually show compatibility with D&D 4th Edition. They will have a little slug that’s a D&D logo with some compatibility text. Something to the effect that this product is compatible with the 4th Edition D&D roleplaying game.
Under the Modern license, there will be a license for non-fantasy roleplaying settings. The details of that haven’t been released yet. We don’t have a product line that that will support, but in the coming weeks we’ll be talking about plans for late 2009 and 2010 where we’ll be refreshing the d20 Modern or the Urban Arcana setting.
When D&D 4th Edition was announced last year, some publishers were going to be allowed a buy-in to get early access to the material. Did that happen?
No. We had some delays with the drafting of the game system license. One of those delays was adding this new alternate Modern roleplaying license. Our original intentions were that in February publishers would be able to buy a Games System License developers kit for $5,000 that would give them early access to the rules and an exclusivity window for publishing that would last through the end of 2009. The license would turn on in August at Gen Con and they would be able to sell from August to December. Because of the delays in drafting the license, that plan just didn’t make sense. We abandoned the phase one plan for the GSL and moved directly onto phase two, which was opening the system to everybody and that will happen on June 6th when we release 4th Edition, and those publishers will be able to start selling their products starting October 1st.
Why did you change the way you are branding your own vs. other people’s products?
It’s my understanding that the d20 mark was supposed to be the next best thing to having the D&D logo if you were a third party publisher. I think in the early stages that d20 mark really did stand for not only a symbol of compatibility but a symbol of quality, but not everyone released high quality products. I think over time the mark lost the equity that it once had. We actually started to see publishers stop using the mark. Although the intentions were correct, it never really panned out as conveying that the product is not D&D but it’s the next best thing. So it made sense to change directions on that.
So now you’ll just communicate that it’s compatible rather than on the quality?
For Part 2, click here.