The Business of RPGs
By Anthony Valterra
Well, GAMA has come and gone for another year. For those of you who do not know what GAMA is, it is an annual convention of game manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. Once a year, we all meet in Las Vegas in the fabulous Orleans hotel to attend seminars, announce deals, negotiate new deals, and gamble away money. All in all, the event is a great deal of fun, and this year was no exception. Wizards of the Coast unveiled its new Star Wars trading card game (TCG), which met with wide acclaim for its game play. On the RPG side of things, which, of course, is my arena, we confirmed that miniatures and Avalon Hill are now both a part of the publishing division, which also includes RPGs, magazines, and novels.
On Monday we had an open meeting for all d20 publishers, and attendance was high. Once again I had to dispel the "Wizards is going to cancel the d20 license" rumor. This rumor, which seems to appear about every month, just will not die. However, I think the announcement of d20 Modern may be the final deathblow to the rumor. (You can read more about that in a moment.)
The meeting started on the topic of trade dress. Trade dress is the identifying look of a product or brand; think of McDonalds' "golden arches" or the Olympics' five interlocking rings. When we released D&D, we expected that people would try to tie their products closely to ours, and White Wolf's Creature Collection was exactly what we expected. As time went on, though, we noticed that some company's products began to look even more like ours until they became almost indistinguishable from ours. Our trade dress was being trampled upon. I made it clear that we would not ask anyone to change the look of a product line they had already established. We are asking only that new lines try to avoid our trade dress, and, if we create a new line in the future, we will specify what our trade dress is in advance.
The next subject was violations to the license and the fact that we are still seeing them. In fact, we see two common violations out there. The first is using the Player's Handbook rather then the System Reference Document (SRD) while designing a d20 product. The problem with designing by the Player's Handbook is that there are certain names or descriptions in the Player's Handbook that have been left out of the SRD deliberately because we want to protect them. The second violation comes from working under the assumption that since material from the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and the Monster Manual is part of the SRD, it must mean that everything Wizards of the Coast produces is free to be used. This usually comes from an error on the part of the freelance designer and merely is not caught by the publisher.
Bright and early the next morning (8:00 AM, which is really early by Las Vegas standards), we had the d20 Modern meeting. We were surprised and pleased when 27 people showed up. We announced that we are planning on opening up d20 Modern in the same manner that we did Dungeons & Dragons. Any company that wants to be a part of the d20 Modern network is welcome to join and can receive the rules early so that they can have product out as soon as they want after November. After that announcement, the rest of the con was filled with excitement from an array of manufacturers wanting to do a variety of Modern products. The potential for d20 Modern really seemed to increase with each person who expressed interest in the rules set.
Finally, on Thursday morning, we made our last big announcement. The Dragonlance campaign setting will return to the world of Dungeons & Dragons via a partnership with Sovereign Press. One of the original creators of the Dragonlance world, Margaret Weis, along with frequent contributor Don Perrin will work with the Wizards of the Coast design team to create a D&D campaign book for 2003. Once again, we were pleased by the enthusiastic response.
Overall the RPG team had an excellent GAMA. Our offerings to the conventioneers were greeted with unexpected, gratifying, and wholehearted support.
Category Manager Roleplaying Games
Wizards of the Coast
For more information about the SRD, please visit our d20 main page. You can read more about GAMA at their site: www.gama.org. Also, check out the press releases for both the Star Wars TCG and the upcoming Dragonlance D&D release.
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