IP Treatment: WotC vs. Marvel Comics

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Havard
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IP Treatment: WotC vs. Marvel Comics

Post by Havard »

Why is it that Marvel Comics keep bringing back their characters and locations. Even the most obscure and unpopular characters seem to be regularly brought back and given a makeover if needed. Compare this to WotC's treatment of its settings. WotC seems happy to bury vast numbers of valuable IP in their vaults. Why these differences in attitude?

Could WotC learn something from the Comic Book industry?

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Re: IP Treatment: WotC vs. Marvel Comics

Post by CmdrCorsiken »

That is an interesting thought. They 'own' so much creative information, but seem to utilize only a fraction of it. Perhaps they are worried about 'fragmenting' their customer-base. I've heard that argument before.

Even their handling of their out-of-print library baffles me. Why not sell in pdf form any of the oop stuff they have. I know that there is quite a bit that was never scanned, but a lot was. There is virtually no overhead; It's nearly free money.
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Re: IP Treatment: WotC vs. Marvel Comics

Post by rabindranath72 »

CmdrCorsiken wrote:Perhaps they are worried about 'fragmenting' their customer-base. I've heard that argument before.
That's and understatement. Can they do worse than they have already done? :lol:

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Re: IP Treatment: WotC vs. Marvel Comics

Post by Jorkens »

rabindranath72 wrote:
CmdrCorsiken wrote:Perhaps they are worried about 'fragmenting' their customer-base. I've heard that argument before.
That's and understatement. Can they do worse than they have already done? :lol:
Well, it seems like it has been decided long ago that that was the bane of the 2nd ed.era and thereby TSR as a whole. The more general era of the 3ed. seems like it was a success, so it might be a formula they decide to stick to. But the removal of the older pdf's puzzles me too, it would if nothing else be an indicator to what costumers are interested in from earlier times.

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Re: IP Treatment: WotC vs. Marvel Comics

Post by Havard »

It is true that the 2nd Ed fragmentation of fan bases was seen as a bad thing. However, I thought that the Points of Light theory could have been the sollution for that. Focusing on generic modules, local settings, and the wider cosmology could have allowed for products that could be integrated into every setting. What they should have done is to make a single book presenting all of the settings and then had suggestions for where the subsequent modules could be adapted into each, along with suggestions for how to make your own setting.

The publication of the Nerath map really goes against this and is turning the Nentir Vale/Nerath into yet another generic fantasy setting, which is something we really didnt need! I mean, dont they want the generic fantasy players to buy the FR stuff?

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Re: IP Treatment: WotC vs. Marvel Comics

Post by Jorkens »

The problem is to stop publishing when you have started, from what I have seen FR fans are still grumbling about there being to little material in the 4ed.; wouldn't the same happen if they published other settings too? And older fans of settings would probably complain about the general adventures where shoehorned into the setting. Then again, I am probably (as usual) being too pessimistic, the single book does sound like a product I would buy myself as long as it had some use with older rules.

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Re: IP Treatment: WotC vs. Marvel Comics

Post by CmdrCorsiken »

While I understand why WotC is not producing material for six different settings, the problem is that they sit on that IP so no one else can 'officially' produce the material that a smallish but devoted group of fans would buy. Why are they afraid to release some of that to the public or to a group of writers with connections and devotion to it?
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Re: IP Treatment: WotC vs. Marvel Comics

Post by Jorkens »

CmdrCorsiken wrote:While I understand why WotC is not producing material for six different settings, the problem is that they sit on that IP so no one else can 'officially' produce the material that a smallish but devoted group of fans would buy. Why are they afraid to release some of that to the public or to a group of writers with connections and devotion to it?
Didnt they lease out Ravenloft at some point? Maybe they had some negative experience?

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Re: IP Treatment: WotC vs. Marvel Comics

Post by rabindranath72 »

CmdrCorsiken wrote:While I understand why WotC is not producing material for six different settings, the problem is that they sit on that IP so no one else can 'officially' produce the material that a smallish but devoted group of fans would buy. Why are they afraid to release some of that to the public or to a group of writers with connections and devotion to it?
Well, a novel buyer of 4e who has never heard of the previous editions might buy some of the stuff, and wonder at how marvelous is the fact that you can fit an encounter into a few lines of text, and the same for a monster stat. And might discuss the wisdom of continuing to play the current edition and hunt for the older ones. Seems a real possibility to me; try to avoid competing with yourself.

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Re: IP Treatment: WotC vs. Marvel Comics

Post by Havard »

Jorkens wrote:
CmdrCorsiken wrote:While I understand why WotC is not producing material for six different settings, the problem is that they sit on that IP so no one else can 'officially' produce the material that a smallish but devoted group of fans would buy. Why are they afraid to release some of that to the public or to a group of writers with connections and devotion to it?
Didnt they lease out Ravenloft at some point? Maybe they had some negative experience?
During the 3E era, there were lisences for Ravenloft, Dragonlance, Blackmoor and the Dragon/Dungeon magazines. Whether this was a good or bad deal for WotC is hard to say. They were certainly getting money out of the deal. However, it seems like they felt that all of that money should go to WotC. I think the general idea was that the people buying those Dragonlance Sourcebooks from MWP would otherwise have been spending their money on Forgotten Realms sourcebooks if DL was no longer supported. I'm not really sure that theory holds though...

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Re: IP Treatment: WotC vs. Marvel Comics

Post by Saunatonttu »

I can kind of understand Greyhawk and Known World and even Dragonlance being out - FR is the flagship for the medieval fantasy and doing stuff for the more generic worlds could be seen as "competition" to FR. Suits being suits. But with the more flavourful (not saying GH, KW or DL don't have flavour, but they don't have a gimmick strong enough to separate from the Middle Earth/Ages type of generic fantasy) settings it's somewhat odd to see them being kept completely on the sidelines.

At least Wizards are now flirting with the outside of the mainline settings again in the 4e era. Dark Sun... and, well, at least Dark Sun. And Spelljammer got the 3e treatment in Polyhedron - the Spider Moon thingy. Ravenloft IP got (again) revisited with the boardgame and quite recently with the Expedition adventure - Ravenloft seems to the one well they revisit most often, actually. So there seems to be some idea every now and then to keep the older properties around, but apparently not a proper program for this - it feels like someone needs to have the idea first and then convince the Suits.

It wouldn't be hard to keep the more defunct worlds alive through the D&D insider, publish something every now and then. Didn't they do Dark Sun articles, actually? Anyway...
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Re: IP Treatment: WotC vs. Marvel Comics

Post by True_Atlantean »

CmdrCorsiken wrote:While I understand why WotC is not producing material for six different settings, the problem is that they sit on that IP so no one else can 'officially' produce the material that a smallish but devoted group of fans would buy. Why are they afraid to release some of that to the public or to a group of writers with connections and devotion to it?
I've been grappling with this idea recently, listening to a number of podcasts dedicated to games which are out of print. Whilst the rationale often crops up that we have tons of older product still out there to make our games and that there are active communities around them - this is only half of the equation. I do fundamentally agree that we can keep playing the games we love with the product list already in existence and augment that via community, but on the other hand, new product and fresh ideas would be really nice.

I understand that in the final days of TSR they probably did over-commit to too many game worlds, leading to too much choice in what is really a small market. However, with third-party publisher deals there is no reason why there couldn't be options, with WotC working out a contract that ensures that the IP is treated well. If you want an example of OOP settings being handled well, there is no better example in my mind of Dragonlance under MWP. To be honest, I think the fact that Margaret and Tracy can't produce DL material is criminal (but I respect that it is WotC's IP).

In the long run, it would be really good to see the older worlds given some attention. By creating new product lines, you're giving existing fans something they dearly want, and at the same time raising the profile of the lines so that a new generation can be involved too. Telling a brand new D&D 4e player 'Hey there is a cool setting called Spelljammer, but you'll need to hunt down the AD&D stuff and some article in 3e and then convert' simply sounds like too much hard work. Why wouldn't a new player simply go with a published world that was supported?

Sorry for the long post, but that's the heart of my concern - keeping these worlds visible.
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Re: IP Treatment: WotC vs. Marvel Comics

Post by ripvanwormer »

A lot more Marvel comics are published every month than there are D&D things (which have, outside the online Dungeon and Dragon, slowed down to a trickle). And of what D&D things are published, there's strong pressure to make most of it crunch rather than fluff. So I'm not surprised they don't have much room on their schedule for revisiting their old IP. Back when Paizo ran the periodicals, they were able to fit in the occasional visit to older worlds (but even they didn't do so that often). With much more of their current focus on the core 4th edition setting and fewer books being published, there's less room for that at present.

Even so, I wouldn't be surprised if something eventually trickles out. Still, they have to think about stuff like, "Is there a market for a new Birthright book?" With Marvel (or DC), if they don't think there's a market for a book focusing on the Falcon they can just make him a minor character in a team book. With WotC, figuring out how to work a reference to the Hollow World into an adventure is much harder.

That said, they could do it if they really wanted to. Ultimately, I think it's less about them being concerned about the market and more about very few employees at WotC really caring much about the defunct D&D settings. Where Marvel Comics writers probably read Marvel comics before joining the company and have a nostalgia for its obscure characters, most WotC employees probably mostly made up their own campaign worlds before they joined the company. D&D, unlike comic book reading, actively encourages creating your own material.

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Re: IP Treatment: WotC vs. Marvel Comics

Post by Jorkens »

I agree on the generic fantasy competition thought, although I would guess that something like Greyhawk would appeal mostly to older gamers that knew the setting beforehand, hated the Realms anyway or to people who bought both settings. Then again even the Realms get little gaming material published any more.

But when I think of it they did try to publish Greyhawk, and as mentioned they did lease out Dragonlance and Ravenloft and from what I hear Dark Sun is back, so with the exception of Planescape and Spelljammer most of the major setting has been reintroduced in some way. If it was worth the bother WotC would probably have continued producing products for them.

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