Monday, June 9, 2014

The State of D&D

Dyvers had a good post about Dungeons &Dragons and staffing at Wizards of the Coast yesterday:

"Earlier this week the Escapist released an interview with Mike Mearls where they discussed a number of aspects of the new edition, but one exchange in particular stuck out for me. 
Bolding: So you guys probably have one of the largest development teams in roleplaying games, how many members is that right now?

Mearls: The team as a whole has about fifteen people. About half that are actually working on the RPG right now. The other half are working on other D&D stuff like Neverwinter, iOS games, licensing, or board games . . . (Inside the Launch of the New Dungeons & Dragons With Designer Mike Mearls)
After the article I watched with fascination as a number of voices raised their concerns over the low staffing - even going so far as to contrast the staffing numbers with Paizo's Pathfinder staffing..."

There's a lot more, but I don't want to quote the whole article.  If you're interested in the topic, go read the rest.  Dyvers is one of my favorite blogs.

I'm going to guess this "controversy" is driven mostly by people who want to work on D&D and can't get an opportunity.  I get that, but it has no bearing on whether the game being produced is a good one.

Every company faces the challenge of matching permanent staffing size to ongoing workflow.  Outsourcing is a good way to deal with this problem because it allows you staff to the size of your project for exactly as long as the project lasts.  Contractors then move on to their next project, and you're left with the full-time staff you need on a continuous basis.  This can suck for workers since it means fewer full-time opportunities, but companies have to stay competitive or everyone loses.  Business success is measured via profits minus expenses.  Companies that hire too many full-time folks fail for that reason.

I get the impression that Hasbro Corporate has been underwhelmed by D&D's commercial performance, but they recognize the value of the iconic brand.  I can easily imagine a world where D&D (the game) is produced in much the same way that comics are produced and for many of the same reasons--as a loss-leader that promotes more profitable sectors, i.e. movies, novels, video games, etc.  The staffing appears to be moving that direction, which means that Hasbro hasn't made a giant ongoing financial bet on the game going forward.  That trend will only reverse if sales are good and interest in the game continues to revive.

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