"Today the internet is where people go to get this kind of information," said Scott Rouse, Senior Brand Manager of Dungeons & Dragons®, Wizards of the Coast. "By moving to an online model we are using a delivery system that broadens our reach to fans around the world. Paizo has been a great partner to us over the last several years."
Yes folks, after 359 issues of Dragon and 150 of Dungeon, both will close. Not because of falling sales figures, as you might suspect (and as I initially suspected) but because WotC has refused to renew Paizo's license. The Hasbro subsidiary is looking to get into subscription online content and publishing more pre-packaged adventures, and the existence of print magazines with healthy circulation competes with that. I doubt their business model will work; although many gaming groups source PDFs for reference purposes, print magazines fill an overlapping but significantly different audience niche — being something to take on a bus, flip through between classes, read on the bog, etc.
Simultaneously, Dragonlance creator Margaret Weis has just announced that:
"Our agreement has come to term and is not being renewed. We will be releasing new Dragonlance RPG product through the end of this year and then will step back from our association with Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro."
They'll be going out with Leaves From the Inn of the Last Home volume 3, for which they're soliciting fan submissions.
Now, not being a gamer, I'm not too fussed about the publications themselves... at least, not for for gaming purposes. I am a bit concerned about the rebounding hit to the tie-in fiction market; Dragon was a breeding ground for writers and showcased short stories along with the endless streams of articles offering stats for new magic items and monsters. It often had nice art, and was generally a good magazine to pick up for reading whilst travelling — you didn't need to roleplay in order to appreciate it. The content also typically had plenty of re-read value; my first few issues (195-199) were particularly heavily thumbed... I missed 200 due to not having reservations at the time and, whilst tracking it down a few years ago on eBay I discovered I wasn't missing all that much, it was annoying at the time. Although I've passed on most of them to others by now, I had two or three years of contiguous issues thanks to Gramp (my grandfather on my mom's side) feeding my reading addiction as a kid — indeed, I've kept the handful I most enjoyed or bought since. But I'm getting a bit side-tracked...
The Dragonlance situation makes me worry what effect, if any, it might provoke for Forgotten Realms, a setting I absent-mindedly follow the fiction of. On the bright side, whereas settings such as Dragonlance were, as far as I know, sold outright by the creators to TSR (who then got snapped up by WotC, who got eaten by Hasbro), Ed Greenwood's contract for the Forgotten Realms setting has a number of interesting clauses... not least of which is that anything he says is canon for the fictional universe until contradicted in print by a Wizards of the Coast product.
It's easier if I hand you over to him to explain...
"If I fall over dead tomorrow (I'm not planning on doing so right now, but one never knows, does one?), the Realms remains in the hands of the current copyright owner, TSR, Inc. (now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wizards of the Coast, Inc., which is in turn owned by Hasbro, Inc.). Legally, the owner of the Realms is TSR, unless or until a year passes without print publication of a new, novel-length work (fiction or game lore) by me, except when I agree to such a publication not occurring within a year. If that "no publication" ever occurs, all rights to the Realms revert to me.
>Trademarks complicate this, of course (though under Canadian law, they'd remain, and move with, the copyright), and in some jurisdictions that means the Realms revert to me a year after TSR sells it, regardless (unless they reach some agreement with a new owner that allows them to publish something new and novel-length by me), but in most jurisdictions they can sell it but the new owner is bound by the same agreement.
Please note that I'm not a lawyer, court judgements change details of law all the time, and I fervently hope that I never, never end up in any such dispute; I just want to go on writing about the Realms forever. :}
Certainly I think of the Realms as a legacy to others. Otherwise, it'd still be just my private fantasy world, and I'd never have entered into an agreement with TSR in the first place."
...contracts like that just wouldn't be signed with a publisher these days, and it says a lot about how business interests have changed the roleplaying publishing industry since the TSR/Chainmail startup days. Hasbro/Wizards looking to consolidate profits into the core company rather than licensing to proven creators (even creators who originated the settings in question, as with Dragonlance) isn't reassuring. I mean, in the last decade I've seen the natural end of fiction for a couple of series I had mild interest in (Ravenloft, Dark Sun) and watched others, IMO, go off at tangents (Dragonlance)... but it's more unsettling to see three core branches of D&D — especially such long running ones — lose links to their current custodians or get killed off completely.
Like Ed, I hope there aren't any disputes on the horizon.
Hmm. Now I need to go and reserve a copy of Dragon #359 at WHSmiths, since I may not be around when it comes out and, unlike #200, I expect some serious nostalgic appreciation to take place. I think I'll grab a copy of whichever issue's out now to take to Poland, too, since I won't have the opportunity to get any more copies for travelling enjoyment in future.
So ends an era. Nobody do anything rash with Forgotten Realms whilst I'm gone, 'k?