Code & Sundry

Jon G Stødle

Wizards Will Monetize Homebrew on D&D Beyond

543 words, 3 minutes to read

This is a prediciton, and I'm writing it down here for possible future reference.

Something got me thinking of the future potential of D&D Beyond (DDB). It's the premier online tool for managing Dungeons & Dragons characters, and the official way to get digital versions of the source books. They started out as a third party, but were bought by Wizards of the Coast (Wizards), owners of the D&D franchise, in April 2022.

Homebrew is probably the least polished part of DDB, and this is also by admission. The then head of development (not actual title) said that the forms used to create homebrew content on DDB were basically the same forms hastily put together for data entry internally. They planned to update the whole system in the future, but it wasn't a very high priority. The current system is better than nothing, especially considering how important homebrew is for the participants of the hobby.

But now Wizards are in charge, and do they have any interest in investing in the homebrew system? My first thought was that they would try to kill it. Why spend money on fixing and polishing a feature which won't make them any money?

That feels like a too extreme step. They'll receive a massive backlash trying to do that, which could sabotage their position in the market. At the moment DDB more or less has a monopoly and I don't think Wizards want to risk that.

Then I did a facepalm 🤦 Of course they won't kill it off! They'll of course try to monetize it!

They've already figured out how to monetize homebrew content. As of writing, Wizards has a deal with DriveThruRPG, an online marketplace for third party RPG gaming content: DM's Guild is run by DriveThruRPG, but the revenue from sales is split with Wizards. Third party content creators can publish their creations on the market place and do a revenue split with DriveThruRPG and Wizards.

The next step for Wizards is, naturally, to attempt to move that market to DDB. Instead of distributing PDFs on DM's Guild, third parties will be able to sell their content directly on DDB. They'll be able to create the NPCs, monsters, classes, items, magic items and adventures directly in DDB; no need for the buyer to manually copy and paste that information from a PDF.

The incentives are strong for Wizards to do this. The revenue split would be more in their favor; no need to share part of the revenue with DriveThruRPG. They could even offer a better split to the creators, to lure them over to DDB. It also increases the lock-in to DDB: with the content already there, buyers don't have to create an account and set up payment details on another web site, and the content is ready to use in DDB instantaniously after clicking "Pay" in the shopping cart.

More revenue for Wizards, access to a bigger market for sellers and extra convenience for buyers. How can Wizards not do it?

There. I've put it on the internet, and can refer back to this when my prediction is proven true. Or it's the receipt of my misjudgement; no biggie - I've been wrong before.