OGL controversy pushed massive sales surge of Pathfinder and other non-D&D games

The OGL controversy may have slowed down, but Dungeons & Dragons is losing out as other tabletop RPGs gain massive boost in sales.

The OGL 1.1 and 1.2 fiasco continues to plague Dungeons & Dragons, as its competitors in the tabletop roleplaying game market enjoy huge sales in the aftermath.

Ogl Controversy Pushed Massive Sales Surge Of Pathfinder And Other Non-d&d Games
The OGL controversy may have slowed down, but Dungeons & Dragons is losing out as other tabletop roleplaying games gain massive boost in sales. (Images: Paizo/Chaosium)

While Dungeons & Dragons was and still is the most popular roleplaying game brand in the world, the Open Gaming License (OGL) controversy tarnished its image among fans and third party creators. Wizards of the Coast and parent company Hasbro have since backpedalled, keeping the OGL 1.0a and releasing the newest version of the SRD to Creative Commons via the official D&D Beyond website.

However, the damage has most definitely been done. Aside from the possible boycott of the upcoming Honor Among Thieves movie, D&D’s competitors are experiencing a significant jump in sales as a result.

Paizo Publishing recently reported that there is an "overwhelming support" of the Pathfinder products on January 28, 2023. Later, the company stated it has sold out eight months’ worth of inventory, necessitating new printing runs that will be arriving in April. In the meantime, Paizo encourages tabletop roleplaying fans to check out and support RPGS from other gaming companies.

Another TTRPG publisher, Chaosium, shared the windfall of gaining new players with its books also selling out multiple months’ worth of products stock in just weeks, calling it "a truly monstrous surge". Chaosium produces both the fantasy RPG Runequest and the classic horror RPG Call of Cthulhu.

Coincidentally, Paizo and Chaosium are two of the biggest tabletop roleplaying publishers leading the charge for the development of the Open RPG Creative License (aka O.R.C.) in the wake of the D&D OGL revision backlash. On January 12, 2023, Paizo issued the announcement of the O.R.C., inviting other gaming publishers to support it, as it will be system agnostic. Per the announcement on Paizo’s official website:

The new Open RPG Creative License will be built system agnostic for independent game publishers under the legal guidance of Azora Law, an intellectual property law firm that represents Paizo and several other game publishers. Paizo will pay for this legal work. We invite game publishers worldwide to join us in support of this system-agnostic license that allows all games to provide their own unique open rules reference documents that open up their individual game systems to the world.

An interesting point to note is that it was during another controversial business decision by WoTC that Paizo gained prominence in the TTRPG industry. When Wizards of the Coast released 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons to replace the highly popular 3.5 Edition, tabletop roleplaying patrons loudly pushed back against it. Paizo Publishing had taken over the production of official D&D magazines Dragon and Dungeon until 2007 when WotC did not renew the contract.

As D&D Fourth Edition was released with a new and far more restrictive Game System License (GSL) compared to the previous OGL 1.0a for Third and 3.5 Editions of D&D, Paizo figured there would be a market for a new TTRPG that is built on the 3.5 System Reference Document (SRD). Thus, Paizo produced the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, which uses a modified version of D&D 3.5.

Ogl Controversy Pushed Massive Sales Surge Of Pathfinder And Other Non-d&d Games
The OGL 1.1 controversy prompted Paizo to establish the Open RPG Creative License (O.R.C.), inviting other game companies to join the initiative.

Fans of the 3.5 Edition have since come to call the original Pathfinder RPG as 3.75 Edition, with the game receiving overwhelming acclaim and sales success. Pathfinder was the top-selling roleplaying game in 2011 through 2014, outselling Fourth Edition D&D. Even the web series Critical Role began with using the Pathfinder ruleset. However, the release of Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons in 2014 ended Pathfinder’s dominance, though the game is still held as the second most popular system in most gaming circles. Paizo has since released a second edition of Pathfinder which uses a new system separate from the SRD and OGL.

Will lightning strike twice, now that Dungeons & Dragons is experiencing a similar controversy that is unilaterally despised by the gaming community? Will Paizo, Chaosium, and other TTRPG brands be leading a new, long-term surge in non-D&D tabletop roleplaying games under the O.R.C. license?

Currently, over 1,500 tabletop roleplaying game companies have already pledged support of the O.R.C. Some insiders and industry experts (including Ryan Dancey, the original designer of the OGL) speculate that Dungeons & Dragons itself may join the O.R.C. in order to recover from the negative press fallout after the OGL 1.1 and OGL 1.2 backlash, as well as have a vote in its development.

If WoTC does plan on joining the O.R.C., it could do so prior to the release of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves to give the live action film a positive marketing spin.

Geoff Borgonia
Geoffrey "Borgy" Borgonia is a veteran writer, artist, journalist, gamer, and entrepreneur based in the Philippines. When not contributing to some of the top pop culture sites on the planet, he spends the rest of his time running his business, practicing martial arts, working on and developing books, comics, and games. In his man-cave, his only luxury is sleep. Borgy on Linkedin.
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