On the Principled Profit III

Part I can be found here, Part II can be found here.

On the Case of the Ephemeral Award

What old school fan wouldn't want their artwork in an original 1st edition module?

So Wizards of the Coast, a division of Hasbro, held a contest for new art, for the re-release of the A-series module

The reward?
Subject to verification of eligibility status and Entrant’s assignment of copyright to Wizards, each Contest winner will get their Submission published in the Publication (“Publication Right”). 
Give Wizards of the Coast the copyright and they will publish your art if you win. No money, no print copy, no .pdf. Lose all rights and get it in the module.

They announced the winners here

The module sale price is 49.95, a percentage of each book goes to the Gygax Memorial fund, but the sale of the 1st edition reprints is a for profit enterprise.

Rather then talk about it, I got into contact with family man, old school artist, old school blogger, and contest winner Johnathan Bingham and asked his feelings about the project.

Did you receive a .pdf or hard copy of the final product?  

"No.  I have to admit that I was pretty disappointed with this fact.  I did eventually purchase a copy. Nowhere was it stated that we'd get anything other than our piece published in the final work."

How do you feel about your experience of entering and winning the contest today?  

"Overall, I'm glad I did it and would do it again, even if I was a little disappointed with any follow through from Wizard of the Coast.  I did it more for being able to participate in a classic Advanced Dungeons & Dragons product than anything else.  It is the closest I'll ever get to being in an official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons product."

Contest Winner
Is it true that they retain all rights to the piece? Did they request the original?  

"They do retain the rights to the piece but do not have the original.  Pretty standard stuff.  Most of the work I do, the company retains the rights but I still have almost all of the originals (other than what I've sold or given away)."

Do you have any particular feeling about the fact that the contest came from a multi-billion dollar company (and a multi-million dollar unit of that company) rather than a cash strapped independent publisher?  

"I know it is fairly standard to spew venom against Wizards of the Coast from the Old School Gaming crowd.  While I can't say that I'm exactly thrilled about some of the choices that have been made over the years, I also don't harbor any ill will.  Having said that, I do by far prefer to work for small publishers. Small press gaming really has more immediacy and a connection to the gamer I think.  Heck, small press publishers ARE all gamers.  So it's more of a community of peers sharing ideas and being creative together.  I really feed off of that. "

Did this result in any concrete gains? Impressing the wife and kids? Fulfilling a childhood dream? Getting more art commissions?  

"Concrete gains? perhaps in terms of getting to be a part of a real 1st Edition AD&D product.  I dreamed of that since I was a kid.  So yeah, that was kinda cool.  Other than that and the fact that people tell me they liked the piece, no, I can't say there are any other concrete gains.  No one has come beating down my door to do art.  However, I stay fairly consistent working on small press projects and my own projects so it's hard to gauge if there was any bump due to the Wizards of the Coast piece."

Tomorrow we look at the issue of money in hobbies, and hear more from Johnathan, as well as from several other surprising members of the gaming community.


  1. Wow what a complete crappy move on part of WoTC. It was a contest... the prize was they don't pay for a piece of art?

  2. Just shocking, really. Even small-time fiction mags will usually give copies of an issue as "payment" to contributors whose work has been published in said issue. The behemoth that is Hasbro/WotC couldn't be bothered with giving Mr. Bingham one stinking copy of the reprint?? Shameful.

  3. Unfortunately, WOTC probably doesn't give contributors a copy of the publication they contributed to because they answer to shareholders, not people who make and like games. What's sad is they probably send out thousands of review and promotional copies of every book they publish, most of which don't get read or reviewed. One would think the goodwill generated by sending winners like J. Bingham (who would probably pimp the book on his own blog) wouldn't have any real impact on the bottom line, but a shareholder company probably objects in principle to 'paying' people with free books if they don't have to. I hope that if the members of the gaming division were given leeway, they would at least try to give the contributors a copy of the stinkin' book.
    Still, good for J. Bingham to have had his work selected.

  4. My Dwarves have just gained a new legal concept - economic violence. When someone proposes a one-sided or knowingly exploitative bargain or contract it is considered an act of self defense if you hit them.

  5. Shareholders don't make decisions like that. It simply isn't how a large company works. Hell, even if they did, pdf's don't have any impact on the bottom line.

    No, this was a decision made by a mid-level manager, probably right above the person that wrote up the contest guidelines. It's likely the result of a long-standing policy decision made a long time ago on an unrelated matter.

    Still, he understood the contest before he entered, so you can't say that there is any exploitation happening here - if it was a problem, you don't enter.


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