Enshittification Anti-Pattern and the Ongoing D&D Licensing Debacle

How a Corporation is Looking to Create a Platform

Who overcomes by force, hath overcome but half his foe.
, Paradise Lost

, Todd Grotenhuis wrote:

🎲 Thinking that the enshittification anti-pattern describes very well to what is going on in D&D, too.

When Cory Doctrow’s Pluralistic: Tiktok’s enshittification (21 Jan 2023) rolled through my Rich Site Summary (RSS 📖) feed, I had that very thought. But Todd took the time to say this out loud.

The summary of Doctrow’s post is in the first two paragraphs:

Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

I call this enshittification, and it is a seemingly inevitable consequence arising from the combination of the ease of changing how a platform allocates value, combined with the nature of a “two sided market,” where a platform sits between buyers and sellers, hold each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them.

There is one interesting consideration: What is the platform of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D 📖)? The rules are the mechanism of engaging with the intellectual “property.” But that isn’t the platform. I’d say the platform is dispersed; it is where folks go to play D&D. That is many and happens in similar areas where folks play other Role Playing Games (RPGs 📖).

Yet Wizards of the Coast (WotC 📖) has perhaps conflated D&D’s rules as the platform (along with their posturing to shift that into a “right and proper platform”). To put another way, WotC has attempted to enshittify their platform before they had locked in a platform that could be enshittified.

Lazy corporate antics trying to take two steps at the same time; a point in which you are very much vulnerable to disruption. A favorite word of “innovators.”

I encourage everyone to go and read Cory Doctrow’s post; it’s useful for considerations beyond our game. And while you’re at it make sure to add Doctrow’s blog to your RSS reader.

Wait until corporate execs bring further “enshittification” to Visual Studio Code (VS Code 📖). Unlike D&D, that’s a right and proper platform. And Visual Studio Code is designed to fracture.