Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One Size Fits All Marketing at WOTC?

The Hasbro quarterly conference call transcript is up again. As usual, no mention of D&D. However, they gushed about Magic and the digital thing they are doing with it, and how its driving revenue and profits.

In the Q&A section


they say this:

Brian Goldner

David will talk about the sales in Magic in a second. But just to talk about the core brand reinvention, a couple of years ago, we changed the management team. We have great leadership out on the West Coast. The team had really re-thought that business entirely, really went back out after a trial mechanism in getting young people and people who may have lapsed as users to get back into the brand. They really reinvented the entire play pattern in many ways, but kept the things that were always important to the core player and to the fan. The fruits of that effort are starting to come to be borne out, both in the analog card business as well as the digital business. So I really compliment the team for their efforts in – this is a true case of brand reinvention, re-imagination, all yet keeping the core methodology very consistent for that core fan. Dave, you want to talk about sale?

John Taylor - Arcadia Investment Corporation

Before Dave goes, I wonder if I could get you to expand on the digital versus analog thing there. Are you using the digital as much of a revenue generator? If so, is that a key growth driver or is that mostly more marketing-type thing?

Brian Goldner

No. It's a for-sales product. You can build your hand, your deck online. You can buy and you are buying. People are buying digital objects, which are the cards. You have the opportunity if you want to turn those digital objects into analog cards and have your deck delivered to you, but it's really both in terms of growth and usage. Certainly, quantitatively, there is still more business in the analog card business, although digital has grown as has analog. It's a bit of a difference; you're seeing more new users using the analog or paper-based cards whereas you tend to see more lapsed users who have moved away from their friends, they've set up their own lives and they are now reengaging with other lapsed Magic players online because of course, digital helps you to span those distances between friends.

There's more about it, but that's the meat of it, and the site only allows you to copy up to 400 words for use elsewhere.

Anyhow, it occurred to me that if you took out Magic and substituted D&D in there, it would read the same as what we've been hearing out of them in terms of their digital initiative and the reasons for it.

Which makes me wonder, did they actually develop a marketing strategy for D&D separate and independent from Magic? Or, since Magic is so huge that D&D is just a pisshole in the snow compared to it, did they just slap Magic's marketing strategy on top of D&D in order to save resources, citing certain similarities between the customer base (and ignoring differences in the games themselves).

I know it sounds stupid, but as anyone who has worked in a large corporate environment can attest to, it sounds like something a boneheaded corporation would come up with, doesn't it? After all, the revenue streams are so low from D&D compared to Magic, who would notice in terms of overall sales from the "west coast" as they are described above? In the meantime, you saved money and resources in not having to come up with an individualized marketing plan for a product. Short term, you look good, and long term you're covered since the mother ship doesn't care about D&D anyhow, and the growth in the main product will grow revenue for the division anyhow.

Also, I wonder if they will move towards a more print on demand basis in the future, as they are doing with Magic. If they are following the same marketing plan, we'll see it happen I bet.

Edited to add:

I don't play 4e, and am hardly familiar with the system. But people who are just posted this:

"Probably our biggest concern is compatibility. Will all of the stuff coming out in Essentials be compatible with stuff I already have? Every word from WOTC says “yes” and I imagine they’re right.

At least, it’s as compatible as the rest of 4e is right now.

That’s a statement with some subtext so let me clarify. 4e has changed a lot over the past two years. The mechanical design we see in later books is quite different from the design we see in the early releases. For DM’s, I think these design changes are clearly seen when comparing monsters at the paragon tier and above across all three Monster Manuals. I’ll talk more about this in a bit. For players, it’s seen clearly in the huge number of updates to the core classes and powers in the original Player’s Handbook.

The core classes today are very different from those in the original Player’s Handbook. The recent change to Magic Missile is one such example.

The one thing keeping players sane is the Character Builder. Because it’s constantly updated, we don’t have to worry too much about keeping up with all of the updates. Of course, it makes us look at our core rulebooks and wonder why we bother to carry them around. I know I’ve stopped doing so. I might as well be bringing a Laura K. Hamilton hardback for all the good they’d do me at the table."

From here:


So, with books being outdated after 2 years, and the true source located online, why publish books? Just print what you need, when you need it. Is this the future?


  1. So, with books being outdated after 2 years, and the true source located online, why publish books? Just print what you need, when you need it. Is this the future?

    Pr-pr-rint? What does that mean?
    You mean those sqiggles on the flattened husks of dead trees? Turn them with my fingers to read? Ewww. No scrolling? How 20th century!

    The rules of the future will be D&Tweet! Or is that D'weeter? Imagine all the D'exting at the game table!


  2. As there is no obsolescence in literature, there is no obsolescence in games. Materials that remain in e-form do so because they arn't worthy of printing. If something is good enough to want to keep in a reliably accessable form I'll print it on quality paper and bind it.

  3. You can have my books when you pry them from my cold, dead hands. :)

    I can't stand digital documents, either. If it's worth having around, I'll print it, or, better yet, buy a hard copy.

    I don't think we'll see books vanish any time soon; CDs and DVDs are still around and sold everywhere, despite the spread of Netflix, iTunes, etc, etc.

    Will digital media eventually replace hard copies? Maybe... but I don't think we have to worry about it within our lifetimes.


  4. As much as I wince each time Dungeondad gets another pile of dead tree through the post to add to the ever growing mess that was once our front room I can't see books becoming obsolete. They've outlasted cassettes, vinyl, video, minidisc - they'll be around for many centuries yet.

  5. I think some of you are missing what he was getting at. No, "books" will not be obsolete... but "D&D rulebooks" may be, since the rules in them are being changed at such a fast rate that players who want to keep up feel they *must* subscribe to the DDI service. No doubt that is how WotC planned it, to keep those fees coming in, rather than just get the money from the sales of a book one time.

  6. One has to ask: how good can a rule system be when it needs so constantly an update that you nearly can't recognize the main body of it (classes, races, magic) after just 2 years?

    There is discussion if, after the Essential line gets published, the "old" classes will still be played? The question may allready be: what edition of 4th edition are you playing right now - even without any Essential line.

  7. Books are still the primary means of generating revenue for RPGs, even for WotC, so I doubt they'll vanish anytime soon.

    That said, if there's another "out of nowhere" big hit like Vampire was in the '90s, lurking in the tall grass, it might be digital. After all, printing and storing books is a big expense. If the players are now getting used to the idea of consulting online tools instead, that might be what up-and-coming games try. And at that point, you can have all sorts of digital goodness, from customizable packs of rules ("High Fantasy" pack vs. "Pulp" pack vs. "Wizard School" pack etc.) to print-on-demand options that switch out the art depending on your desired milieu.

  8. I can see a transition taking place to an online environment but I'm yet to be convinced by the iPad as game device über alles.

    As for books, my game group are very much attached to their dead tree and given the money they've spent, who blames them?

    Penny Arcade says it best.


  9. I'm a little worried about this "anything not worth printing in a book is crap".

    Considering that D&D has constantly changed and improved over time, I'd say that with the digital age already upon us that WotC has their hands full trying to be relevant when it comes to gaming.

    Books are dead. Literature is not. What the heck difference does it make whether an idea is on a dead tree or something that is digital. Frankly it is a ridiculous argument. An idea is an idea.

    Every idea can be improved upon. Essentially all of these rulebooks are like encyclopedia's of knowledge about D&D. This knowledge is changed (hopefully improved over time). When is the last time you actually used a dead tree version of an encyclopedia? Hmmm?

    Also, how many non-fiction books go through updates and improvements over time? Anything useful that changes, go through tons of editions over a span of years until it gets too unwieldy to edit and a whole new book is produced.

    This is a lot of Luddite belly aching if you ask me. Buy a few books so you have the pretty pictures and get a DDI subscription and be done with it, or go play an old version with no digital tools that will never be updated. Either choice is fine.

    Complaining about the modern digital every changing world, while pretending that anything useful never changed like this in the "old days"? Not OK in my book.

    Errata has existed since books existed. In fact Errata was one of the ways that early book writers used to collaborate with each other an improve their works. Let's not pretend that Wizards is doing anything different that 400 years ago.

  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  11. Anyone here play Blood Bowl? Ever heard of the "Living Rule Book?"

    If this is what D&D is moving to, I'm glad I got out when I did...a laptop at the table is no substitute for a couple of slim, 64 page, B/X rule books.

    I'm not a Luddite...I'm the mother-f**ing Amish, y'all!
    ; )


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.