WotC Digital Day Dreaming

Last week I talked about the dangers of Wizards of the Coast going all digital too soon. Today I want to sit here and dream up a perfect world in which Wizards of the Coast reads my note in class and invites me to sit under the bleachers and make out.

Dear WotC, I think you're dreamy! Do you like me? Yes ( ) No ( )

That went to sort of a weird place. Anyway, here’s what I’d love to see Wizards of the Coast do with digital.

•Create an online, cloud-based content management system with an attractive front end like Steam and include the other elements of the DDI.
•Through this UI, sell content for all editions of D&D. Not just the current stuff, anything you own, throw it up there.
• Make the books cheap. I’m not talking about making them $5.00 off the cover price, I’m talking making them $5.00.
•Have sales often like DriveThru RPG.
•Use a specific file type that can’t be opened outside of the application. Make it so users can’t copy the content out of the UI, but can copy the content within the UI, and share it with friends who also have the application. Give users the ability lend books to each other for an hour or three with a 24 hour cool down so that friends can access the books during games.
•Sell 3rd party content, and take a percentage of the profits in return for hosting and marketing.
•Make this application an App for iPads, Color Nooks, and Kindle Fires.
•Work with a tablet manufacturer to create a dedicated tablet with this Application front-and-center and sell that in retail stores.
•Sell gift cards for the application in retail stores.
•Continue to sell hardback limited editions of core rule books, tokens, minis, and map tiles in retail stores.
•Kill off Wizbook, and buy Obsidian Portal for godsakes, they know how to get players involved in their games digitally.

There. That would be awesome. It would also be expensive as hell, and probably not worth the return. But a man can dream though. A man can dream… What would your ideal Wizards of the Coast digital strategy look like?

Until next time, Good Gaming!

-Dan

The Dangers of Going Digital for Wizards of the Coast

Wizards of the Coast are the makers of my favorite tabletop RPG game, and the grand-daddy of them all, Dungeons and Dragons. They’re owned by Hasbro, in case you didn’t know. They’re also up shit creek without a paddle when it comes to digital offerings. This post is the result of a conversation I had with a friend of mine about digital RPG content, and it represents my opinions and outside assumptions on the business of D&D. A lot of this is speculation, so feel free to argue with me and tell me I’m not just wrong, but also dumb. Anyway, here we go.

The Dungeons and Dragons Insider monthly subscription program (in which I participate) leaves much to be desired by anyone even remotely aware of available web, content management, and cloud based technologies. The bit torrents are rife with pirated copies of every D&D book ever made in multiple languages. And whenever they try to make a change for the better with their digital initiatives, they enrage neckbeards and grognards from here to Helsinki. And everyday, more and more folks are discovering completely serviceable alternatives like Pathfinder or DriveThru RPG. But why is that? Why would the company with the most to lose be so slow in going digital? The answers may surprise you.

Firstly, who do you think the primary customer for D&D is? When Wizards of the Coast counts up its D&D recipts at the end of the day, what demographic is their biggest spender? Believe it or not, it’s not gamers. It’s retail stores. Be it local mom-and-pop stores, or retail giants like Barnes and Nobles or Books-a-million. And it’s been that way for a long, long time. Wizards of the Coast has only recently gotten into the racket of direct customer sales, much to the chagrin of their best customers, the retail chains. In the eyes of the people who cook the books at Wizards, going fully digital would lose them their best customers.

Secondly, when it comes to D&D, Wizards of the Coast is in the business of making and selling physical books. It’s how they measure success and brand health, and a meaningful percentage of their workforce is dedicated to the process of acquiring physical materials, printing the books, performing book QA, and physical shipping of product. If they went all digital, that portion of their workforce would either become unnecessary or need to learn new skills in a hurry.

Finally, there’s the expectations of the majority of their secondary audience, us. As much as I would love digital content, books are easier to pass around a table. Plus, I like seeing them sitting there behind the glass in the gaming room. I guess I could put a USB stick in there, but it just wouldn’t look the same, call me an old softy. So what can Wizards of the Coast do? Honestly, I think they just need to keep on trucking. They may be slow with the digital initiatives, but they have a precarious and unenviable balancing act they need to keep up. And we should wish them the best of luck.

Until next time, Good Gaming!

-Dan