Wizards Makes Staff Changes With Incredible Amount of Corporate Doublespeak

WotC has fired several key staff members, including both the VP and senior VP of marketing, Hecatomb design lead Mike Elliott, and D&D brand manager Charles Ryan. I don’t know that the failure of Hecatomb is Elliott’s fault, really… but I guess his losing his job over it is predictable in a large company. These other firings are iffier in my view: D&D has seemed kind of aimless for the last while, but if it’s had a dip in sales lately, I think that can be understood in the context of nothing being able to live up to massive press coverage of the 30th anniversary. The marketing firings are also difficult to figure, given the great ad campaigns lately… unless they also apply to product marketing – that is, the decisions about what to produce and how. Then these firings make all kinds of sense in light of Hecatomb. Anyway the most complete information released so far is at GR – we’ll follow up if there is any official WotC release.


  1. Well, while layoffs in for the holidays suck without a doubt, and with sympathy for those so affected, I’ll note that I didn’t think it was an “incredible amount” of corporate doublespeak.

    It was about average, actually, for a major company (Hasbro) or a division thereof. Seemed fairly straightforward, vague, and spun, but average. WotC’s a big company, or is part of one at the least. I don’t find it the least bit surprising when they speak like one.

    Bear in mind, I speak corporate doublespeak 😉

    As for the content, it does seem odd, esp. the brand manager, etc. It’ll be interesting to see what the next press release has to say – who fills the spots, etc. That’ll be more telling.

    And, yea, I’ve never been particularly keen on the idea of letting folks go for the holidays.

  2. One thing I find funny, in a bad way, is that a lot of people are acting shocked at the downturn in the RPG industry. The hobby is just that, a hobby which means expendable income. When the economy is tanking how do people expect a luxury item like a hobby to continue to flourish? It’s an argument that some people just can’t understand. Expendable income becomes much less when you don’t have a job, or are worried about losing your job to someone overseas.

    I can see what you’re saying, D&D is somewhat driftless as of late. It would have made more sense for them to pick one core ‘world’ and focus their energy on that instead of just plopping things down in various places. Also the new shiny fun of D&D 3.x has worn off and people are now looking elsewhere, at least that’s my opinion.

  3. True – these should rightly be called firings. Rumors are going around that some of the positions might remain unfilled, but those rumors are pretty wild in my view.

  4. Just a few shots.
    The RPG industry generally has it’s business cycles correspond to Christmas firings. Remember when White Wolf had to fire people at this time of year… two years in a row?

    In my opinion, the PR spin was insulting. It’s so patently a canned and unthought out response that I have to doubt that the person who gave it is a professional in public relations. Can anyone take whatever this guy has to say in the future seriously ?

    Strangely enough – the RPG industry tends to do better in financially tough times because it is generally cheaper than other entertainment options out there.

  5. First, I’m pretty sure the “myth” that the RPG industry is recession-proof (or counter-recession) is just that … a myth. It’s been floated for the last 25 years that I’ve seen. I’m not aware that we’ve seen objective data that when times get tough RPG companies do better.

    Second, respectfully, if people (well, people who weren’t caught in the layouff) are going to be insulted by PR spin on layoffs and corporate actions, well, I guess they should get used to being insulted an awful lot. This type of PR is hardly new to the corporations, and I don’t think it was as unprofessional as is being held out.

  6. I guess I shouldn’t be as ticked at the spin as I wanna be, being the one who wants to see more “professionalism” in the gaming industry. I suppose this would be a by-product of that professionalism.

    “By the time we’ve finished with him, he won’t know whether he’s Number Six or the cube root of infinity.”


  7. Foe, I assure you, I am in fact used to being insulted an awful lot. That said, my beef here is not really with Wizards, but with Gaming Report, who let the language through even though said language doesn’t serve GR’s audience (or, indeed, anyone but WotC).

    [Edit: gaaah you respond to other comment I go drink coffee now coffee repair brain]

  8. Heh… didn’t actually mean you, misuba. 😉 I just think, unless one is directly targetted by the news, event or such that choosing to be “insulting” by PR speak is… well, pointless.

    But anyway, yes, yes, we’re all agreed. Crappy, and what does it mean?

  9. Chris: In my opinion the PR spin wasn’t the work of an experienced professional. A professional wouldn’t have attempted to characterize the firing/forced resignation of the DnD brand manager as “nothing major” (paraphrase). At best it was a cut-and-paste response that has little to do with the issue. Toby Nelson hurt his credibility with it and subsequently damaged his future ability to present WotC in a positive light.
    The insulting part comes from the assumption that we would actually buy into and believe such a poorly thought out and easily refuted statement.

  10. Allan S. – I understand your point, but as someone who’s seen masses of such press releases, I just can’t agree. It was a typical spin … not much detail, and clearly they wanted to avoid making a big deal over the change out over Brand Manager position.

    I appreciate that folks and fans take a slanted view. But for the changeout, that Press Release seems about right.

    Actually, had they gone into details about the what and why at this time, I would have felt it was unprofessional and TMI.

    I think that fans want an expect more information and making this a Big Deal is a disconnect from how Businesses operate and announce these things. You show me the PR person who tells you straightforward that this was a Big Deal, etc., etc., and I’ll show you someone who never landed their Marketing degree. 😉

    Anyway, that’s my Corporate PR Insider option. I”ll let the rest drop.

  11. That’s an excellent point – there is no way to communicate professionally about an unprofessional action. The language WotC put out was their least bad option. So yeah, let’s agree that it doesn’t matter – there’s no point, apart from the general health of the mediasphere, to judging the PR spin on an action like firing a bunch of people just before Christmas. If we’re going to criticize PR spin, let’s do it when the corporation in question has some meaningful choices about how to communicate.

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