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Hail Gleemax! WotC creates marketing initiative that actually makes some sense

June 11th, 2007: Mike Sugarbaker says...
Hail Gleemax! WotC creates marketing initiative that actually makes some sense

Here’s the news version, and here is the somewhat less comprehensible thing itself. The announcement talks pretty big talk about a new social hub for gamers, and frankly, WotC’s assessment of the problem they face is dead on. “We’re slowing down in terms of recruiting that next generation of hobby gamers. Today’s 15-year-olds have such a different experience than a 15-year-old did five years ago or 10 years ago, or when I was a 15-year-old,” says WotC VP of Digital Randy Buehler; “So today’s 15-year-old is online and doesn’t necessarily have any reason to leave his computer because there’s so much to do there.” And this new endeavor, full of online games as it will eventually (they say) be, is meant to loop back around to supporting retailers… which it could certainly do if the execution’s right.

And there’s the rub. Because first impressions matter, and while I am certainly down for an online strategy-gaming hub seasoned with cryptic commands from an evil brain in a jar, my first impression is that gleemax.com is a fairly dumb play-by-post RPG that thinks it’s an alternate reality game. That’s fine as far as it goes, and there’s allegedly some more authentically ARG-y things happening somewhere, but they’ll have to make a clean break from this version eventually – ideally around the time they launch Uncivilized. They’re making noise about bringing online versions of some of the Avalon Hill hits to Gleemax eventually as well. Early versions of the social-networky parts of the site should hit at Gen Con… I guess that’s not such good news for the UnCiv ship date. Ah well.

On the whole, I’m glad to see this announcement. With regard to the social stuff, there’s certainly as much potential upside as there is potential for biffing it, and maybe more. And I want my hands on those digital games, as I’m sure I’ve made abundantly clear. Bring it, evil brain dude!

18 Comments »

18 comments

  1. I don’t know, the thing which gets me is that their solution to battling the online onslaught is to encourage the kids to *go online*. Yeah, I know, it’s supposed to be a gateway which will then lead to the magical paradise of your FLGS, but I have a feeling that it will incur the opposite. Hell, why leave your computer? You can have your total social experience on Gleemax! Ugh.

  2. id0 says:

    WOTC

    We
    Only
    Think,
    “Collectability”

  3. Dai Oni says:

    But does all these have to come at the expense of killing two printed magazines (i.e., Dragon and Dungeon)?

  4. Mike Sugarbaker says:

    Again, whether it’s worth it is gonna depend on execution. From the perspective of growing the market by going where the new people live, it could be absolutely worth it.

  5. Dai Oni says:

    And what they’re doing to keep the “old folk”?

  6. misuba says:

    Starting a large new publication. (That happens to be online… it’s called Gleemax.)

  7. Dai Oni says:

    Dumb move.

    Then again, WotC have a history of dumb moves, starting with printing Rokugan material in the current Oriental Adventures, 3.5e released in 2003 instead of 2005, flip-flopping on the polymorph rule, etc.

  8. misuba says:

    I don’t see you making a case for that opinion, besides just wanting everything the way it was. Which is allowed and all, but isn’t the key to growing the market.

    My case is this: enough “old folks” are geeky and online that they’ll find a spot somewhere in Gleemax to offset the bummers and gummers that’ll never be happy with support material that doesn’t come on paper. Those folks are going to keep buying D&D material at about the rate they were, except that they keep slowly atrophying as a base. People who are willing to change and adapt to market realities are worth more of WotC’s marketing dollars.

  9. misuba says:

    Scott – sorry for that delay, comment moderation needs a bit of sorting still. But to your point: FLGSes that don’t offer anything that can’t be had online are already suffering anyway. If Gleemax can build excitement about things like organized in-person play and the whole corporeal side of things (and yes, that’s an if), good stores can take advantage of it. If not, well, I suppose Wizards still makes its money on UnCiv and Magic Online.

    And, you know, if we can’t make games that appeal to people who actually want to leave their homes and see each other, how much help do we deserve?

  10. “And, you know, if we can’t make games that appeal to people who actually want to leave their homes and see each other, how much help do we deserve?” -Misuba

    Amen! Which makes me sort of wonder if all the cash they’re about to spend on Gleemax would be better off spent on making those kinds of games.

    It will be interesting to see how this all pans out.

  11. Foe3 says:

    Firms are tripping over themselves to get online and tap into community development, whether it’s interactive brand sites to build consumer loyalty, establishing MySpaces pages, or building islands on Second Life (like IBM is, for example).

    As an IT professional, I’m reading this stuff constantly. I think Mike’s spot on with his assessment.

  12. Dai Oni says:

    “People who are willing to change and adapt to market realities are worth more of WotC’s marketing dollars.”

    The reality is that WotC’s focus group are within 18-25 years of age.

    I should have retired from RPG a long time ago.

  13. Dave T. Game says:

    “Because first impressions matter, and while I am certainly down for an online strategy-gaming hub seasoned with cryptic commands from an evil brain in a jar, my first impression is that gleemax.com is a fairly dumb play-by-post RPG that thinks it’s an alternate reality game.”

    Agreed. I think the Gleemax concept is good (with lots more ideas than some of the other niche social networking sites) but they’ve done it a real disservice by launching it this early when it’s uninteresting, hard to find any useful info, and frankly hard on the eyes.

    So Mike, are you and I going to be competing over the post of “community thought leader”?

  14. Foe3 says:

    The reality is that WotC’s focus group are within 18-25 years of age.

    I’ll believe it when I actually see hard, cold facts. Until then, the “reality” is that you’re speculating.

  15. misuba says:

    Quite so, but it isn’t bad speculation. My question: so what if they are? What’s inappropriate about looking to grow an entertainment market by looking at the needs of this group?

  16. Foe3 says:

    No, I guess I just bristle at statements of “reality”. Ah well.

    I think WotC’s spot on (well, with concept… not so sure about the approach at the moment). Folks talking about needing new generations of gamers has been pretty regular lately. And while some Old Gamers may take the “who cares if anyone new joins the hobby?” stance, I think it’s absolutely appropriate for WotC (or other publishers) to try and tackle the issue of growing the market.

  17. Dai Oni says:

    I don’t mind them growing the market. Just don’t kill the establishments you’ve grown from.

  18. […] (For those of you just joining us, Wizards of the Coast announced D&D 4th Edition and their web server turned into a small pile of crisped meat. Also, the new edition will be accompanied by a big online product, which is sort of a part of this other Gleemax thing.) […]

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