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!