WotC Moving Online
So, Wizards of the Coast pulled back the Dragon, Dungeon and Dragonlance licences recently. Now I'm reading on Gamasutra that they're planning a "MySpace for gamers", under the rather odd name of Gleemax.
At this point, I'm willing to hazard a guess that WotC are banking on their future being online. Whatever anyone can say about their games, or the interface between their games and their business, it's not a surprise to anyone that there are some very clever people working there. Those clever people are doing some very careful analysis of what their customers are doing. And what those customers are doing is being online - this is probably more true for WotC than any other sizable "offline" company in the world.
The clever folks in there are probably looking at the current wave of PDF publications, particularly in the indie game scene, and also looking at the success they had themselves in selling out of print products as PDFs. And they're looking at discussion boards, and MySpace and similar social networking sites, and concluding that paper is a bad medium to be depending on.
The question in my mind is not "are they going to move from paper toward the web?", but, "how are they going to make money from their web presence?".
Let's assume that they'll put something similar to their magzine content online. Dragon and Dungeon, when published by Paizo, have had eminently reasonable retail prices. We can therefore conclude that most of their income was coming from advertising. Since WotC won't have the printing costs, and since website production takes far fewer people than magazine production, they've already cut the outgoings by quite a bit.
They've two realistic ways to get income, then - advertising, or subscription charges. With a few exceptions, subscription charges haven't worked well on the web. Advertising, on the other hand, works very well indeed. And theres the third option of treating the whole online content thing as part of their own advertising budget, which is becoming a valid business strategy, particularly in these days of search engine optimisation.
I'm guessing that PDF versions of their books, published at the same time as the hard-copy, are coming soon, and that all of 4th Edition, when it arrives, will be published in this way. Obviously, they'll make a far larger profit selling PDFs than books, and be able to sell directly to the customer, rather than going through the intermediary of game and book shops. Pirated copies of files don't seem to have been a major problem for other companies selling in this way, and I'd expect that to be the case here as well.
While the future there is rather bright for WotC themselves, it doesn't look so good for game retailers - but then, many of them are moving from the book-based games toward collectable card and miniature games, which I suspect will be the focus of WotC's non-online presence moving forward.
Posted by Drew Shiel at June 12, 2007 1:01 PM