Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Obligatory Open Letter to Wizards of the Coast (Hasbro) Regarding Dungeonand Dragon Magazines

Dear Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro,

Like most of your fans, I read your recent Ampersand column where your revealed some of what we have in store for us this year with regard to your Dungeons and Dragons line of products. There were some things that I liked -- Heroes of Shadow is going to be a hard back -- and there were some things that were disappointing -- the end of miniatures sales -- but I was grateful that you gave us some hints as to what are going on.

I understand that you are a corporation and as such have to worry about things like Net Present Value and Return on Investment. I know that you want the best for the product line for all stakeholders -- investors, employees, and consumers -- and that this can lead to some decisions that consumers may find confusing. I also understand that you are dealing with the changing modes of product delivery that are emerging in the new century. I know that you value me as a fan, but that as a publicly traded company you cannot always tell me everything that is going on.

When you let the Paizo license to publish Dragon and Dungeon magazines expire, it disappointed a lot of people. I wasn't as shocked. After all, Paizo had been positioning themselves as a competitor in this particular market segment and it isn't really good business practice to give an emerging competitor more money. I was also impressed with your initial digital offerings. Over the past couple of years there have been inconsistent months, but that is true of any magazine. I would like to see more published submissions and less staff writing, but I wonder if the internet (and companies like Open Design) haven't diluted the pool of possible quality submissions. There are some excellent gaming companies, and gaming support companies releasing products and that has to affect the number of submissions you are receiving.

I also have to say that with the focus on adapting your online content delivery model, which included your recent cancellation of the online version of Dungeon and Dragon magazine, I wonder if you aren't overlooking an opportunity.

I think it is important that you generate revenue and provide content for gamers, and I am perfectly content to have that content delivered through your website absent the magazines themselves as digital Wizards products. Over the past two years, Dungeon and Dragon behaved less like magazines and more like web content updates as it was. You have the numbers on single article vs. issue downloads and I am sure made a rational decision based on that data. Digital products work differently than print ones. With a print product, you get everything at once. With a digital one, you update it continuously. I can see favoring digital over print, or "print behavior" digital. So I fully understand why Wizards will no longer be collecting Dungeon and Dragon articles into "digital issues."

That doesn't mean I don't have a recommendation. I do.

While it would be foolishness of the highest order to license the two magazines back to Paizo, a major competitor, have you considered licensing Dungeon and Dragon magazines to another provider? I think that Goodman Games or Open Design could do a bang up job producing the magazines as print magazines. Licensing them out again wouldn't affect your bottom line, we'll still subscribe to DDI with its product offerings. I'm liking how the new Web Based Character Builder is developing -- it isn't "there" yet, but I love where it is heading and can see how well it is integrating into your other tools. The official updates adventures and rules on your website will be read regularly by me and other subscribers to your online service whether or not the content areas are called Dungeon and Dragon.

So let someone else use those names to publish magazines that support your material. Let fans submit to a company that is more agile and "closer" to the customer. As hard as you try, as a major corporation we'll always feel distant from you. We'll love your products and your employees, but most of management will be alien to us. Let the magazines find a new home that is friendly to you, and that can do some grassroots promotion for you in ways that a large corporation cannot.

Just an idea.

I'm looking forward to seeing your upcoming products this year and from what I've read of the "Mistwatch" article I'm happy that you've moved the Nentir Vale Gazetteer into the digital world.

Christian Lindke
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