Greg Christopher: My Advice for Wizards of the Coast

My Advice for Wizards of the Coast

I think you have accepted that you have made some mistakes. So I am not going to rake you over the coals. I’m not going to make demands of you that are in my self-interest or that seek to bolster some position I have. I am not going to pretend to help you, but really not care about your situation. I am going to take you at your word and give you my honest opinion.

You want to unite the clans. UNITE THEM! I can appreciate that. I can get behind that. So this advice that I give you is truly from the heart. You are an old friend that has, in my view, lost their way. I want to help you. You seem open to it. So here it is…

Live the D&D life

I don’t mean that flippantly. Live the D&D life. Stop marketing. Stop pushing your product on people, start caring about people, and they will buy your product without the push. Care about D&D. Advocate for D&D. Be everywhere, talking about D&D. Know the community, know the people. Feel their pain, know their problems, give them help, and care.

I know you might think you are doing that now. You aren’t. You are trapped in the past. The future is digital and it is passing you by.

Your website is poorly designed and hard to navigate. I don’t want to spend time there. I’m looking at it today, you know what I don’t see? A headline that tells me 5th edition is announced. Just a link to SIGN UP and be a part of gamer history. You know what my first thought is reading that? “Sign Up” is a code word for: Let me market to you . Sign up for my newsletter. It doesn’t scream out that you are making a new edition. It doesn’t make me care and it doesn’t make me click. Your “D&D next” group page is bland and boring. I could go on, but I have no desire to ridicule you about your web design.

You have a twitter feed and a Facebook page. Both are boring. It looks like you are trying to sell me something.

You are talking in marketing speak. You need to stop. Now.

Let me give you some hard advice on how to do that, not just impressions and vague directives.

Hire someone to really take charge of your community operations and lead it in a new direction. If you have someone in charge of community outreach, I don’t know them. And I know a lot of people in the online RPG community and I consider myself fairly well informed. I tried to find out who was in charge of this on your website. There are a few possibles, but I couldn’t actually tell. Trevor Kid? Maybe. Mostly because the content was so old. Announcements from June of 2011 or earlier. I should know this person. They should be commenting and posting everywhere. All the time. Ubiquitous.

So if you do have someone doing this, move them aside and get someone who knows what they are doing. They need to be producing new and exciting content every damn day. The last video posted on your YouTube account was in October. That’s three months ago. In Internet time, that is the last ice age. You need new videos going up every week. Every day would be the long term goal. You need to be producing so much content that people have a hard time keeping up.

And it needs to be good content. Not some lame droning video (no offense to Rodney Thompson, he may be a great manager but he is a poor salesman). It needs to be high quality stuff I want to share with my friends. I need to sense passion and excitement. That doesn’t require fancy graphics and sound. There are people making passionate RPG posts every day without your resources. This isn’t about resources, this is about caring. I need to care. And in order for me to care, you need to be living that D&D life.

See there are TONS of people out there that have played D&D. But many of them are ashamed to admit it. You need to make it cool to play D&D. This isn’t the 1980s. No need to hide under rocks anymore. Be loud and be proud. Eventually, you need a whole team of people out there talking about D&D on a constant basis. Right now, you’ve got near zero capacity. Start small. Hire one person to live the D&D life and talk about it CONSTANTLY. Then build from there.

There is a ravenous hunger for RPG content out there. More than you can possibly imagine. And you are letting people starve. Right now, they have to come to you. They have to follow you on Twitter or go to your Facebook page (both of which, I reiterate, are boring locations). They have to navigate your boring website. People have to find you. They have to want you.

That has to end. You cannot be passive anymore. You have to reach out. You need to find people on your own. You need someone who reports to Mike Mearls every Friday and describes what happened in the RPG community that week. Describes what is supposed to go down that weekend. Who was talked about, why, what was said, and where. Engage people. Show up on THEIR Facebook wall or Twitter feed or Google+ threads or on their blogs. Make comments. Talk! TALK! TALK!

Because all I hear is a fart in the wind.

D&D is a social game. You must embrace that. You must be social!

Why is the biggest forum destination to talk about RPGs rpg.net ?
Why are the most popular people talking about RPGs not Wizards employees?
Why are the most popular blogs about RPGs not hosted on your domain?
Why are the sites aggregating RPG content not yours?

Because you dropped the ball and you let someone else carry it.

That has to end. Take charge of your destiny.

You need to be producing an avalanche of high quality RPG content. You need people talking about D&D with a passion. You need things to distribute to social media that will actually get shared, read, and excite people about your product. You need to reach out and grab people by the shoulders and say “I AM D&D! HEAR ME ROAR! I LOVE IT! JOIN ME!”

You need to live the life. You need to care so much it hurts.

Get busy living. Or get busy dying.

Much love, brother. Peace.

(Editor’s note : you may join the conversation already going on Google+, here)

3 thoughts on “Greg Christopher: My Advice for Wizards of the Coast

  1. I appear to be in the minority here, but there are a number of points in the article that do not resonate with me.

    Judging by the personal observation, industry sales numbers, and attendance at things like PAX, GenCon and Dragon*Con I am dubious on the whole “people are embarassed to play D&D” argument.

    There have already been “cool and famous” people who have said they play D&D. Vin Disel would be top of mind, but there was a post in this forums (or the rpg one) not too long ago that had a large list of them.

    I really could care less about “new and exciting content” every day. In fact, as a DM that kind of sounds like a nightmare. There is no way that I would be able to consume that much content, so I would constantly be behind the curve on rules errata / powers / etc. Wizards already HAS a content calendar that I can’t keep up with.

    I will grant that some of the content they produce is terrible (their comics are especially bad), so I can get behind the “exciting” part anyway.

    The twitter feed and facebook page are trying to sell you stuff. WotC is a company. That’s what companies do. They sell stuff. What, exactly, do you mean when you say “content”. What, exactly, does the author want to see? He says that he is going to provide hard advice and then he doesn’t.

    It’s poorly worded (more than a little inflammatory), poorly researched, and doesn’t tangible advice for what would need to change for him to be happier.

    His general argument is “give me lots of stuff that I personally think is exciting”, which is not really all that useful.

  2. Hi,

    Thank you for your comment!

    I think you misunderstood the part about being embrassed. D&D players (and roleplayers in general) are not embrassed towrd other players but toward the “non-geek” majority. I think it’s true.

    And let’s face it, PAX, GenCon and DragonCon are all created for the geek like us :)

    Otherwise, we don’t know much about sales numbers, but I guess they are lower than WotC would like to see.

    I read the post about the “20 famous people playing D&D”, and articles like that are a good direction to make our hobby widely accepted.

    I’m torn between the ideas about having daily content or not. Currently WotC has got daily articles, but I find many of them completely uninspired or/or uninteresting.

    Yes, they are trying to sell stuff, but it’s matter how they do it ? I for example find their Facebook page extremely boring. Why ? Well, it’s maybe not the content itself, but the way it’s presented I don’t find myself involved. Even if they ask their readers about something it doesn’t sound like if they really care.

    However I think WotC is heading to a good direction : they are planning to create a more user-friendly homepage, they start new columns, they make an open playtest. The virtual tabletop now enable to invite non-subscribers. I think all of these are good things.

    Cain

  3. Hey guys!

    quick introduction to myself so you know who is writing this:
    I am 39 years old, male. I used to play AD&D 2nd edition a lot when I was 19 – 22, later my group switched to other products. Occasionally we return to D&D for one-night session.

    When I reflect upon the reasons we quit D&D, I come to all of the marketing aspects:

    Product: What did Wizards think they were doing by changing the product so much that it became a new game? Lots of unnecessary stuff thrown on the market, which work allright as an option, but make it way to complex at the beginning. It’s not about making the most powerful character, with the most amazing skills, it#s about creating a playable game. And the world with its thousand expansions became too big.

    Price: Clearly, the amount you need to spend to get “all the stuff”, specifically when you update with new editions, is too high. In the “good old times” you needed the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeonmaster’s Guide. A character sheet and some dice. Everything else was option.

    Placement: Maybe it is time to switch from tons of printed materials in expensive hard-cover books to downloadable files, pay-access to specific pages or something. The RPG community spends more time online then in shops.

    Promotion: On this I agree with Greg. Wizards has to go out and meet the people. Out in the shops, out in the WWW. And yes, promotion is necessary to sell your products, but if you read professional literature, your customer should be the king, that’s marketing. Selling what you have and few want is SALES and I always felt like a liar when I tried to convince people to buy something they don#t want. Sorry for the excursion. Put some ads on some pages in the net, make people curious. Create places for people to meet. Spend time with them and understand them and then you can create the products again that are wanted.

    YES, care for your world(s) and fans. Not for your shareholders. I know that’s difficult and if I were running the company, I am sure I’d have to find compromises as well. But a little re-orientation would be good and marketing is the key.

    BR,

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