Ted Yee of Comic Land Toys and Games in Coquitlam (British Columbia), Canada read Scott Thorne's recent column regarding WotC's marketing of its organized play programs (see "Rolling for Initiative--WotC's Big Mistake") and had this to say.
I generally agree with all of the points here, but to be devil's advocate, I understand where they are coming from. They want people to buy the company. That can only happen if the company consistently puts out winning products.
Apple is a company that people will buy because they've had a long string of successful products and people trust their reputation. Wizards is nowhere near as successful with their products.
Branding the program is meaningless, especially since they've tied both Magic: The Gathering and Dungeon & Dragons with it. On a monthly basis, I get as many requests for D&D 3.5 books as I do for 4th Edition anything; that's a pretty telling statement about what customers think of 4th Edition. Not every store that runs Magic events also runs D&D events and vice versa.
You would think something called the "Wizards Play Network" would be about an all-around gaming experience. There's more to a gaming experience than just card games and RPGs. How do they propose they get Magic players to transition to other games? What efforts have they put in to get people to try something new? Are they kidding themselves in thinking that people will be of the "I only play WotC games" mentality? A true play network embraces all gameplay, not just WotC gameplay.
From WotC's standpoint, I can see that they want the WPN to be their primary marketing tool. However, they've already got enormously strong brand recognition with both Magic and D&D. Why throw that out? Perhaps a "Magic Play Network" and a "D&D Play Network" would have been more appropriate as their frontline branding.
You never really want your products to eclipse the company but WotC has never really put itself out there. The average person, who's heard of Magic, doesn't know what Wizards of the Coast is. That's something that has taken years to make happen and I applaud them for recognizing this and trying to make changes but it should never be at the expense of the Magic brand.
The Wizards Play Network can never be a successful brand without a cohesive plan on how to get people to play other games. That requires store-cooperation as well as incentives for both stores and customers.
For the record, in the retailer marketing kit, I'm using everything except the vinyl banner as it's not appropriate for how I'd like to market the products within the store. That should tell something to WotC.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.