Friday, March 14, 2008

Good News, Everyone!

Or perhaps not.

Joyce Greenholdt Reports: Wizards of the Coast Inc., subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. and leader in trading-card games, role-playing games, and shared-world fantasy fiction, today announced Greg Leeds as the new President of Wizards of the Coast.

Leeds is moving to Renton, Wash., following seven years at Hasbro where he headed up International

Marketing and helped to develop Hasbro’s global brand management methodology. Prior to that he led Hasbro’s Boys group and had extensive experience in marketing, operations, and sales at both Samsonite and Procter & Gamble.

“Wizards is a fantastic game company with great opportunities to expand and enhance player communities around the world,” said Leeds. “I feel privileged to join the team and carry-on our culture of captivating gamers everywhere they want to play.”

After a distinguished 12-year career at Wizards of the Coast, Loren Greenwood is stepping down as President and CEO and leaving the company effective March 21.
I remember Loren's first day. I said "Great, just what this company needs, another VP." Of course, he overheard me. He gave the impression he thought it was funny (I *was* sort of kidding). Based on that awkward first impression, my opinion of Loren was always positive. I haven't agreed with everything WotC's done over the last half dozen years, but as far as I know, Loren's a stand up guy that will be missed.

There's always reason to be concerned when an industry veteran leaves WotC and is replaced by someone from Hasbro corporate. I know nothing of Greg Leeds, but the success rate of non-game industry people selling games to gamers is distressing. If he's not on point with what these products are and why they appeal to the people they appeal to, WotC's probably going to have a new president in about 18 months.

My advice to Greg would be this: You are now the most important person in the hobby game industry. For the first few months, go to as many game conventions as you can. Meet the fans. Play games with them. Play OTHER company's games with them. LISTEN to them. Gamers are similar to any other fan, passionate, opinionated, smart. One convention won't do. You need to go to all of them. Different fans have the same core desires, but different priorities. You only get this after talking with a few thousand of them. This isn't like luggage, household goods, or even normal toys because unlike those products, everyone doesn't use and understand them. Odds are you don't use or understand them. Everyone knows and understands toys, Samsonite bags, and P&G products. You kneed to understand D&D just as well as you understand those things. Unfortunately, unless you're already a gamer (my money's that you're not), that'll require some homework and a few field trips. Just to be clear, the usual executive tactic of sitting down and playing each game once doesn't do the trick. Would you understand golf and golf fans after playing one round?

If you don't think you need to understand hobby games and their fans, enjoy your 18 months.

Regardless, GOOD LUCK!