I’m not even mad at WotC

…because it makes no sense to be mad at them. They are an evil, soulless company. They do as evil, soulless companies do. I despise them, of course, but I am not mad at them, because for me, there is a requirement to be disappointed first before I get mad. For the same reason, I am not mad at Donald Trump when he fires off yet another barrage of hateful lies and stereotypes – I know that is just what he does, and I have to expect such things from him.

I am mad at you instead, humanity itself (and by extension, even a bit about myself), because I probably still hold too high an opinion of our species and thus can be disappointed. I am not mad that a megalomaniac, misanthropic asshole like Trump exists and does what megalomaniac, misanthropic assholes do; but I am mad at all the people who do not unambiguously oppose him, or even support him. And in that vein, I am also not mad at WotC because they just displayed yet another time their disrespect for their customers, and their disregard for their customers’ intelligence; but I am mad at those customers proving yet again that they (and partly, I must admit, we) do not deserve their respect, and do not show enough intelligence.

If you read this blog entry, you really should know what I am referring to, but to make sure: This is an announcement by WotC from a few days ago; and this is their statement from yesterday, after they experienced a massive backlash on social media (and probably through other channels as well, but social media are nowadays the only relevant platform for public outrage short of outright riots).

I will just quote the most relevant passages to get my point across. First, from the original announcement:

“The adjustments to the Platinum pro player appearance fees, effective after the conclusion of Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, are as follows: Platinum pros will receive an appearance fee of $250 for competing at Pro Tours (previously $3,000), an appearance fee of $250 for competing at the World Magic Cup (previously $1,000), and an appearance fee of $250 for competing at a World Magic Cup Qualifier (previously $500).”

“These decisions were not made lightly, and were finalized only after much discussion about the goals of the Pro Tour Players Club. The appearance fees we awarded for Platinum pros were meant to assist in maintaining the professional Magic player’s lifestyle; upon scrupulous evaluation, we believe that the program is not succeeding at this goal, and have made the decision to decrease appearance fees.”

Then, from the update:

“We unintentionally broke the trust of current Platinum players, those players who have been working to achieve that status, and the wider Magic community.”

It could actually hardly be any more obvious that at least one of those statements is a lie – very probably the latest one. And yet, players are already back to “oh, they surely had good intentions, but punted, and now they have apologized and reconsidered, everything is fine again”!

It is not fine if a company lies to its customers. It is also not fine if they intend to break our trust and only back up after seeing they didn’t get away with it (this time). It is most disappointing, though – and making me actually mad – that so many people do not see this for what it is!

Look, they explicitly state that this decision wasn’t made “lightly”, which implies they put a lot of thought into its consequences. Also, rebudgeting a six-figure amount of dollars isn’t something a lone low-level employee would do on a whim, not even at Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro. Even if they hadn’t explicitly said it, there is no reasonable doubt that several people rather high up in the company’s hierarchy must have been involved, and certainly everyone who is specifically responsible for the organization of professional play. (And even in the exceedingly unlikely case that this wasn’t true, they still would have lied to us about the decision-making process.)

So, what they want us to believe is that several persons from upper management, including those whose very job it is to create professional play policies, did not realize that they broke the trust of people by taking 5-figure dollar sums (per person!), which they had already been promised, away from them? And you believe that?

See, I know very well that people can mess up things badly from time to time. It is still at best in the outermost fringes of barely believable that a single person competent enough to hold a job deciding about six-figure budget changes would overlook these consequences for the very group of people they were explicitly directed at. Such a mistake is once again especially unlikely when it is the very job of that person to assess the consequences of such policy changes. And it gets once again more unlikely by an order of magnitude when the very announcement of these changes spells out clearly that people who were promised to get an amount of 3000$ per event next year would now only get 250$. If you believe this, you should also not convict someone for murder if their defense was “I didn’t know he could die if I slid his wrists and left him unconscious in a locked room. I’m sorry!”

However, fanboy glasses are a really potent means to alter the perception of reality, so let us pretend for a moment it was at least remotely believable that a single person messed up that badly. But this decision cannot have been made by a single person. There were undoubtedly several people involved, and it must not have occured to ANY of those that they were taking away massive amounts of promised money from a group of people, if none of the above statements was a lie!

It is incredible to which extent WotC relies on the non-existence of common sense among gamers, and this once again proves that they can – and that makes me mad.

You know what happens when you repeatedly let someone get away with obvious lies? Correct – they will lie ever more often to you! And here you have the answer why this pattern of “outrageous announcement, public outcry, sheepish apology” has been repeating itself so often during the last couple of years. WotC get away with it. They try out how far they can push the envelope, then paddle back if needed, showing goodwill just for not doing outrageous things they tried to do, while slowly eroding our expectations. In the end, we’re actually happy that they only do a little bad stuff to us, because we compare it to the very bad stuff they had threatened to do – and at the same time we give them credit for “listening to us”!

…or, more precisely, you do. I am unfortunately prone to a great many weaknesses, just like any human, and naivity is even one of them, but at least I see clearly through the most obvious lies of this company. If you do not, even after I broke everything down for you, then their demeanor is actually your fault. And this is why I am mad at you.

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4 Comments on “I’m not even mad at WotC”

  1. 100 % agree. At least my cynic side got a shitstorm to enjoy out of it. Though, I am pleasantly surprised that not all pros immediately went back to “Don’t bite the hand that feeds me”-mode after Wizards apology. Some actually do see the move for whta it was.

  2. Not saying that your fundamental point (the “company” lying) is not correct.

    However, considering how decision making progresses tend to actually play out in huge companies, I think the following scenario is equally likely to just assuming “they” (as a whole) are inherently evil (again, also not ruling out the possibility that this just IS the case):

    Someone suggest to cut Platium Player rewards
    Everyone™ thinks this is stark raving bonkers and should absolutely not be done
    Whoever is the top-tier decision-maker has no relevant ties to the customers, ultimately does not really care, and also doesn’t like Jimmy, who was screaming the loudest that it’s a bad idea
    Top-tier guy approves the idea
    Everyone™ has to live with it and come up with some way to sugarcoat it for the outward communication
    The backlash is enormous
    Top-tier-guy is taken by surprise and orders backpedaling

    My point is: although many people may be involved in the making of a decision, that does not mean that it’s not a single, peter-principled person, who’s ultimatley making that decisions.

    • Actually, what you are describing here is more or less exactly how I believe this thing has gone down!

      It’s just that there is no obvious correlation between a COMPANY being evil, and individuals working at it. It is entirely conceivable that there is a single person (or at least, there are a few persons) high up the corporate ladder who don’t give a shit, while many employees further down are deeply unhappy with this.

      But in the end, this simply makes no difference to how the COMPANY as a whole acts. Of course, everyone who works there has to ask themselves if they are fine with being a part of something evil, and some individuals may even thrive on the associated corporate culture. I am not judging individuals, however. Any single employee can be a completely decent person, just like any single soldier in a war may be, even if he fights for an evil dictator.

      By the way, you only need to register a wordpress account to comment here if you do not already have a twitter, facebook, or google plus account, which I imagine is the case for the vast majority of my readers.

      • First of all, I was totally surprised today by seeing that this site is still active, or rather active again. See, it was pure coincidence that I checked some old bookmarks whether I would delete them and here you are with some new content ;) Anyway I agree with the above commentator as I have worked for many years in large corporation. Besides, all current decisions are not as random as one might think. The intended Pro Player cuts, the outsourcing of coverage, the huge announcement of new, but actually very similar products .. all of these could be hints that WotC was set on a Cash Cow mode by Hasbro. I am certain that WotC has been in the growth-bracket of Hasbro before due to the impressive increase of Sales over the last years. But with the advent of Hearthstone and it’s records-breaking growth this perception must have changed with Hasbro’s Top Management. Hence now WotC might have been ordered to improve their processes and profitability by all means. This doesn’t mean that there is an immediate concern for the company, but WotC was not able to launch a successful really new product over 20 years. This might spell disaster sooner rather than later. Still, it is also a fact that some similar products (baseball cards, Panini stickers) have survived almost unchanged for many decades. We will see. Just don’t expect any improvements anymore. The multiverse is now all about optimization.

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