Posted tagged ‘Wizards of the Coast’

I’m not even mad at WotC

April 27, 2016

…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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Entlassungen zur Weihnachtszeit

December 3, 2008

Ja, ich weiß, das ist bei amerikanischen Firmen eine übliche Praxis, auch wenn dieses Timing schon besonders herzlos erscheint. Wie man Posts bei Enworld und MTGSalvation entnehmen kann (und auch bereits von Seiten eines der Betroffenen bestätigt wurde), haben Wizards folgende Mitarbeiter freigesetzt:

Randy Buehler (VP of digital gaming)
Andrew Finch (director of digital games)
Stacy Longstreet (senior art director)
Julia Martin (editor)
William Meyers (creative manager, digital design)
Dave Noonan (game designer)
Jennifer Paige (online community manager)
Jennifer Powers (marketing)
Jonathan Tweet (game designer)

Das ist eine recht hochkalibrig besetzte Liste! Wir Magic-Spieler werden ja wohl alle Buehler kennen, der im Anschluss an seine Karriere als Pro lange Jahre bei dieser Firma gearbeitet hat. Dass er jetzt gehen muss… nun, ich hatte es ja eigentlich schon prophezeit: Als Verantwortlicher (wenn auch deswegen keineswegs SCHULDIGER) für sowohl die Endlostragödie des MTGO 3.0, als auch das Scheitern von Gleemax und die anhaltende Verschleppung von DDI (der digitalen Dungeons & Dragons Plattform) stand er natürlich zuoberst auf der Abschussliste. Generell scheint diese Abteilung sich jetzt “gesundschrumpfen” zu müssen.

Andrew Finch ist ein Name, dem ich immer wieder mal begegnet bin, ohne genau sagen zu können, in welchem Zusammenhang, aber offensichtlich rollte sein Kopf zusammen mit dem von Randy. Stacy Longstreet und Julia Martin sagen mir jetzt nichts, ebenso wie William Meyers (der aber offensichtlich auch bei den Digital Games mit drin hing). Dave Noonan war offenbar das Gesicht der 4th Edition von D&D (die, wie man bei Enworld nachlesen kann, im Gegensatz zu den Behauptungen des einen oder anderen radikalen 4th-Hassers, zahleiche Anhänger besitzt) und musste vermutlich einfach gehen, weil nach Beendigung der Entwicklung dieses Produktes einfach kein Bedarf mehr für fest angestellte Mitarbeiter bestand. Ähnliches dürfte Jonathan Tweet widerfahren sein, der nach jahrelanger Arbeit an zahlreichen Projekten (unter anderem der dritten D&D Edition und Dreamblade) zuletzt für die D&D Miniatures verantwortlich zeichnete, die jetzt eingestellt werden. Jennifer Paige war als “Solice” für die Moderation der Wizards-Foren zuständig und wurde wohl einfach eingespart (Moderatoren kriegt man schließlich auf freiwilliger Basis in Scharen, wenn einem deren Qualität egal ist). Jennifer Powers schließlich kommt mir irgendwie bekannt vor, ich kann sie aber nicht wirklich einordnen.

Alles in allem sind jährliche Layoffs bei großen Firmen nichts Unnormales, und natürlich ist auch eine Spielefirma von der derzeitigen Wirtschaftskrise betroffen, aber dieser Einschnitt scheint mir schon sehr tief zu gehen. Bei Wizards wird gespart, gespart, gespart. Produktreihen und -formen werden reihenweise eingestellt (zum Wegfall der Turnierpackungen sage ich dann etwas, wenn er irgendwann tatsächlich einmal offiziell bestätigt werden sollte), die Zielsetzungen im Bereich der Digital Games werden enorm zurück gefahren, die Unterstützung der RL-Turnierszene wird peu a peu eingestellt…

Ich denke, wir beobachten hier den Sturz eines Giganten der Spieleszene. Dungeons & Dragons und später Magic waren im Hobby-Bereich einst das Maß aller Dinge, aber sie wurden von World of Warcraft abgelöst. Sowohl der Rollenspiel- als auch der Sammelkartenspielmarkt schrumpfen, während Online Gaming wächst, ohne dass ein Ende in Sicht wäre. Hier Fuß zu fassen, das ist Wizards auf Grund himmelschreiender Inkompetenz in diesem Bereich einfach nicht gelungen.

Nicht, dass mir daran viel läge. Mein Herz hängt weiterhin am klassischen Rollenspiel und an Magic in Papierform, aber ich muss mich leider damit abfinden, dass diese sich auf dem Weg vom Beinahe-Mainstream wieder zurück zum Nischendasein mittelausgefallener Hobbys befinden.