Wizards of the Coast have recently announced 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. While the details are still sketchy, we do know that as part of the release, WOTC is seeking to attract more online players to the old pen and paper games with a new division called Gleemax. Being a huge D&D fan, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to sit down and talk to Iija Rotelli, the director of online media at Wizards of the Coast. I am happy to report that if you are a gamer, any type of gamer, regardless if you play WOTC games, you want to check this out!
Answers by Iija Rotelli, Director of Online Media (Wizards of the Coast)
Questions by Matt Lowery
WarCry: You have just announced a new online digital initiative named Gleemax. Could you tell us a bit about Gleemax and how it came about?
Iija Rotelli About 1 year ago, a bunch of directors from Wizards of the Coast got together one day over lunch to figure out what does the future hold for Wizards of the Coast, and what does the future hold for our online division. We have this great online product with "Magic the Gathering Online", and it's doing very well. We wanted to explore what else we could do. Wizards of the Coast is a company made up of gamers, so we went out and got people from every department, customer service, online media, research and development, and so on. We took them and locked them in a hotel room for 3 days to discuss what they would like to see, and what they think would be cool to do online. After the 3rd day, we took all these ideas, that we were posting on a wall in the room, gathered them all together, and that's what Gleemax is, it's a collection of all these ideas.
So we had all these ideas and we have all these great games, our problem isn't so much keeping someone playing, as much as getting new players. Games like Dungeons & Dragons, and Magic the Gathering are what we call lifestyle games. People usually play them for long periods of time, so we hold our customer base very well, but we need new and better ways of attracting new gamers. In the old days, we got new customers by people going into a hobby shop, pick up a group in his community, and he would start playing. Now a day's more and more people are staying home, playing video games, going on the internet, and so to attract those players, Gleemax was born.
WarCry: What is your release schedule, when can we start playing with it?
Iija Rotelli We plan on having an alpha version of Gleemax with limited functionality up by mid September or October, with a beta version up in October, and to have an all out full version by February 2008. I would say final version, but the reality is that as the online medium grows, so will Gleemax. So there isn't really a final version, but we plan on having the release in February.
So what you get right off the back with Gleemax is a social networking site for gamers. Think of it like a My Space for gamers. So with that you will get the ability to create a profile, write blogs, and search for other players with similar game interests. Now the cool thing about this is, it's not just for our games, it can be for any game, any publisher. Videos games, table top games, whatever games you like, you can plug in and search for. So let's say I like a very obscure German war game. I can search for other players of the game, by name of the game, and zip code and find others that like that same game. If they find someone that likes the same game, they can message them, start talking to set up games.
WarCry: So this is not Wizard of the Coasts specific?
Iija Rotelli Absolutely not! This is for all games. We believe right off the bat we will capture mostly WOTC players, because those are the gamers we already talk to, we already have a relationship with. But once we have Gleemax up, we will start marketing to gamers of all games out there. Everyone is welcome, every company is welcome actually. We were at Gencon last week, and we have been engaging all major publishers, all of our traditional competition, and so far all of them have signed up for Gleemax. So Gleemax is open to all gamers.
WarCry: That's really outstanding. That you are opening up Gleemax to everyone out there like this.
Iija Rotelli We really feel like WOTC is the 800 pound gorilla in hobby gaming, and we feel that anything that helps the hobby gaming industry grow, helps up grow. So with that, we have been seeking out fun games for Gleemax; we want to greatly expand the games we will offer with Gleemax more than just our own titles, games that might not have million dollar budgets, but are fun to play. You know, games that don't have the money to get on the shelves of a GameStop, or EB Games. So one of the things we are trying to do, is to give them a way of distributing their games. Basically they sign up with Gleemax, we then offer a demo of their game for players to try out. If the players like it, they can buy the game and we share the revenue.