Wizards.com Redesign Leaves D&D Buried


Not much to say here from a reporting angle, other than Wizards has totally redesigned their website. In the process, they've relegated Dungeons & Dragons to a mere text link on the sidebar, one of 50 other links, with the same billing as Alternity, Star Wars and Marvel Super Heroes. More inside...

Exactly what does this mean for Dungeons & Dragons? One could surmise quite a lot about a site redesign. Having worked at a few companies that have gone through serious redesigns, I know that it's usually all to do with the bottom line; ie, how much more money can we make from people through a clever redesign?

On the front page of wizards.com, the most prominent feature is the store. Front and center is a shot of their two main CCG's--Magic: The Gathering and Pokemon. Without scrolling down, Dungeons & Dragons only gets a small graphic at the top of the right bar (which leads to a discussion of the demo tour, not the game itself) and the aforementioned small text link on the left sidebar. If you count the small link under "Electronic Games" (and I don't), then that's only 3 links out of a possible 80--about 2%, if my math isn't too fuzzy.

What is arguably the biggest RPG release in a decade gets 2% of their front page real estate?

I'm not even going to discuss how D&D is covered in its own section of their website (wizards.com/dnd), because obviously they have a lot of material there. But 75% of the visitors to any website come in through the front door, and if this is the reception they're getting, then I really have my doubts about how well Dungeons & Dragons is doing.

Wizards has 3 new D&D hardcovers out (PH, DMG, MM), a boxed set, a DM's screen and several modules. They've got a blockbuster movie coming out (even if it does look sucky) and essentially no competition at the moment.

So why is D&D buried on their site?

It could be poor design. It could be an oversight. But in cases like this, it's usually neither one. When you've got an e-commerce site, you rotate things off the front page if they're not selling well, and you emphasize the things that are selling well.

I'd guess that Dungeons and Dragons 3e is not selling well. And with a company as large as Hasbro/WotC, that means there's no time to nurse the wound--you cut off the bleeding stump and move on.

And that's pretty depressing news for D&D fans.

One point you didn't mention. Though I feel your reading of the redesign is value. Is that Wizards simply wants to pimp their CCG's over anything else.

Thats fine if they want to push the CCGs but I see what Aeon is saying. If D&D is big now then they should at least be talking about it on they're site. Their baseball cards get a bigger picture than the Dungeons and Dragons picture. Come on.

Yes, www.tsr.com does, indeed, take you right there. Which means old fans can find it just fine. However, new fans (which Hasbro and WotC need to depend on in order to increase sales) are left out in the cold. TSR is mentioned nowhere in the new rulebooks (except in the code on the spine), so anyone who is totally new to D&D has no idea what TSR means.

I feel compelled to point out that using http://www.tsr.com/ does directly take you to the D&D site, instead of merely redirecting you to WotC's home page.

This is the sort of mistake a really large TSR would make -- WotC should be smarter than this.

Magic and Pokemon are going to sell well if they're pimped on the site or not, however with TSR's "no new blood" marketing strategies AD&D has been sustaining itself for the past 10 years primarily through people who were introduced to it during it's hay-day in the 80's.

WotC needs to realize that sooner or later Pokemon will be nothing more than a blip on the same screen that recorded every other obnoxious kiddie fad -- from Cabbage Patch dolls to Furbys. Failing to promote D&D to non-fans now will cost them in the long run.

"I'd guess that Dungeons and Dragons 3e is not selling well."

Interesting. According to Ryan Dancey, WotC completely sold through their first print run (to distributors) and are already setting up a second run. That initial print run was, if I recall correctly, 3/4 million units.

Interesting. I had not heard that, or if I had it didn't register. I won't attempt to refute what appear to be pretty solid sales. But the question then becomes, if something is selling so incredibly well, why remove mention of it from your home page?

They had the "wizards" site up before they owned D&D, so people are used to going there for Magic info. Also, they have a lot of retailers and distributors and investors to worry about, so they're really presenting the bread and butter stuff. D&D is going to be a strong franchise for them, but for now it's still a side deal, so it gets treated that way.

They're going to (and need to) redesign the D&D area, which was clearly laid out by morons (it's a partial holdover from the old TSR site, and everything they did with computers was cheap, half-assed and low quality). They're in the process of doing the redesign, and here's the biggest concern: a lot of it will be for paying members only.

They are having no sales problems. They just need to have the D&D stuff on a seperate website with seperate professional people to run it. About half of their adult players are better coders/designers than whoever does it now.

That D&D is becoming a refuge of the aging is our own fault. When's the last time that you introduced a new player into your gaming group -- one that had never played before?

The fact is that Wizards knows that they have us on the hook. But at least they're targeting a younger generation with their new game design. And when a kid searches for Pokemon, he just might say "hey, what's this dungeons and dragons stuff?" Trust me, young gamers like pokemon, but they move on as they get older. I'm a teacher, and I see it in my grade 6 class every year.

The 2nd run that everyone is talking about will be the deathblow to D&D... they are raising the prices to roughly $36.00 a book... which in my opinion is not worth the revised game.

I think we should all bear in mind that it is a business and business' need to make money in order to survive and thrive. Although we may all love playing D&D and other games we are a small financial demographic and they need money. They are simply marketing to their largest consumers and with consideration to where the most money may come from - which is fine, thats how business' work. And remember, Wizards is a small part of Hasbro and D&D is a "smaller" part of Wizards. It is still easy to access the main D&D websites and get a plethera of information on anything under the sun with regards to D&D.

As far as D&D players like myself are concerned, the game is not only alive, it's healthy... But still, Wizards.com needs to stop treating the game that brought it into the limelight as an afterthought... Our only real problem in the gaming community is trying to bring in new blood, mostly because all they hear about is the collectible card games like Magic, Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh, which I and my associates firmly believe are a complete waste of time...

Up with D&D!

I personally never enjoyed seeing AD&D so commercialized anyhow, I always preffered it to be our "little secret". Made for more of an exciting hobby.

The Malk

Fortunately for you, there is no shortage of obscure systems out there; those that cannot be found on the market (out-of-print, say) can often be obtained on eBay.