ICv2: What’s your assessment of the state of the games market and Wizards of the Coast’s place in it?
Greg Leeds: The games market is doing well from our standpoint. Our business is up significantly, particularly being driven by Magic: The Gathering. We’re seeing player growth, store growth and revenue growth across the board both here in the U.S. and on a global basis.
ICv2: Is the market growing, your share, or both?
Greg Leeds: With the data we have, it appears that the market is growing. From our perspective, retailers, as is our goal, are becoming financially more successful, and with that financial success they’re investing in great play experiences and attracting more people to the industry in general and not just to our brands.
ICv2: The vision for D&D which was hinted at a year ago is becoming clearer, with an ambitious transmedia narrative that all feeds back to the game but also has its own parts of the story. Can you talk about the overall strategy for what you’re doing with Dungeons & Dragons?
Greg Leeds: We are very ambitious with Dungeons & Dragons, and as you say, the strategy that we’re pursuing is starting to emerge. One of the most important things with Dungeons & Dragons is that we are able to take the same stories and themes and execute them across platforms, not just in the paper side of the business but the digital side. It’s beginning to happen now with the launch of The Sundering. It’s our opportunity to rewrite the story of the Forgotten Realms and bring the realms back together.
The first and most tangible example of that is Bob Salvatore’s book, The Companions, which is doing extremely well. We’ve got five other great authors who are working on The Sundering. Those stories will then be taken to digital and paper products.
On the digital side, we’ve got a really exciting line-up of things that will be coming out shortly. The Neverwinter launch from Perfect World came out in June and already has two million people who have downloaded the game. This brings a whole bunch of new fans to the D&D business.
Next month we’ve got a new mobile game coming out, which is a battle RPG called Arena of War. It will bring in all kinds of new players who want to have that RPG experience on a mobile device, either a phone or a tablet. On the traditional board game sides, we’re coming out with Lords of Waterdeep as a digital tablet experience sometime in early 2014.
As we bring the stories together with all of those expressions across those platforms, we think D&D is poised for a completely new generation of consumers and excitement around the brand.
ICv2: Are you saying that the novels are the launch of the narratives and then they’re expressed in other media rather than it being a simultaneous thing?The Isteval character is a great introductory character to the Sundering Event. His video is well done and really gets even a staunchly Greyhawk fanboy such as myself thinking about the Forgotten Realms in a positive way.
Greg Leeds: Some things are done simultaneously and some things are done in sequence. In particular, one of the key characters in the novel line is Isteval, who will come in the mobile Arena of War game. In that sense, that there is sometime simultaneous and sometimes slightly delayed, but in over time they will be simultaneously experienced on different platforms.
ICv2: Fiction, paper games, online games, and comics are all places where this narrative is expressed, is that everything?
Greg Leeds: If you include in paper games board games in a digital tablet format and in a paper format, yes. And we continue to work with our Los Angeles connections on the potential for a film. Unfortunately I can’t announce anything at this time but we are looking for all venues of telling our story.
ICv2: We recently did an interview about The Sundering and how it’s going to be playable with 3.5, 4 or Next rules and your folks made the comment that they’re disengaging the narrative from the rules so you can play however you want all around the same narrative (see "Exclusive Interview on The Sundering"). Can you talk more about that interesting strategy?
Greg Leeds: The idea is that we don’t want any of our audience split based on the rules they’re familiar with and like to play. We want to offer an opportunity for whatever your rules choice is so you can enjoy the narrative that’s coming up and the characters in the story lines that will excite the fan base in the future.
ICv2: Is that the strategy going forward?
Greg Leeds: Yes, absolutely. That’ll be a strategy you’ll see for years to come.
ICv2: Maybe take some share back from Paizo?
Greg Leeds: We’re not in a share game; we never have been. I’ve been with Wizards of the Coast for five years and we’ve always talked about how our role is to build the hobby gaming industry. We’ve said that from the beginning; we stick by that now. I wish the best of luck to all hobby game manufacturers. All of them.
ICv2: One of the surprises to us is that the market seems to have been able to absorb two new successful CCG launches, but in recent years there were a lot of CCGs launches that crashed and burned in a year or less. What does that tell you about the market?
Greg Leeds: What it tells me is what I’ve believed, which is that the hobby gaming industry competes in the general entertainment industry. When you think of that, it means that we are only capturing a small percentage of the total entertainment leisure time and money that our potential consumers have. So our opportunity in the industry is to build way beyond where we are today . . .