Saturday, April 11, 2009

I Despise Softball Interviews That Are More Like Press Releases

Like this one with WotC President Greg Leeds.

While I wouldn't expect "professional journalism" from this sort of interview (nor from one I would conduct), I would expect the amateur qualities to be in the form of attempting to reach too far (and I'm not talking about being rude) rather than being so hands-off. This should have been a spoken interview to allow follow-up questioning, and not an email interview.

One thing I like to do as an interviewer is load the question with a point of view, sometimes intentionally doing so with a point of view that I suspect (or outright know) the interviewee does not agree with. What this does is force the interviewee to not only state their answer, but explain it.

Questions I would have asked that occurred to me as I read the interview (and thus would have occurred to me as I was conducting a real-time interview):

How often do you play D&D? When was the first time you played? (if the answer is "I don't" or that he only began once he started working for WotC, then: "I am not a businessman, so I don't understand. Your bursiness lives or dies on satisfying your customers, correct? As President of the company, you must make decisions which impact the creative decisions for the final products in a major way. How do you determine which decisions to make if you are not one of the 'lifestyle gamers' your company says it serves better than anyone?" If he is a longtime gamer, get him to chat about his favorite gaming memories and how he thinks the new edition enhances what he liked 'back in the day.' Make it a fluffy question since it's neither here nor there.)

Can you clarify what you mean by "hobby industry"? Do you see RPGs, business-wise, to be the same thing as card games? Collectible card games? Board games? Video games? Model airplanes?

"The truth is that the world is changing quickly" - isn't this the same problem the music industry started tackling nine years ago? WotC's actions make it appear that they came to realize this problem just now as PHB2 was released. Why is this current problem somehow proof that pdf sales contribute to piracy when production masters of the PHB1 were released ahead of publication?

If the 10:! ratio for illegitimate:legitimate pdfs is so concerning, why force something closer to infinity:0? Why would you suspend pdf sales before having an alternative in place? Are fans and observers supposed to believe this is a thought-out business strategy and not simple panic?

You've said that the books are selling well, going through multiple printings, even with these concerns about piracy. But... if the Players Handbook is in its fourth printing and it was leaked on the net before anyone could get it legitimately, and already the PHB2 is in its second printing even with these piracy concerns... why is piracy a concern at all if the books seem to be selling A-OK anyway?

Which does Wizards of the Coast consider more important for the long-term success of Dungeons and Dragons - book sales or DDI subscriptions? (and don't let him dodge... let him explain as much as possible, but have him come down on one side or the other)

I assume those questions were sent to Mr. Leeds some days ago, but if the timing allowed it I would have asked for his comments on Ryan Dancey's statements here.

Not that it has anything to do with the pdf issue, but I'd want to find a way to ask: "It seems to me that by releasing a full set of new books labeled "core" every year, you would intimidate the first time, new gamer from experimenting with D&D. It's one thing to have a "core" PH, MM, DMG, but isn't it a bit much for a new gamer to see that there are 6 "core" books necessary to play (and next year 9, and so on) at $35 each?


  1. These questions could not be realistically answered (or asked) in the current circumstances. First of all, there is an (informal and non-monetary) special relationship between ENWorld and Wizards in that the former benefits from exclusive and early information and the latter from the PR such a huge site gives them. To be any harder on Wizards would be to break this special relationship and built-up trust/friendliness.

    Second, it doesn't work that way with corporate PR. They will either answer your softball questions or downright refuse to communicate. Even if ENWorld pitched them your questions (which they can't for reason one), Mr. Leeds would either evade or downright decline to answer them. This is the age of "community management", not straightforward talk, and that's unfortunately just how it works. If you want honest answers to your questions, ask WotC staff a few years after they are laid off. ;)

  2. Yes however this approach doesn't work in all cases particularly in certain industries where the customers are well-connected through the internet.

    They would be would be better off taking an Apple approach on this issue which is basically say nothing at all until they have a product to roll out.