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Friday, 10th April, 2009, 11:04 PM #1
Hydra (Lvl 25)
An exclusive interview with WotC President Greg Leeds
As a special update, we have an exclusive interview with Wizards of the Coast's President, Greg Leeds. This interview focuses on the events of the past week, specifically the decision to withdraw PDF versions of products from sale. Special thanks goes to EN World members for suggesting questions.
Please tell us the reasons for the new policy on PDF sales. Is this a strategic business decision, a response to piracy, or a combination of the two?
The decision was made for both reasons. The piracy of our products was increasing at an alarming rate, and we felt that it could have a negative impact not only to Wizards of the Coast, but to the hobby industry as a whole.
Is online piracy a continuing annoyance for Wizards, a substantial concern, or something between the two? Are there estimates of lost sales figures that you can share?
The piracy became a substantial concern when we saw thousands of copies of our recently released Playerís Handbook 2 being downloaded illegally within hours of its release. We cannot share sales figures, but I can tell you that we conservatively estimate the ratio of illicit downloads to legally purchased copies was 10:1.
3. The decision to revoke PDFs means that Wizards no longer provides any method to acquire out-of-print books such as material from older editions. Is there any plan to resume allowing customers access to copies of these works through Wizards, or will legitimate customers have to go through out-of-print channels to acquire these products? If the latter is true, why would Wizards choose to avoid providing this access?
We do not have any plans to resume the sale of PDFs, but are actively exploring other options for the digital distribution of our content Ė including older editions. We understand that digital content is important to our customers.
4. Some D&D customers are frustrated because they see this sales policy as a step backwards, punishing the customers who choose to legally acquire electronic Wizards products while not significantly affecting online book piracy. Whatís your opinion on this issue, and what effect do you anticipate that the new PDF sales policy will have on piracy?
While we understand that our actions will not eliminate piracy all together, we donít want to make it easy to acquire illegally, either. We need to have a strong retail base in order to support (and grow) the hobby industry. We hope to deter future offenders Ė or at least slow down their path to obtaining illegal products.
5. Online retailers received notice of the new policy less than 24 hours before PDF sales were required to cease. Why wasn't the cessation of PDF sales announced with more than a few hours before the materials were no longer available?
It wasnít our intention to have customers feel as though they werenít receiving what they paid for. Our understanding is that both Paizo Publishing and OneBookShelf are working with their customers to make sure they receive what they paid for.
6. If you had the last few years to live over again and could completely revamp Wizardsí PDF and electronic media strategy from the ground up, what would you do differently?
I donít know that I would try to re-do anything. The truth is that the world is changing quickly, and as a business we need to be flexible enough to adapt to that changing environment. We have and always will continue to find the best ways to be responsive to our community of fans and gamers.
7. What strategies can you share with us that youíre pursuing to further increase sales and market penetration?
We are very happy with how 4th Edition is performing. We have reprinted the 4th Edition Playerís Handbook three times, and PH2 is headed back for itís second printing already. Ultimately our goal is to keep the hobby industry strong, and our strategy for that is to continue to create great 4th Edition products that will entice our fans to keep playing D&D. In turn, that will grow the hobby industry.
8. Whatís your vision for the role of electronic media in D&D? How do you plan to get there, and how long do you suspect it might take to implement? What priority is this being given?
Electronic media will continue to play an even greater role in our D&D business as the months and years go on. Continuing to improve the D&D Insider experience for our customers and fans is one of our top priorities.
Along with the rest of the publishing industry, Wizards is also looking into new means of digital distribution. For our novels, we have recently introduced titles to Kindle and to Sonyís E-Reader and will continue to add titles to those offerings over the coming months.
9. We donít know much about Wizardsí internal operations. Did the new PDF policy decision originate from you, from your legal team, from the brand manager and his team, or from Hasbro corporate headquarters? Generally speaking, how hands-on is your management of the D&D team and its strategic plan?
The D&D brand is critical to Wizards of the Coastís success, and decisions such as this are not entered into lightly. We are all very hands-on, and decisions are vetted through all levels of the organization.
A quick clarification from WotC regarding the answer to Question 2, above:
The 10:1 ratio that Greg references is for PDFs only Ė it has nothing to do with the physical books. For every one PDF purchased legally, there were at least 10 downloaded illegally. And yes, we can track it.
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