Wizards of the Coast announced that they are working on a new online portal called Gleemax, both from an inside joke among the staff and (I assume) something that sounds vaguely like Google. Icv2 has the big interview with VP of Digital Games Randy Buehler, which explains what Gleemax will one day be.
The site…will feature many of the popular tools of social networking sites including blogs, friends lists, and personal pages each of which will have an event calendar. Every core retailer can have its own place in the site where they can detail what is going on at their store (and these events can be automatically ported to the calendars of gamers in their geographical area).
The online games portion of the initiative will include game portals, including a board game portal which will provide online versions of a number of classic Avalon Hill games as well as newer games such as Vegas Showdown and allow players to enjoy their favorite board games online at times when getting a group of friends together to play is impractical.
Aha, could that be why WotC decided to gut the Avalon Hill line? Will we see a digital version of Betrayal at House on the Hill that incorporates all the errata? Will we see old Avalon Hill classics that WotC has refused to print or sell to other people come back in digital form? It does make some economic sense. Gleemax will also incorporate their other digital initiatives like Magic: The Gathering Online and Uncivilized: The Goblin Game.
A project of this scope HAS to be what the new all-digital Dungeon and Dragon magazines will be a part of. Another part of the interview reveals the business model (and what it will mean to you as a consumer):
We want to give away most of the social networking function for free and subsidize it with ads. We’re very much interested in giving players something for free. We want gamers to call this site home; we don’t want to charge them for everything. We’ll have premium subscriptions available for people who want premium content, but most of the social networking functionality you need to enjoy the site will be free. In addition, the various games are where we expect to make most of our money and there will be a number of different business models built into the game. Magic Online for example, has a purchase model where we sell booster packs. The Goblin game is going to be pay for each instance of the game you want to play. The board game portal is going to be a monthly subscription to have unlimited access to all of those titles. The indie strategy game portal is the try and buy business model you see in the casual game space where you can download a trial version of the game, and if you like it, you have to pay us $20 to unlock the rest of the game.
What’s that? Indie strategy game portal? Yes, Wizards says they’re committed to helping out the little guy and the competetion:
The idea is that this is a home for gamers, so if somebody wants to create a personal page around a game that they’re publishing, great, they should, this is the space where that’s supposed to happen.
…imagine an Indie Strategy Games Portal filled with the coolest independent games, vetted by us, and given the Wizards Seal-of-Approval for fun, strategic game-play.
OK, I’m sold, this could be a really good thing for gaming, and is certainly not something that exists yet, and WotC has the resources to make it happen. So should you rush over to Gleemax right now? No. All that stuff talked about in the interview isn’t there yet. There’s a few pieces live- like the giant brain Gleemax giving orders, a poll, a podcast, and a skin on the WotC messageboard, but nothing is really there yet. So wait it out. Except that…
We will invite thought leaders from both the tabletop and digital gaming industries to serve on this board. The idea is to bring folks together several times a year to tell them about our plans for the future, and ask their advice. We want to know where they think we got it right and what they would do differently.
In addition (this is important), we will reserve multiple seats on the Advisory Board for gamers like yourselves. Because Gleemax is everyone’s community, we want to make sure you have the chance to tell us in person precisely what we need to do to make it a place you will want to use. Stay tuned to this site to find out how you can become one of the chosen board members.
Hmm, I’m qualified to be a “thought leader”, right? And you guys would vote for me, right? So maybe I’ll be asking for your votes soon…