Friday, November 14, 2008

Flight to Quality

"Flight to Quality" is what Greg Leeds, the Wizards of the Coast CEO, calls what I was referring to as the evergreen dilemma in this ICV2 interview.

Wizards has recently been talking about a renewed focus on its core brands, Magic and D&D. Those are both longstanding brands, which some might even call mature. Can you talk about how you can grow sales for those brands, and whether that involves finding new customers, creating more products through line extensions, or both?

Both. We have an array of initiatives and product releases that will get current gamers more involved with our core brands as well as bring new people in. Particularly in tough economic times, customers will gravitate towards established brands that they trust and have proven play value -- a "flight to quality." Then the critical mass effect occurs -- more players means more interest by others in playing…and so on.


  1. Personally, I'd call that more "the comfort of the familiar". Big brands will always weather bad conditions better than small titles, if only because the unease of people about the ability of small brands to survive and "support" (such a nebulous concept with games) becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, you can't be sure that, say, Green Ronin will survive, but it will take a LOT to bring down WotC. Since there's a halo effect with products compatible with WotC's, the 900lb gorilla is going to be putting on weight as long as the crunch carries on...

  2. It is a herd effect. I don't know how baaaaaaah-d it is, but it certainly isn't any good for the small companies trying to do new, and different things (and yes, many of these are higher in "quality" than the big guys).

  3. Quality is a very difficult thing to define, particularly in game terms. You can have the Ultimate Gold-Plated edition of Monopoly, but it's still Monopoly. Is it a different quality to the basic set? The mechanics are precisely the same, it's just shinier...

  4. It really wouldn't take any more to bring down WotC than it would any other established company in the market.

    WotC is a relatively small division of Hasbro in terms of overall revenue of the company, and is vulnerable to internal company politics. It's also a possibility that if Hasbro decided to shut WotC down that they might decide the D&D brand was worth keeping, thereby keeping someone else from taking over the game.

    If a company like Green Ronin went under their properties would likely be picked up by others and continue on.

    Just to nip any potential rumor mill in the bud, I haven't seen anything to indicate that either company is in any trouble whatsoever. I'm just saying that just because WotC may be the big kid on the block, that doesn't mean it has any more inherent long term stability than the other players in the market.

  5. So, what you're saying is that they are the biggest kid on a very small block.

  6. "Flight to quality" is so much spin...
    "Flight to conformity" or "Flight to predictability" would probably be more accurate. "Flight to mediocrity" might be a bit harsh...

  7. From a Boston Globe article on what a modern Depression would look like:

    "In general, novelty would lose some of its luster. It's not simply that we'd buy less, we'd look for different qualities in what we buy. New technology would grow less seductive, basic reliability more important. We'd see more products like Nextel phones and the Panasonic Toughbook laptop, which trade on their sturdiness, and fewer like the iPhone - beautiful, cleverly designed, but not known for durability. The neighborhood appliance shop could reappear in a new form - unlicensed, with hacked cellphones and rebuilt computers.

  8. If that Boston Globe article is accurate, I live like I'm in a depression all the time anyway...