Reply to Legolas’ article on the “State of Harry Potter” TCG.


Before I answer "Legolas'" letter, let me introduce myself.


My name is Greg Hodgkinson, the brother of COTD contributor Aardvark.  I have been for the past year and a half the POJO Pokemon “Price Guide/Set List Guru” and have made contributions to the POJO HP site in the form of the Promo card listing.  I have also run leagues for Pokemon at Toys R Us and at a WOTC store and ran the HP league at WOTC.  I ran all of those leagues as a volunteer.


I had been thinking and composing an article myself on the state of the Harry Potter (HP) TCG/CCG when Legolas’ article appeared.  So instead of writing my own article, let me comment on this one and expand the discussion.


Ok, lets first look at the article that Legolas put forth.  First he states, that the “poor” state of the game, is because of two factors; the fans/players and Wizards of the Coast (WOTC), the maker of the game.  The “poor” part is an inference, since Legolas did not use this word.  The main argument for the fans/player contribution to the “poor” state of the game is not enough participation on POJO’s web site (and other web sites).  This participation would include articles, tips, tourney & league reports, and playing the game online. 


Sorry, I do not see a connection here.  Participation online is two fold.  One, making contributions to the site (write articles, play, etc.).  Two, frequenting the site.  Not everyone is comfortable with making contributions.  It does seem that there are less such contributions; but this does not mean anything.   Maybe the lack of contributions is because of some other factor not yet considered.  POJO keeps statistic on the number of “hits” to each of its pages/site.  I am sure that this number is sizable.  I would also bet that if WOTC were interested that they could get that type of information.  I doubt they are.


WOTC contributions to the current “state” of the game, is as follows.  HP chats are sometimes cancelled due to WOTC staff not showing up, poor customer service (i.e. not up to speed on HP and giving out erroneous/conflicting card rulings), poor web site development, and lack of leagues in many areas. 


Well, the only real indicator that WOTC will look at when considering eliminating a product, will be profits (sales vs. costs).  This is a very simplified statement on my part.  There are many factors that WOTC would look at.  Product life cycle, scalability, reach, market share, market segment, logistics, and partnerships.  I will get into that later.  Let me continue with Legolas’s complaints about WOTC.


 HP chats.  I can not talk to this issue since I only attended one chat.  I live on the East Coast of the US and I find that the times for the chats are inconvenient (Pokemon & HP).  However, if the chats were cancelled for staffing reasons; then this is, very poor customer service.  The chats represent an opportunity for the public and WOTC to interact and understand issues affecting the game.


 Poor customer support.   I have talked to WOTC several times in the past.  I understand the frustration one might get when talking to customer service when they are unable to answer a question. One of WOTCs’ main problems is that they have a limited number of folks doing customer service and they need to have a working knowledge of all of the games WOTC produces.  Not an easy task.  So I would expect some “issues” about information they give out.  The problem, as I see it, is that the actual game producers are not answering questions.  If they are, then they should not be giving conflicting rulings.  Since WOTC play tests the game and new cards, the rules questions should not be a surprise.  Most should have been worked out before the cards were released.   


Poor Web site.  Ok, so the web site isn’t the greatest thing going.  However, it serves WOTCs’ purpose.  It sends you to their “store” so you can buy online, or it sends you to Warner Bros. Site (they own HP), or it gives you a bit of information, mainly about leagues.  The lack of “Ownership” is probably why the WOTC site is not all that great.  Then again, we are looking at it from a “fan” perspective.  This is a business for WOTC.  If having a “pretty” site made them money; then they would have a pretty site


Lack of leagues.  Here is the real issue.  Lack of opportunity to play the game.  Legolas lists 18 states without leagues.  I just looked at the WOTC site and found 21 states lacking leagues (survey taken 08/07/02{I also found that 3 of the states that Legolas noted without leagues now have leagues}).  What does this mean?  WOTC is working on the site. If you look at each state and province and count the total number of locations, you will find only 51 locations that have HP league.  That is 51 locations for all of the United States and Canada.  You must be joking.  The small number of locations is not a very good sign.  However, since Legolas and I have different numbers, of states and provinces that have leagues, I must chalk this up to WOTC updating the information.


Ok, so I am done critiquing the article.   How was it?  Hmmm…after reading it over; it appears that I was defending WOTC.  Not!  Let me expand the discussion.  I just want to make you think about the issue, just like Legolas has done for me.


The big problem for WOTC when “talking” about HP is that “ownership” thing.  Warner Bros. is the “owner/control” of the HP property.  This is why the WOTC site is so minimal and lacking.  Warner Bros. has a HP web site.  It covers everything HP.  They would not give up a controlling factor for their property.  This is why the card game company is not running the HP card site and why an “entertainment conglomerate” that has no concept, is.  This is a formula for failure.  This is also why sites like POJO pop up; because corporations are about profit margin, not about fun.   It would have been nice if WOTC and Warner Bros. had gotten together to put a HP TCG promo card in the movie DVD/VHS release.  This was a great opportunity to introduce people to the game.


Legolas was right about WOTCs’ customer service.  It is lacking.  It appears that WOTC controls the card game itself, both in card development and game development.  If this is so, why the problems with card rulings?  This should be very easy.  I too have seen WOTC reference POJOs’ site about card rulings.  They also say that it is not “the” place for rulings.  They are.  But, the rulings are not available online.  This causes a lot of confusion. Answering email in a timely fashion could help.  Having “experts” answer questions would help too.


The real problem still comes down to support.  Support in the way of leagues. 51 locations serving the whole United states and Canada is pretty bad.  People need more places to play for the game to survive.  This means that WOTC needs to promote it more with the “Mom & Pop” stores that have other card leagues get them to host HP.   It seems probable that individual stores would only be able to support (by way of numbers of customers) a small number of  “leagues” which would mean that some games would be left out at some locations.


Still, something is wrong with the list of league locations on the WOTC site.  Lets look at it more carefully.

Lets look at Maryland. The WOTC league locator shows only 2 locations; yet there are 6 locations in the state that have league!  I also find it annoying that one of the 2 listed sites does not have a league.  What is the problem?  Site maintenance! It is really bad when you call a WOTC store using the league locator list on their site and you get an Auto Body Shop! How hard is it to keep the site up with accurate information?


What comes down to is this; if you want a HP league started in your town, you need to go out and convince a retailer to do so.  If no one sells the cards then you will need to convince them to carry the cards.  Then you need to support that retailer with your business.  Because after all is said and done, that is what it is, a business. 


 -Greg Hodgkinson