February 11th, 2012
Wizards of the Coast:
Let me preface this by saying that I am, in general, a big fan of Wizards of the Coast. I returned to playing Magic: The Gathering with the release of Zendikar after a ten-year absence, and overall I think the decisions made by the folks in Renton since I have been back have been very good. Even when the decisions haven’t been great, you have also shown a willingness to listen and adapt in response to feedback.
I sincerely hope you will be willing to do so again.
Last week I read the following announcement from Tan Thor Jen, the developer of Decked Builder software for iPhone, iPad, and MacOS: Legal Issues and Removal of Deck Building Functionality.
Let me start by saying that I understand that it is important for Wizards of the Coast to protect their intellectual property (IP) and their brand. However, I think this is a bad decision for WotC as it negatively impacts the MTG community. It strikes me as highly unlikely that the timing of this is a coincidence, given that WotC just released their own iPhone application that supports deckbuilding. While the threat of litigation to eliminate competing products (particularly those that depend upon WotC’s IP) is a legitimate business tactic and WotC is certainly within their rights to do so, in this case it appears both inconsistent and unnecessary.
The move against Decked Builder seems inconsistent in that you, WotC, openly tolerate other products that trade on your IP. For example, the magiccards.info Web site uses card images and text, and clearly is in direct competition with WotC’s own Gatherer Web engine. Of course, WotC does not charge users for Gatherer, so there is no potential lost revenue there. However, WotC does charge for MTG Online, and yet does not appear to taking legal action against Magic Workstation (MWS). MWS is a commercial product that competes directly with WotC’s MTG Online product, and trades on WotC IP. (Cockatrice is a similar free software product.) Why do those products, which are much more high-profile than Decked Builder, get a free pass but Decked Builder doesn’t?
Furthermore, this action seems unnecessary in that, unlike MWS and Cockatrice, I cannot see how this affects WotC’s bottom line. Decked Builder exists on three platforms: iPhone, iPad, and MacOS. Let’s look at each of those spaces.
On the iPhone, the newly-released WotC MTG Toolbox product is free. So how does the presence of Decked Builder possibly impinge on that revenue stream? If you were planning on revenue from that source, why did you make it free? My suspicion there is that having that product be free is intended to help WotC’s primary product, Magic: The Gathering cards. You want customers to have a product that encourages them to play the game, and thus buy cards. The presence of Decked Builder in the marketplace does that, too, though it isn’t a free product. What’s wrong with letting customers pay a little to a third party to get functionality not offered by the WotC app? (For example, the ability to easily share with the iPad and desktop versions via DropBox or iCloud.) Even with Decked Builder in the marketplace, people will still get MTG Toolbox, exactly because it’s free. (I have both.)
On the iPad, WotC has no offering at all, and thus no revenue stream for Decked Builder to cut into.
Finally, there is MacOS. Like with the iPad, WotC has no offering at all, and thus there is no lost revenue here, either. However, here I think the decision cuts deeper. Frankly, the Mac is a platform that has always been under-served by WotC and other MTG-related products. There is no MTG Online for the Mac, nor even Magic Workstation. WotC has zero presence on the Mac and has never given any indication of moving in this direction. WotC derives zero revenue from the Mac.
However, by taking Decked Builder out of this space, WotC will destroy the only high-quality MTG-oriented product on the Mac. While I’m sure it isn’t your intent, doing this sends the message that WotC does not value Mac users. One might even be inclined to believe that WotC is anti-Mac. Please don’t take away the only software the MTG-playing Mac user has! I understand the need to protect your IP, but it’s not like Decked Builder on the Mac is exploiting your IP to your detriment—if anything, it helps sustain and build interest in the game in a community WotC is ignoring, a community that definitely has discretionary dollars. How is that bad for WotC? Don’t you want people with discretionary dollars to be maximally engaged in the game?
It seems to me that MTG, and therefore WotC, is actually much better served by allowing programs like Decked Builder to flourish. Don’t you want your customers to have access to tools that encourage them to play the game, and thus buy cards? Of course you do, that’s the point of the MTG Toolbox app. I promise you, the money I have spent on Decked Builder is not money I would have spent on more cards. If anything, using Decked Builder makes it easier for me to tinker with deck ideas, and thus having access to it encourages me to buy more cards. Exactly how does making it more difficult for me (or anyone else, especially Mac users) to build and share decks help serve WotC’s financial interests?
In light of this, I urge you to reconsider your stance. Let Decked Builder be. Make them change the icon that impinges on your logo, fine, but please allow the software to continue to include deckbuilding functionality. Please let us, Decked Builder’s customers, keep our favorite MTG app. It encourages us to play, and thus buy more cards. Isn’t that what you want?
Magic player, WotC customer, Decked Builder user
(Note: I have no association or contact with Decked Builder other than being a thrilled customer.)