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The Orgg's Treatese on: The Adkinson Interview
By Jensen Bohren
A few weeks ago I e-mailed the CEO and Janitor of WOTC, Mr. Peter Adkinson, one of the fictional "Holy Tritiny" of WOTC.
the interview is as follows:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Orgg: Thank you for this opprotunity Mr. Adkinson. For the first questions, let's try to get to know you a bit better as a gamer. First of all, lets make sure that WOTC upper management DOES play magic.

Peter Adkinson: Yes I do, although I don't have the opportunity to play as much as I'd like. About a year and a half ago I realized that by only working and gaming I was getting way too fat. So I scaled back a bit on my gaming to fit more time in for physical activities like rock climbing and dancing. I still love gaming (ran a 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons game just a few days ago), but I don't want to paint the picture that I game every day like I did back in college.

Orgg: Now that we know that, what about you? What's your favorite Magic color?

Peter Adkinson: Blue. I was attracted to blue right from the get go due to cards like Time Walk and Sleight of Mind (which caused me to spend endless hours trying to build a deck around). I like the trickiness of the color.

Orgg: Favorite card?

Peter Adkinson: Time Walk. In many games I've always loved cards that gave you an extra turn, or an extra move. It's such a decisive thing to do and often is very un-nerving to your opponent. In have a fond memory of a game of King Maker (the Avalon Hill game, not some Magic variant) where I accumulated 12 Extra
Move cards.

Orgg: What kind of deck do you usually build, weenie-beatdown,control, combo, or a variation of the three?

Peter Adkinson: I usually play PCDs. For every expansion I get the set of PCDs for that expansion and just play them against different people. I try and play all the PCDs to get a feel for each and a feel for that expansion. I never build decks except in a limited environment, like Sealed Deck, which is my favorite. And in that situation you have to go with the color(s) that look best, of course.

Orgg: Your job title(s) in the old days before the Hasbro deal were CEO and Janitor, WOTC. However, I doubt that since WOTC isn't your basement anymore that you are still the only janitor. What is currently your job title?

Peter Adkinson: I quit using the janitor title some time ago, way before the sale to Hasbro. I didn't quit using it because I was too serious or anything, I just got to be old, you know? I have two titles at Hasbro, one is a WotC title and the other is a Hasbro title. My WotC title is still CEO. My Hasbo title is Sector Head, Hobby Games. I still have basically the same responsibilities I had before except now I report to Herb Baum (President, Hasbro) and Alan Hassenfeld (CEO, Hasbro) instead of the WotC Board of Directors.

Orgg: Now for a few questions about the future. In general, whatdoes WOTC, meaning you, believe about the future of magic?

Peter Adkinson: I believe the future is very strong. I know that's what you'd expect me to say, but I really believe it. Pokemon has grown the awareness and validity of the TCG category and now we're seeing former Pokemon players grow in to Magic. Our goal (and I think it's reasonable to expect us to hit it) is for Magic to always be the "ultimate" TCG. It should always be the oldest,the most challenging (in terms of competition and strategy, not rules
necessarily), and the one that's best supported through tournaments and leagues and good R&D and marketing. I think Magic has a great chance of holding on to this position. [Editor's note: Woohoo!]

Orgg: Seventh edition, scheduled for relese somtime next year, has been a hot topic for casual players and pros alike. I won't pry into what is being done to make it more satisfying to players, but I would like to ask if it's coming will bring upon major rules changes a-la 6th edition.

Peter Adkinson: Well, I for one don't think the rules changes for 6th edition were that extreme. The plan for seventh has been to refine the rules changes that were done for 6th edition and fix anything that was missed.

Orgg: Will Seventh Edition's official rulebook have an "Outdated Rules" section containing the official ways that rampage, banding, phasing, flanking, cumulative upkeep, et cetera in it to keep newer players from being scammed by "sharks" with sandbar crocodiles?

Peter Adkinson: I don't know.

Orgg: According to rumours, Unglued II: unplugged was cancelled this year due to the oversaturation of the insatiable Pokemon craze right before it went to the printers. When this craze dies down, will Unglued II see print?

Peter Adkinson: Actually, Unglued II was cancelled because we felt too many Magic cards were coming out that year and we wanted to take some of the pressure off the
collectors who feel they have to buy every card. Also, some of us felt that Unglued was fun but shouldn't be an annual thing. I suspect there will be more Unglued sometime along the way.

Orgg: Another "II" that was cancelled was 1998's Chronicles II. What's the plan for another Chronicles-type set? Are giftboxes the closest thing we'll get?

Peter Adkinson: That's still being debated.

Orgg: In the last few sets of cards published, a few things have been missing. Two of the most prevailent are the player-interaction that has begun to pick up in Masques block and the declining quality of art in the sets. Let's deal with the first issue first: Will future sets continue the theme of player interaction found in Masques, or will there be are turn to a less interactive goldfishing type sets?

Peter Adkinson: Our goal is to create sets that do provide player interaction, and we will do our best to achieve that goal.

Orgg: What about future artwork? At one point Dr. Garfield expressed his gripe to Inquest Gamer that the art of Magic is all leaning twards one style of painting. Many people, players and collectors alike, have expressed their discontent on this subject by mourning the loss of artists such as Anson Maddocks, Mellissa Benson, Ian Miller, R.K. Furguson, and the Foglios, Phill and Kaja. Will WOTC begin using theese artists again in the future?

Peter Adkinson: I wouldn't be surprised to see one or more of those artists grace our cards again in the future. The reasons for not using an artist are not cut and dried. It's often less about the relationship between the artist and the company than it is about the relationship between the artist and the art director. As
art directors come and go, so do preferences in artists. Also, artists may "move on" in their career to work on something else, or just decide they don't want to do art for Magic anymore. And often whatever the reasons
were, circumstances change, and sometimes they come back, which has happened with more than one of the artists you listed.

Orgg: Another complaint is the fact that no gold cards have been printed since Stronghold. When will more multicolored cards be printed?

Peter Adkinson: My sources tell me "soon".

Orgg: Now a few questions about the tournament scene. What is WOTC's opinion on decks with no player interaction such as Bargain and Replinish?

Peter Adkinson: We'd prefer to see player interaction and try and design in that direction.

Orgg: Your new program Friday Night Magic has a very casual atmosphere. Would the DCI ever consider extending this type of casual format and possibly support "Multiplayer" tournaments, like free-for-all, emperor, two-headed giant or others with potential rules variations/deck limitations?

Peter Adkinson: I'm sure that's considered on a regular basis.

Orgg: What about other, more casual, formats commonly played such as Mini-master, Highlander-style, theme decks only, build the worst deck, or Block Party?

Peter Adkinson: We love seeing players play in other formats. We certainly don't try and discourage it. How much of a role these formats should play in the official tournament scene is another matter.

Orgg: On a darker note for tournament play, there have been several reports of a lack of sportsmanship on the professional level, specifically the Pro Tour. What steps are being taken to ensure that unethical or unsportsmanlike actions are frowned upon in future tournaments?

Peter Adkinson: Just like any sport, this will always be an issue. There will always be those who cheat, and we'll always be working to try and catch them and discourage that activity. Judges will always be put in tough positions of trying to make difficult calls. We take the problem seriously, but we also recognize that it's always going to be something we're struggling with.

Orgg: Now lets get into a few more general inquiries held by some of the CPA members. First,(lemme go in order), What do you believe the biggest group of Magic players is, the casual players, professionals, collectors, or the beginners?

Peter Adkinson: Casual players.

Orgg: What group do sets usually cater to among the beginners,casuals and pros?

Peter Adkinson: We try to make sure that each expert set has cards and abilities that appeal to both casual players and tournament players. Seventh Edition will
try to cater to all three groups since it will contain a Starter set that
uses Seventh Edition cards.

Orgg: Many people who play Magic believe that your Topdeck Magazine focuses over half of it's content on Pokemon and then alienates the more casual magic players, the people that William McDermontt claims it is for. This claim seems bereft of evidence due to the fact that half of the Magic related material is written by pro players and focuses on professional concerns-for an example, this deck is a pile turns a casual deck with four inexpensive rares into the latest type II deck that just happens to run a color the former deck did. Has the idea of splitting the magazine into two different magazines with different focus groups ever been considered?

Peter Adkinson: It's just not economical to do two different magazines. The only solution that makes sense is to have one magazine that tries to appeal to all
the major groups of Magic players.
We also recognize that the web and other magazines play a key role in supporting Magic players.

Orgg: Speaking of "focus groups," Has any research been done to find Magic's current audience? Has it changed from a mostly white-male from 15-25 as stated approximatly four years ago?

Peter Adkinson: We do half of our Magic business outside the US (Asia, Latin America, Europe), with Japan being our second largest country. We certainly have a
wider mix of nationalities playing our game at this time than we did four years ago. Given the complexity of the game, our age group averages around 16 and
is spread mostly between 15-25. There's probably more younger kids playing
these days because of the "Pokemon wake," but we have no intention of dumbing-down the product to target younger kids. I've always believed that the smarter young kids are aspirational and like older-kids' products.

Orgg: Many many Magic websites exist on the internet today, meridianmagic.com, mtgnews.com, casualplayers.org, thedojo.com, starcityccg.com, ad infinatum. What effects do you believe theese types of websites have on Magic?

Peter Adkinson: I think they're great. We've always had as liberal a legal policy as we absolutely could while still protecting our intellectual property, precisely because we recognize the importance of communities of players getting together online to enjoy Magic.

Orgg: Would you take offence to websites like the Casual Players'Alliance sending you results of surveys taken? If not, would it have any influence on the future releses?

Peter Adkinson: I usually prefer to do market research the other way around. Start with a question that needs to be researched and then figure out the best way of researching to get the answer to that question. Research is a double-edged
sword; done correctly and we can make changes that help the player community, done incorrectly and our decisions can be disastrous. That's why we need to understand who answered the questions how and make sure they answered them only once.
We are putting together an on-line panel with these parameters in mind so that we can get quick responses to hot questions as they come up in the future.

Orgg: What influence do the aformentioned websites have on the development of sets?

Peter Adkinson: I'm not sure if they have any influence or not. You'd have to ask the folks in R&D who do the development of Magic expansions.

Orgg: What is the usual amount of people working to design sets?

Peter Adkinson: About 5 people on the core team, with lots of people giving advice and doing playtesting.

Orgg: How many people usually playtest sets?

Peter Adkinson: Probably over a hundred.

Orgg: How mutch time is usually spent playtesting sets?

Peter Adkinson: Several months.

Orgg: How many formats are used to playtest?

Peter Adkinson: Mainly the formats used heavily in tournaments and leagues.

Orgg: What is the usual group of people that playtest, pros or casuals?

Peter Adkinson: Mostly pros, but some casuals. I use the term pros loosely, since those who are employees can't actually compete. But many of them did (RandyBueller,
Henry Stern, etc).

Orgg: Has WOTC thought at all about slowing down the relese of new expansions so that an additional month of playtesting can be proformed in order to ensure a higher level of quality and balance in new sets while alliviating the need for pre-Pre-Relese erratta? This would also satisfy the people who believe the sets come out at such a rapid clip that they cannot keep up due to the amount of money required at the frequency required.

Peter Adkinson: Yes, we've thought about this a lot. We debate this every year, quite hotly. And the current strategy is still 3 expansions per year.

Orgg: What was the reason for the price increse from $2.99 to $3.29? After the price increse of Homelands it was stated that the price increse would "hold well into the next century"(If my memory is correct, the time period was around Duelist #9). What's changed since then?

Peter Adkinson: Our raw materials costs went up along with deeper investments on our part into Organized Play activities, which is the most extensive in the entire
game industry and many of our players enjoy and take advantage of this. At the current prices, we believe that Magic still provides the best value in the TCG category and across other game categories as well.

Orgg: Of course it does. Why does the online store not carry boxes instead of packs? There's nothing quite like breaking the factory sealed plastic on your very own box. I even have the shrinkwrap from the first whole box I bought.

Peter Adkinson: I don't know. But I agree with you; I'd prefer to buy by the box.

Orgg: What, if any, change has become Wizards of the Coast since Hasbro acquired you, or, if you prefer, before you bought yourself a boss? :{ )

Peter Adkinson: Very little has changed, surprisingly enough. I do spend a lot of time with other Hasbro execs, going to reviews for other divisions. When I'm sitting there hearing about the latest design concept for the EZ Bake Oven I do
occassionally wonder if I'm really adding value! But I wondered the same thing when I used to deal with some of WotC's former shareholders, so it all works out okay. Basically they let us do what we want, 'cause they don't really understand our industry very well. One thing that I'm hoping Hasbro can help us with is in the field of entertainment. We've had very little success trying to get a movie, TV series, or animation for one of our properties. Fortunately Hasbro is working on developing this capability and if that happens this could help us out a lot. I feel like if this doesn't happen, WotC's going to be forced into the rut of always pursuing the next hot license.

Orgg: The last few months have seen the relese of a Wrestling and baseball ccgs. Is WOTC looking for a bigger sports feel to ccgs, or trying to appeal to a newer, bigger audience?

Peter Adkinson: We're definitely trying to expand our market by doing some sports and entertainment TCGs.

Orgg: In your honest opinion, do you feel that Magic is a better or worse game than when it was first introduced? If it's better, in whatways? If worse, how do you see it improoving in the future?

Peter Adkinson: Everything seems better when it's new. I think that all of us who werein to Magic in 1993 remember the excitement that was there because of how new
the product was. Every expansion we waited for what new mechanics would be introduced and new card concepts that would seriously tweak our perceptions of what Magic was.
Now Magic is more predictable and it's more difficult to really surprise players with a new card or rules concept, at least wih a concept that's not broken.
But that doesn't mean Magic is worse. The card sets today are much better balanced, the production values are WAY better, and the whole Magic scene is supported more through tournaments, the rankings database, judges, in-store play, and so-on and so-on. And the rules are better defined now, too.
Summary: The product is definitely better now than it was in 1993. But that doesn't mean we weren't having just as much fun back then as weare now!

Orgg: Do you believe that Magic has become any more mainstream in the past few years? If so, what to you attribute the greater acceptance to?

Peter Adkinson: It's somewhat better known, but I don't think it's very close to what I would call "mainstream."

Orgg: Do you believe that Dr. Garfield's original dream or objective is soon to come to fruitition, say in the next ten years? Or has the objective changed from a society in which brainpower is looked upon as equal to brawn, and professional gamers like chess's Kasparov are admired as much as Michael Jackson to somthing else?

Peter Adkinson: I think brainpower is highly admired in our society, although I don't think there will ever be a Magic player who's as famous for playing Magic as Michael Jackson is for being a pop artist.
[Orgg's Note: I goofed up. I ment that baseball player, not the musician]

Orgg: Thank you for your time, Mr. Adkinson. I have one final personal curiosity. What NON-wizards cardgame (when relesed) impressed you the most?

Peter Adkinson: Legend of the Five Rings, which is why I bought it.

Stay on target,
Peter Adkison

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
And so concludes my interview with the CEO and former Janitor for WOTC, Peter Adkinson.
A special thanks to all CPA members that helped me.

theorgg@hotmail.com

Read More Articles by Jensen Bohren!

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