Wizards of the Coast has launched a new online community for strategy gamers. According to Wizards' press release: "Gleemax will be built on three pillars – community, games, and editorial content – each representing the essence of what WotC has been providing strategy gamers for more than 15 years."
And it's called Gleemax. Gleemax.
The name's a lot to get past. So is the fact that they oh-so-recently killed of Dragon and Dungeon magazines. While this site isn't meant as a replacement for them -- it's designed for Magic: The Gathering players and such -- the fact that Wizards killed off two magazines with three decades of gaming history and then turned around and gave us something called "Gleemax" disturbed me to my very core.
And then I saw the web site.
In its press release announcing plans for the new site, Wizards said: "specific site features will include an online social community, existing and future releases of WotC digital gaming properties as well as independent strategy games, player profiles, interactive analog and digital community activities, editorial content including community message boards, WotC and player blogs, regularly updated industry news, and game rankings and reviews."
Ok, that could be interesting. Except that's not this site. Right now Gleemax is little more than a phpBB forum knockoff with a new theme and a handful of web pages containing proclamations from Gleemax "himself". This is Wizards of the Coast's crack at a virtual reality game and consists of a few cryptic messages and a big list of photos the floating head demands its readers submit to it.
I LOVE BEES it is not.
Buried deep within its innards is a podcast called Gamer Zero … but I can't point you to its RSS feed because it doesn't have one.
I understand that this is essentially the "pre-launch" web site, and that Wizards is continuing to work on Gleemax with plans to formally roll it out at GenCon. But compared to Facebook, MySpace, or hell, my personal favorite hangout the Dire Cafe, it's a joke.
Admittedly, it could be that at 35, I'm no longer in the demographic that Wizards is trying to reach with this site (though looking at the site without reading the press release, would you know who they were trying to reach?). But as a friend said, it's like Wizards looked at the whole wide history of gaming, considered all the names that could possibly have meaning and resonance with gamers … and then tossed them in favor of the lamest name they could think of.
Not some reference to slack, or Discordian philosophy, Monty Python, the extended Magic universe, geek culture or hell, anything that makes one bit of sense. No, instead we get to maximize our … glee. I don't know about you, but I've never sat around a table playing Pirates of the Spanish Main and thought … "you know, I wonder how I could maximize my glee?"
I could have gotten past the name though, if there was any there there A social network for gamers could be cool, as the Dire Cafe illustrates, but you need to do more than simply re-theme your existing forums and call it a social network. You actually need to step up, spend some money, and develop a real solution -- something that takes social networking and kicks it up a notch by deploying net-only games that take advantage of Web 2.0 strengths. Imagine a site where you have a profile, but can then make turn-based moves every time you login. The game could generate an RSS feed of what moves have been made, which you could then subscribe to via a feed aggregator, Yahoo, Vista or Dashboard widgets to know when you need to move again. That would be interesting and who knows, that might be coming ... but based on what we've seen so far, I'm not optimistic.
As is, Gleemax is a joke. An embarrassing joke that does not bode well for whatever the hell Wizards is planning to replace Dragon and Dungeon with. When the magazines were cancelled, I was skeptical that Wizards was capable of launching a web site capable of replacing them. Gleemax has only deepened my skepticism.