This week saw some incredible announcements in the gaming industry. Monday, Paizo and WizKids announced they were doing pre-painted plastic minis of random heroes and monsters. Then Tuesday, Fantasy Flight finally announced they got the Star Wars license as many of us had previously guessed.
So in one week we see companies that were already high in the role playing sky ascend further up. I’m really happy for them. What I find almost ironic is that a mere four years ago, these were the two areas that I felt Wizards of the Coast was strongest in. Oh sure, Magic always made a larger profit and they have some stuff that does great in Japan that gets mentioned in Hasbro’s regular reports to their stock holders, but Wizards made pre-painted plastic D&D minis and Star Wars stuff! I mean come on, this is what made them cool. But Wizards walked away from the Star Wars license saying they couldn’t think of what else to do with it. Really?!? Even I could have told them, “Make a 2 player game where one side is X-Wings and one is Tie Fighters. One box, everything you need. Go all out in making the minis awesome and sell it for <$40. It’ll make bookoo bucks!”
Wizards also cancelled the minis line citing decreasing demand and rising cost of materials. Ok, fine. Ever stop and think either a) give people non random sets like they want or b) licensing it to someone else? Considering that Wizards has been pulling back all their licensed material, the second was a no-go. But the first is where Wizards could really have done a lot of good. Take part of the Paizo announcement for a moment. WizKids will be selling the Rise of the Runelords minis set. That is awesome! A non-randomized set that gives you everything you need for the entire campaign. Do you have any idea of how many people will snatch that up even if they don’t play RotRL just for the goblins? A lot. Probably myself included. Wizards could have done a set of non-randomized goblins. “This box contains seven goblins.” Sold. But they chose not to do that. So they did it with beholders instead. Do you have any idea how many beholders I’ve seen in a game since my first character over 20 years ago? One. Uno. Why didn’t I pick up the beholder set? Because as a Pathfinder player, I’ll never see a beholder again. And I didn’t have much of a connection before I changed systems. But if they made a kobold set, I’d fork over the dough. Hell, I’d love to run an all kobold campaign some day, if I had enough kobold minis.
I really see the downfall of Wizards as their own making. Sure the whole OGL> GSL, 3E>4E debacle had a hand in it, but really, they could have done just fine if they had actually listened to their customers and delivered to them what they wanted. Somewhere along the line, Wizards forgot how to listen.
And now the theme in the Throne Room at the end of A New Hope is accompanied by the sound of two nails being hammered into the coffin. May these two rising stars live a long time and prosper. And remember to listen to your customers.
Oh and Fantasy Flight, any chance you can make the Star Wars RPG a d6 based game? *bats eye lashes*
Dale McCoy is President of Jon Brazer Enterprises.The Book of the River Nations: Complete Player’s Reference to Kingdom Building is available at game stores worldwide. Order your copy today from your local game store.