One of the big announcements this week was that Wizards of the Coat would no longer be producing the Star Wars Miniatures and RPG.
The news, often rumoured, was made official via the Wizards’ forums by moderator and employee WotC_BigGuy.
First off, let me slip my marketing hat on and say that using the forums for this announcement was a good idea. It raises the profile of the forums. It makes the news more personal; from BigGuy to the fans and less of a corporate, press release style, investor-Hasbro announcement.
Wizards have said that they’ve decided not to renew the license. Let’s look into that in more depth.
If everything else in the deal between Lucas Film and Wizards of the Coast remains the same – it means Star Wars is no longer a valid business decision for WotC. It doesn’t make economic sense to make the game. The fans don’t buy enough.
Really, though, is it likely that nothing else stayed the same? Could Lucas Film not have tried to raise the license costs? This does seem likely as Lucas will need the extra cash after a disappointing computer game industry in 2009.
It’s also worth putting the spotlight on computer games. I think Lucas Films may well have been tempted to increase the costs of the license because computer games and causal games (what’s to stop WotC producing a Facebook mini adventures gadget based on Star Wars if they had the license?).
EA’s Bioware division knocked out Knights of the Old Republic which was a popular enough CRPG. It used the d20 rule set. Could this have been a source of friction? Hasbro are suing Atari over the D&D computer game license. It seems clear the WotC want into the computer game world (as Games Workshop are managing to do after letting World of Warcraft slip through their fingers).
WotC passing on Star Wars comes at the time we’ve seen British games company Cubicle 7 not only publish the Doctor Who RPG but announce they’re one of the partners in the new Lord of the Rings One Ring RPG. This means that big name license deals are not impossible. It’s worth noting that the BBC are only now talking about a possible Doctor Who computer game so clearly the RPG license comes without any CRPG rights and the One Ring RPG comes via board game rights.
Given that big name license deals are still possible and therefore possible to make financially viable – the great suspicion is that the computer game rights are what prevented Wizards of the Coast from renewing their Star Wars license.
Of course; this is just one theory. There may have also been annoying exclusion terms in the contract that would prevent Hasbro from getting engaged in other Sci-Fi franchises but this doesn’t seem like such a deal breaker.