As the news of the shutdown of WizKids (see “Topps Shuts Down WizKids”), one of the Big Three of hobby games, percolated through the industry, one of the first concerns was of continuing support for the games. Alliance Game Distributors, the sole distributor of WizKids products to the hobby market, issued a statement to reassure its customers. “
Alliance President Daniel Hirsch commented on the news. “We are disappointed by this very unexpected news," he said. "We have enjoyed a great relationship with WizKids, and together have brought great products and promotions to thousands of retailers in the
Lax Chandra, President of WizKids, spoke well of the company’s relationship with
ACD Distribution, at one time the largest
ICv2 also contacted other game companies to get their reactions. Only Upper Deck responded in time for this article. “Upper Deck is very excited to launch our first collectible miniatures game on Tuesday, November 11,” a spokesperson said. “We believe that our World of Warcraft Miniatures Game will bring a breath of fresh air to the category, offering players unique and engaging game play and the highest quality figures yet offered in the collectible miniatures arena.”
Among the topics arousing speculation is the possible landing place for the WizKids brands. There are only three other companies in the collectible miniatures game business at this time. Wizards of the Coast, which has several collectable miniature lines, including Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, and Axis and Allies, would seem to be a logical candidate because of its experience in handling licenses, its existing relationship with Lucasfilm (which licenses WizKids to produce its Star Wars Pocket Model Game), and its Seattle-area location, which would make it convenient to absorb any WizKids staff. But WotC recently revamped its D&D Miniatures, turning them into supporting pieces for the D&D RPG (see “WotC to Stop Supporting D&D Minis Skirmish Game”) and moving away from totally random packaging, making its appetite for collectible game acquisitions questionable.
Upper Deck is entering the CMG market this month with the launch of its World of Warcraft Miniatures Game, and it’s an experienced producer of licensed products and already has licenses with Marvel and DC, which are licensors for WizKids’ HeroClix line. But Upper Deck and WizKids parent Topps had an acrimonious dispute last year surrounding Upper Deck’s interest in acquiring Topps (see “Topps Fires Back”), so its unclear whether the mutual trust necessary to complete a transaction is present.
Privateer Press recently entered the CMG market with the successful launch of its kaiju CMG Monsterpocalypse (see “Monsterpocalypse the Biggest Ever”), and its Seattle-area location is a plus. But Privateer is smaller than the other two CMG companies and it’s not a producer of licensed products.
Of course, there’s no rule that says that an acquiring company has to currently be a CMG producer, or even a collectible game producer, which opens up the possibilities considerably.
Fantasy Flight Games, which has extensive experience with licensed games and miniatures, is another possibility, although it, too, is moving away from the collectible game format (see “FFG Explains Its (Non-) Collectible Game Strategy”).
The good news is that Topps seems intent on completing a transaction quickly, and has a strong incentive to do so to preserve as much of the brand value as possible, so perhaps an announcement on the sale of the WizKids brands will be forthcoming soon.