Wizards of the Coast announced the upcoming release of a trading card game (TCG) based on the Simpsons television series.  A team of WotC designers led by Mike Elliott, Elaine Chase, Mike Selinker, and Tyler Bielman created the new Simpsons game, which other than the underlying characters has nothing in common with a previously published German language Simpsons TCG.  WotC plans to have the new Simpsons TCG out sometime in late 2002. 


The initial release includes four 40-card theme decks featuring Bart, Homer, Lisa, and Mr. Burns.  The theme decks will retail for $7.99 and the 11-Card 'Krusty Klusters' (Boosters) for $2.99.  There are 156 cards in the initial release.  The Simpsons TCG is designed for 2-6 players, so it can be a social event.


Catchphrases ('Exxxcellent') and dialogue from the show play an important role in the game, which should endear it to those thousands of college students who have memorized many key scenes from the long-running series, which is rerun up to three times per day in many college markets and seen by over 60 million people weekly worldwide.


About to enter its fourteenth year on the airwaves, the Simpsons provides an interesting study in the licensing of television properties.  The show was hot with the key youthful demographic right from the beginning and the brash young Fox Network tried to exploit its cult hit with an extremely aggressive licensing program, which resulted in much too much merchandise hitting the market at the same time.  After a fairly disastrous result from the first wave of licensed merchandise, Fox became much more selective in granting Simpsons licenses -- and, as the show matured, subsequent waves of licensed merchandise have done better and better. 


In the comic market Bongo provides original Simpsons stories in comic form that often rival the show itself, while Playmates' many series of Simpsons toys have found great favor with collectors.  With season-by-season Simpsons DVD sets, Simpsons Trading Cards from Inkworks, and lots of apparel items, Simpsons merchandise is important to lots of pop culture retailers.  A successful WotC Simpsons TCG would be a welcome addition.


Much of the recent news about WotC has been about the company shedding various branches, its publishing arm (see 'Wizards Spins Off Publishing, Star Wars Fan Club'), its convention business (see 'Wizards Sells GenCon to Peter Adkison'), its attempt at a collectible miniatures game (see 'WotC Cans Chainmail'), its on-line retail business (see 'Wizard Sheds E-Commerce') in order to concentrate on the company's 'core competency,' designing and publishing collectible card games.  The rapid production of the Simpsons game, which wasn't on the schedule at the beginning of the year, demonstrates that WotC is able to move quickly and that the company is serious about licensing top properties (Star Wars, Transformers, Harry Potter).