Wizards of the Coast CEO Chuck Huebner has announced that the company will no longer produce the Pokemon trading card game after the next three releases. In the announcement, addressed to 'Loyal Pokemon Players,' Huebner said, 'I want to let you know that our proposal to the Pokemon Company to manufacture and distribute the Ruby & Sapphire releases was not accepted.' The announcement went on to hint that the reason the proposal was rejected was a difference in valuation. 'We felt our proposal was fair and appropriate based on what we knew the property to be worth through our first hand experiences,' he said.
Pokemon Ruby and Pokemon Sapphire are the latest releases in the series, coming first to Game Boy Advance on March 17th. The titles were released to great success in Japan last fall. Wizards of the Coast will be wrapping up its Pokemon CCG releases through 2003, with the Skyridge expansion due in April, Legendary Collection II set shipping late spring, and a final Jamboree expansion shipping later this year. There will also be another Pokemon movie released theatrically in the States in May, which combined with the new Game Boy releases will keep this property in the public eye once again.
Huebner's announcement indicated that WotC would continue to support Pokemon organized play for a period of time, but then would end. He urged players to contact the licensor for information. 'I would encourage all of you to contact the Pokemon Company for details regarding its plans for tournaments and organized play events.'
Presumably a new U.S. licensee will be chosen for future Pokemon CCG releases, which would put WotC in the position in which Decipher found itself last year when it was outbid for the Star Wars CCG license by WotC after holding it and producing the game through many releases.
Wizards of the Coast has had an illustrious history with the Pokemon CCG. Huebner's announcement stated that the company had sold nearly 10 billion cards around the world over the last five years, and the game accounted for well over a billion dollars in sales for WotC before and after its acquisition by Hasbro (see 'Hasbro Results Cite Pokemon Decline'). While only a shadow of its former self, Pokemon is still one of the top games in the category and bigger than most games released before and since.