Former Wizards of the Coast CEO Peter Adkison hasn't been idle since the company was sold to Hasbro several years ago. He bought GenCon and has scaled it up, moved it to Indianapolis, and started a second show in Los Angeles. More recently, he announced the founding of Hidden City Games, formed to produce a new game, Clout (see 'Peter Adkison Back in the Games Business'). We caught up with Adkison recently to talk to him about this new venture and where he sees it headed.
Peter, how did you come to find Clout?
Because of my background, I have a lot of people come to me with game ideas. Probably once every three or four weeks somebody comes into my office with an idea for a new game, and you never know where a good idea is going to come from so you always listen. It was August last year, right before GenCon Indy, that Jesper Myrfors came to me with this game idea. Jesper and I had worked together in the original Wizards days; he was the original art director for Magic and has done a lot of design work and art work here and there. When he showed me the game, I immediately liked it; and my wife happened to be in the office that day, and she really liked it too. So over the coming months we rearranged our lives so we would be able to start this company and to run it.
Did the game come first, or did the company come first?
The game. I think it's really important to have a good game idea before you start a game company. I had probably suspected for a long time that I would eventually start another game company, but I think you have to have the right game first.
What is the release schedule for Clout?
We're launching this summer, in the U.S. probably in July, and in Western Europe and Japan also this summer.
Will there be expansion products?
It follows the model of a typical collectable game, so we'll have an expansion about once every four months. For our launch this year we're concentrating in the core hobby games market; and then in the future, if things go well, we will broaden from there. Because I think the game definitely has broader market possibilities than the typical hobby game.
What's the target demographic?
We're starting off with the older gamer--teens and adults, male, people who like games. And then we'll broaden the market by going younger in age through licensed releases next year.
So will the buying pattern for Clout be similar to how a player would acquire collectable card games or collectable miniature games? Will they spend about the same amount per year, or would it be more or less?
I think it will be about the same. A game like Magic or HeroClix is a collectables game with lots of expansions. So if somebody's really into it, I think we'll have lots of great new products for them.
What do you see as the size of the opportunity for Clout?
I don't know (laughs). It's difficult to speculate. I wouldn't have gotten involved in it if I didn't think it had the opportunity to be a significant game in the core hobby game market, but I think there's also the possibility of it becoming bigger and having a broad market impact. So I'm very optimistic about the opportunity.
You're starting out with a substantial international presence. Why did you decide to go into multiple countries at around the same time rather than testing it in one country first and then rolling it out?
I've always been a very strong supporter of international sales, and if you really want to get good sales internationally, it's best to have a release schedule where you're coming out with a game at the same time in all the countries. Because otherwise the product just slips over the borders through gray market trade and it gets into those markets anyway, whether you like it or not. So it's best to establish a partner who's going to be your authorized partner in that country and help them launch the game at about the same time so that they can really own that market from the beginning.
Why did you choose to license the intellectual property rather than produce the game yourself, in any market?
We are making the game ourselves; we're doing the manufacturing; we're just not doing the distribution and marketing. The typical U.S. game company like a WizKids or a Wizards when I was there does everything in the U.S. market. So you build up a whole company that does sales, marketing, R&D, everything. And then you go to a country like Germany or Japan and you find a partner there to work with and they do a lot of the sales and marketing things for you. So the thought hit me, why not have the same relationship with a company in the U.S. I'm just experimenting with a different business model, and so far it seems to be working really well. We own all the intellectual property, and we're doing all the manufacturing and the product development and brand management for the product, but in each country, we work with a marketing partner who handles all the marketing and sales force in that country. It means we have less margin, but we have less overhead.
Why did you choose AEG here in the States?
I've always really respected their ability to do marketing, and organized play, and sales. I think they're a savvy company that is big enough and experienced enough. I didn't want to work with a really big company where Clout would not be that important really. For AEG they're going to give it a lot of attention because it's an opportunity for them as well.
Do you see Hidden City as a vehicle to expand beyond Clout, or is it specifically to create Clout?
Right now we're not pursuing any other games. For right now we're focused around Clout. I think that it's best to be focused, especially in the beginning. We'll see how it goes.
Who owns Hidden City?
We have a collection of shareholders. Jesper, the game's inventor, owns a big piece of it. I won a piece of it. And I brought on board several people who had significant holdings in Wizards of the Coast who I'd worked with before. So it's mainly employees and friends.
What do you want Hidden City to become?
Right now our plan is to be focused around the development of Clout as a game. At this point in time we don't have a vision beyond being the Clout company.
Is there anything else that you want to communicate to our readers -- retailers and other members of the trade?
The reason I like this game is that it's the first game that I've seen that integrates so much manual dexterity. It's fun to throw things (laughs) and try to get things to land where you want them. So it has the fun of a throwing-type game but with the strategy that you'd expect in a hobby game. I think it's a compelling combination and I hope people will check it out.