A Long Time Ago in a Corporation Far ,Far Away

Over on ENWorld, someone asked me why my proposed Star Wars space combat miniatures games never got off the ground when I was working at WotC lo these many years ago. Figured I might as well post it here, as I’m sure some of ya’ll will find this of interest.

First, the folks behind the original WotC minis division were trying to start a traditional minis business with primarily metal minis. This is a business model that can pay off in spades if done right but it takes time to build up. We were trying to launch this in the gonzo Pokemon era, during which such long term strategies were looked up as outmoded. The VP who oversaw the division lost all interest in what we were doing when we told him we weren’t going to make 10 million dollars the first year.

Second, WotC internal politics are viciously territorial. We were a new division and basically no one wanted to play ball with us.

Third, in the midst of all this there was a move to use Hasbro properties instead of licensed ones. I pushed for a Star Wars game but management didn’t want to do it because they’d have to pay royalties. One would think this would have occurred to them when they were negotiating for the Star Wars license.

So plans for a Star Wars game were shelved and we started working on a GI Joe minis game instead. I really wanted to do a WWII game, so I was briefly hopeful we could do classic Joe, but it was to be Joe vs. Cobra. Still, a good opporunity for an introductory minis game and this was to be the first attempt at a pre-painted plastic game. I started designing the game and we did some focus group testing that went very well, but less than two months into that project the plug was pulled. The sales people had decided that since GI Joe didn’t have a current TV show, it wasn’t worth doing a game. This just goes to show you how the success of Pokemon has messed with people’s minds. Like GI Joe isn’t one of the best known brands in the world, current TV show or not. The GI Joe game had been scheduled to launch in the summer of 2001. In other words, in the wake of 9/11 there would have been a game in toy stores where a “real American hero” fought Cobra terrorists. Another missed opportunity.

So I left the company not having gotten to do either a Star Wars minis game or a World War II minis game. Naturally enough, WotC did a Star Wars game last year and now they are about to launch a WWII game (the Axis and Allies minis game). So either I was a man ahead of my time or I just had the worst goddamn luck.

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