CSG Pissing Match

So Wizards of the Coast has apparently received a patent on constructible strategy games. These are games that use punch-out pieces that you assemble into a larger model like a ship or a robot. If you pay attention to games, you may be scratching your head right about now. Wizards has never released a game like this, while Wizkids has a quite popular one in Pirates of the Spanish Main. So what gives? Well, it’s a long and strange story.

I can’t say precisely when those punch out constructible toys first came to market, but I do know that Z-Cardz were on sale by the late 90s. In 2003 Z-Cardz released a game (Z-Cardz: the Game) sold in starters and boosters. As far as I know this was the first “constructible strategy game” on the market. At around this time WotC was also working a project called Punch Bots. This was one of many projects inside WotC that went through a certain amount of development and then got shelved. Punch Bots is the basis of WotC’s patent claim.

In 2004 Wizkids released Pirates of the Spanish Main and it was a big hit in the hobby market. A series of expansions followed, as well as an attempt (Rocketmen) to do something similar for scifi. The following year Pirates won a Vanguard Award at the Origins Awards. This struck me as a bit odd, as Pirates was not the pioneering game of this type. It was far more successful than Z-Cardz certainly, but that’s not really what the Vanguard Award is supposed to be about.

Back in February Wizkids muddied the pool further by announcing the Star Wars Pocketmodel Trading Card Game. This seems to be another constructible strategy game but presumably for licensing reasons it’s being called a TCG. Wizards of the Coast, which has most of the hobby game rights for Star Wars, was likely not pleased by this turn of events. WotC then announced that that they were doing a CSG of their own based on the Transformers (a Hasbro property). That’s coming out this summer and it will be the first time WotC has actually released a game of this type.

So now there’s a weird situation where no one remembers the actual pioneer in this category, but the company with the most popular games of this type is now under threat from a company that has yet to actually release one. I must say I find the patenting a little dubious. The punch out cards existed long before WotC filed, so really they are saying that they invented the idea of attaching a collectible business model game to them. Which may not even be true, depending on the development history of the Z-Cardz game. In the end the whole thing seems like a pissing match between WotC and Wizkids, reminiscent of the Decipher/WotC dogfight that landed the Star Wars license with WotC in the first place.

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