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Oh, don't get me wrong; Richard Garfield is a great guy. Magic: The Gathering was a great game. Wizards of the Coast (WotC) was a great company. Great.
I played Magic: The Fad while it was "hot" in my area. All of the guys at lunch played it. We ate, breathed, and slept on Magic. We built decks while teachers' backs were turned. We wasted all of our money on valuable rares. We called the game a "game that was here to stay, and not a fad or phase."
We were wrong. Over the years, the dozens became several. Now, I know people with old decks; heck, we even played every lunch last year, like two years before --but with one significant difference; only one or two of us were up to date, activly spending money on the frequent new expansions. I still have all of my cards, even a few decks. But I do not spend any more money. It was a fad.
Now, the makers of this fad that so many have held so dearly are desperately trying to stay in buisness. They have launched television advertisements, magazine pullouts, stamps, stickers, pins, and flyers. They have tried to issue as many expansion sets as they could physically accomplish. They have released seperate games that are meant to draw non-players into this fad. Only one of these "seperate games" is not also an expansion.
Sure. Great. Everything so far runs smoothly. WotC is a young company, having not seen its tenth year, and its only selling product is fading out. Therefore, it tries desperately to stay in the game. That's all fine. However, the path that WotC has chosen fills me with rage. I have ripped up more than one Magic card in reading WotC's press releases.
In the spring of 1997, Wizards of the Coast, based in Renton, Washington, started secret negotiations with TSR, makers of the first and most popular role playing games, Dungeons and Dragons, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, and more. As one might guess, having complete control over a fad can make a company quite rich, at least initially. WotC pulled out its big, fat wallet and bought TSR.
TSR's headquarters was moved from Lake Geneva, Wisconsion to Washington state. With it went a large gaming populace, the TSR staff, and GenCon, TSR's big annual game show. The wallet thinned.
Now, the Wizards have fallen through thin ice and are grabbing other companies to struggle back to the surface. TSR could really suffer from this in the long run.
Oh, its not just the fact that WotC is doomed, its also what they are doing to TSR. They are considering a discontinuation of two prominent lines; Birthright and Dark Sun. Dark Sun doesn't even have a staff anymore. They are toning Planescape down and reintroducing its older discontinued brother, the messed up Spelljammer. They are going to bring the Magic: the Gathering worlds into AD&D, too. Dominia is already set in stone, with teams working the translations furiously.
More recently, WotC recieved a monopoly over Collectable Card Games (CCGs) from the US Patent office. Now, any producer of CCGs must pay WotC, a fierce and large competetor, a royalty fee.
Hopefully, this and TSR's staff will rescue everybody from this mess. WotC still has many plusses; it has good sales organization, a qualified staff, excellent artists, a CCG monopoly, and versions of Magic in over a dozen languages, sold world-wide. The Magic phenomina still has yet to hit much of the world.
The last thing that I want is to see AD&D fall down the tubes. Wizards standing on Coasts are bound to get wet. Until WotC looks farther in the future (beyond TSR), I will keep my fingers crossed and hope that they will pull their act together, or Magic becomes a big game again (in another nation or reborn here), or that there is another Richard Garfield out there and he teams with the Wizards.