Archive for January, 2008

First Warhammer 40K RPG sells out preorders, taps out its own publisher

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

The announcement is confusing on the surface, but really, I’m thinking the conversation went exactly like this: “We put in all that work, sold the thing out and only made that much? Bugger this, then. Put another dozen novels on the schedule, lads!”

Uh, to explain: after Dark Heresy, the first of three planned RPGs based on Warhammer 40,000, sold out its initial print run in preorders, its publisher Black Industries has announced that it’s getting out of the RPG business. This also has implications for the still-fairly-recently released Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay relaunch, to say nothing of the other two WH40K RPGs that were announced. No word from line developers Green Ronin on whether picking up the license is planned, or if it’s even an option (although they do have interesting details on A Song Of Ice And Fire and the Freeport line in the last installment of their year-end message).

Interesting times indeed. The complete (very brief) announcement is after the jump. (more…)

LEGO turns 50, rapidly realizing own hipness

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the LEGO brick (which I would’ve posted sooner, but I’m still not on my own machine). The famed building-block brand continues to venture into the gaming market (never as quickly as we’d like, as per the long-standing example set by Evil Stevie), and will have a licensed Indiana Jones video game this summer. Looking ahead, this 50th anniversary video has me wondering if a James Bond LEGO game might be a good idea for 2009. Here’s to 50 more years, and a closer working relationship between LEGO and the gamers who love it/them/her.

D&D Minis updated for 4e compatibility, rulebook now online

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

So just how many hands does WotC have, and do any of them know what even one of the others is doing? I mean, not to say anything bad about making the new, updated-for-4th D&D Minis rulebook free online – that’s lovely and thoughtful. What’s odd is that they’d release minis rules that have been adjusted for 4e compatibility and not even seem aware of how the 4e rules are still secret, available only for 5 large and an NDA, and madly speculated-about. Naturally, the minis rules are probably not a rosetta stone of 4e insights; they’re only going to create confusion, and WotC must know this. Hell, is that their goal at this point? Jeez.

True20 goes free, FATE still standing there clearing its throat loudly

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Green Ronin has announced that its True20 system, already an OGLv1 product but subject to licensing fees for logos and branding language, will be getting a new license in ’08 (to go with a slightly revised new edition of the core rules) that frees the logo somehow. No details have been released on the new terms but I’d wager they will be D20 System Trademark License-ish. The differences will, of course, be telling, and probably more charged than usual given the recent D&D4 announcements.

Fred Hicks of Evil Hat would also like to remind you that the Spirit of the Century SRD is totally OGLv1, and while they don’t allow free use of the SOTC brand (but do make deals for it), the FATE brand is as free as it’s ever been. I repeat this here because so many D20-tied campaigns and settings are crying out for some FATE love in my opinion. (*cough*Iron Kingdoms*cough*)

More OGL follies in the run-up to D&D 4th Edition

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

WotC is apparently so jumpy at the prospect of anyone making a D&D4e-compatible product that doesn’t meet their standards that they aren’t settling for the lack of an actual D20 license (which will go a long way to restricting the audience for third-party products to gamers in the know) – they’re charging a $5,000 cover charge for access to 4e rules before D&D 4’s street date. I guess that’s not unreasonable for advance copies of the crown jewels, really, and it’s worth remembering that before 3e was released, nobody got jerk for any price. So, while this news will likely rankle many folks, there isn’t much of a reason to be rankled. What bothers me is A) this sort of stuff is taking the place of a steady flow of competent preview marketing on WotC’s part, and B) stuff like this, from the bottom of the FAQ: “We are making the OGL stronger by better defining it. We’re rolling certain elements that used to be in the d20 license into the OGL, things like community standards and other tangible elements of the d20 license.” Uh huh. Whatever you think of that, it’s a recipe for further atomization of D&D designs and dilution of the brand. I almost wish they’d cancel the 4e SRD release altogether and just sell $5,000 licenses. Why keep taking half measures?

Hasbro pays $77MM for Cranium

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

The story. The deal hasn’t been approved by Cranium’s shareholders yet, and apparently the $77 mil “would be used to cover Cranium’s outstanding debt and to pay its shareholders.” Those shareholders are venture capitalists, including a firm co-founded by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz – recall the famous story of one of the Cranium founders pitching Schultz during a mountain-climbing trip, and the presence of Cranium games in every damn Starbucks there is. The linked article reminds us that Hasbro paid $325MM for WotC nine years ago, which either says that Cranium makes a lot less than it seems to or that venture capital is not really that awesome for a game company to have. On the other hand, going into debt and being forced to sell for $77 million beats a lot of game-industry outcomes I can think of. On the other other hand, Cranium’s founders will be leaving after a transitional period – I’m sure they’ll cry all the way to the bank. Maybe they’ll cook up a new game venture.

Audio Report – Trends and microclimates

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

‘Tis the post season to be catching up, so here goes: another refugee from the holiday season, this Audio Report episode brings us back to the height of the season’s buying rush, just after Black Friday. Steve’s mind seems to have held up to the retail store pressure, but just barely. The differences between national regions, and even local retail areas, come into play during our discussions of current trends in consumer desires. We’re all over the map in Currently Playing, but both Mike and Allan have paid special attention to Portal, of all things. Have a listen, and tell us what you think.