Another chapter in the never-ending storyline of Corporate Idiocy has come to a close. Topps has closed WizKids and discontinued the product lines that originally made the company a success. You can read the official announcement here…
In 2003 Topps, the company long entrenched as a leader in the sports paraphernalia world, made a perfectly natural move. It acquired WizKids, a relatively small company that specialized in gaming. Yes the Jock specialists bought out the Geek specialists. Brilliant.
How could this not work? Topps wanted to bring the sports genre in to gaming, or was it bring a gaming element to the sports merchandising world? Either way, it was not a bad idea in and of itself, but the notion that gobbling up a new company that was making a splash in the gaming industry would be the best route to that goal was at best short-sighted.
I had my doubts about the move from the moment I had heard of it, but my fears were confirmed when the first sports-related game was announced from WizKids. Major League Baseball. I won’t get in to the details of how bad the game actually ended up being. I bought a case of them to give it a whirl with my son. It was simply horrible.
My point though is that I just knew that this was going to happen. I thought long and hard about what type of game could be created using the licenses that Topps held and the gaming architecture know-how at WizKids. From a game perspective the choice was obvious. American Football was the answer. From the mechanics of the game as well as the individual positions, to the ability to use a grid-style map, it just made sense. I actually started getting excited about what they could create! But I knew in my heart of hearts that Topps would insist on Baseball. It’s their bread and butter. No one at Topps would be able to see pass that. Baseball was the choice.
Ultimately, they forced their vision on the folks at WizKids and it didn’t work. Topps should have hired some established game developers internally to explore what could be done with the licenses it held. They could have built something from within using people who were focused on and obsessed with the sport games that were being developed, and by doing so would have likely made a better game.
In the mean-time, WizKids seemed to just die a slow death. I had stopped playing their games a while back as they struggled to find their next big hit after HeroClix faded from its prior glory. I’m saddened to see the company go. Hopefully as the article I linked to above eluded to, they will find a company to sell the game rights to so that they can live on.