|Subsidiary of Hasbro|
|Industry||Collectible card games, role-playing games, magazines|
|Headquarters||Renton, Washington, USA|
|Products||Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, Pokémon Trading Card Game, Kaijudo Trading Card Game|
Wizards of the Coast LLC (often referred to as WotC // or simply Wizards) is an American publisher of games, primarily based on fantasy and science fiction themes, and formerly an operator of retail stores for games. Originally a basement-run role-playing game publisher, the company originated and popularized the collectible card game genre with Magic: The Gathering in the mid-1990s. It also acquired the popular Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game by purchasing the failing company TSR, and further increased its success by publishing the licensed Pokémon Trading Card Game. The company's corporate headquarters are located in Renton, Washington, United States.
Wizards of the Coast publishes role-playing games, board games, and collectible card games. They have received numerous awards, including several Origins Awards. The company has been a subsidiary of Hasbro since 1999. All Wizards of the Coast stores were closed in 2004.
Wizards of the Coast was founded by Peter Adkison in 1990 just outside Seattle, Washington, and its current headquarters are located in nearby Renton. Originally the company only published role-playing games such as the third edition of Talislanta and its own The Primal Order. The 1992 release of The Primal Order, a supplement designed for use with any game system, brought legal trouble with Palladium Books suing for references to Palladium's game and system. The suit was settled in 1993.
In 1991, Richard Garfield approached Wizards of the Coast with the idea for a new board game called RoboRally, but was turned down because the game would have been too expensive for Wizards of the Coast to produce. Instead, Adkison asked Garfield if he could invent a game that was both portable and quick-playing, to which Garfield agreed.
Adkison set up a new corporation, Garfield Games, to develop Richard Garfield's collectible card game concept, originally called Manaclash, into Magic: The Gathering. This kept the game sheltered from the legal battle with Palladium, and Garfield Games then licensed the production and sale rights to Wizards until the court case was settled, at which point the shell company was shut down. Wizards debuted Magic in July 1993 at the Origins Game Fair in Dallas. The game proved extremely popular at Gen Con in August 1993, selling out of its supply of 2.5 million cards, which had been scheduled to last until the end of the year. The success of Magic generated revenue that carried the company out from the handful of employees in 1993 working out of Peter's original basement headquarters into 250 employees in its own offices in 1995. In 1994, Magic won both the Mensa Top Five mind games award and the Origins Awards for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Board Game of 1993 and Best Graphic Presentation of a Board Game of 1993.
In 1994, Wizards began an association with The Beanstalk Group, a brand licensing agency and consultancy, to license the Magic brand. After the success of Magic, Wizards published RoboRally in 1994, and it soon won the 1994 Origins Awards for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Board Game and Best Graphic Presentation of a Board Game. Wizards also expanded its role-playing game line by buying SLA Industries from Nightfall Games and Ars Magica from White Wolf, Inc. in 1994. In 1995, Wizards published another card game by Richard Garfield, The Great Dalmuti, which won the 1995 Best New Mind Game award from Mensa. In August 1995, Wizards released Everway and then four months later closed its roleplaying game product line. Also in 1995, Wizards' annual sales passed US$65 million.
Acquisition of TSR and Pokémon TCG
Wizards announced the purchase of TSR, the cash-strapped makers of Dungeons & Dragons, on April 10, 1997. Wizards acquired TSR and Five Rings Publishing Group for $25 million. Many of the creative and professional staff of TSR relocated from Wisconsin to the Renton area. Wizards used TSR as a brand name for a while, then retired it, allowing the TSR trademarks to expire. Between 1997 and 1999, the company spun off several well-loved but poorly selling campaign settings (including Planescape, Dark Sun and Spelljammer) to fan groups, focusing business primarily on the more profitable Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms lines.
In Summer 1997, Wizards revisited the concept of a 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons, having first discussed it soon after the purchase of TSR. Looking back on the decision in 2004, Adkison stated: "Obviously, [Wizards] had a strong economic incentive for publishing a new edition; sales for any product line tend to spike when a new edition comes out, assuming the new edition is an improvement over the first. And given the change in ownership we thought this would be an excellent opportunity for WotC to 'put its stamp on D&D'." He later "Set [the] overall design direction" for the new edition of D&D. Wizards released the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons in 2000, as well as the d20 System. With these releases came the Open Game License, which allowed other companies to make use of those systems.
The new edition of the D&D game won multiple Origins Awards in 2000 such as Best Roleplaying Game for Dungeons & Dragons and Best Graphic Presentation of a Roleplaying Game, Adventure, or Supplement for the Monster Manual. In 2002, Wizards sponsored a design contest which allowed designers to submit their campaign worlds to Wizards, to produce an entirely original campaign world; Wizards selected "Eberron", submitted by Keith Baker, and its first hardcover book was released in June 2004. The Eberron Campaign Setting won the 2004 Origins Award for Best Role-Playing Supplement. In 2003 Wizards released version 3.5 of Dungeons & Dragons and the d20 system. Wizards helped to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the D&D game at Gen Con Indy 2004.
On August 2, 1997, Wizards of the Coast was granted U.S. Patent 5,662,332 on collectible card games. In January 1999, Wizards of the Coast began publishing the highly successful Pokémon Trading Card Game having acquired the rights in August 1998. The game proved to be very popular, selling nearly 400,000 copies in less than six weeks, and selling 10 times better than Wizards' initial projections. There was such a high demand for Pokémon cards that some sports card series were discontinued in 1999 because so many printers were producing Pokémon cards. The game won the 1999 National Parenting Center's Seal of Approval.
Within a year, Wizards had sold millions of copies of the Pokémon game, and the company released a new set that included an instructional CD-ROM. Wizards continued to publish the game until 2003. One of Nintendo's affiliates, Pokémon USA, had begun producing a new edition for the game before the last of its agreements with Wizards expired September 30, and Wizards filed suit against Nintendo the following day, October 1, 2003. The two companies resolved their differences in December 2003 without going to court.
Acquisition by Hasbro
Seeing the continued success of Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering, the game and toy giant Hasbro bought Wizards of the Coast in September 1999, for about US$325 million. Hasbro had expressed interest in purchasing Wizards of the Coast as early as 1994, and had been further impressed after the success of its Pokémon game. Avalon Hill was made a division of Wizards of the Coast, in late 1999; the company had been purchased by Hasbro in the summer of 1998. In 2004, Avalon Hill became a subsidiary of Hasbro's Wizards of the Coast division.
Vince Caluori became President of Wizards of the Coast in November 1999. As of January 1, 2001, Peter Adkison resigned from Wizards. Chuck Huebner became President and CEO of Wizards of the Coast in June 2002, and Loren Greenwood succeeded Huebner in these positions in April 2004. Greg Leeds succeeded Greenwood as President and CEO of Wizards of the Coast in March 2008.
In November 1999, Wizards announced that Gen Con would leave Milwaukee after the 2002 convention. Hasbro sold Origins to GAMA, and in May 2002 sold Gen Con to Peter Adkison. Wizards also outsourced its magazines by licensing Dungeon, Dragon, Polyhedron, and Amazing Stories to Paizo Publishing. Wizards released the Dungeons & Dragons miniatures collectible pre-painted plastic miniatures games in 2003, and added a licensed Star Wars line in 2004, and through its Avalon Hill brand an Axis & Allies World War II miniatures game in 2005. Wizards of the Coast's book publishing division has produced hundreds of titles that have sold millions of copies in over 16 languages.
After the company's great success in 1999 with Pokémon, Wizards of the Coast acquired and expanded The Game Keeper, a US chain of retail gaming stores, eventually changing its name to Wizards of the Coast, including the company's flagship gaming center on The Ave in Seattle for several years, and its retail stores, which were mostly in shopping malls in the US. The gaming center was closed by March 2001 and eventually Wizards announced in December 2003 that it would close all of its stores in order to concentrate on game design. The stores were closed in the spring of 2004.
In late 2000, Wizards laid off 100 employees reportedly in part due to weakening demand for the Pokémon Trading Card Game and by 2003 the company employed 850 people.
In the early 2000s, Wizards won multiple Origins Awards such as: 2001 Best Role-Playing Game Supplement (Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting) and the Best Game Related Novel (Clan War 7th Scroll: The Lion), 2002 Best Role-Playing Adventure (City of the Spider Queen), 2005 Collectible Card Game or Expansion of the Year (Ravnica: City of Guilds expansion for Magic: The Gathering) and Gamer’s Choice Best Historical Game of the Year (Axis and Allies Collectible Miniatures Game), and the 2006 Miniature or Miniatures Line of the Year (Colossal Red Dragon).
Ethan Gilsdorf, for the New York Times, reported that "Dungeons & Dragons has slumped, buffeted by forces external and internal. The company does not release sales figures, but analysts and gaming experts agree that sales of the game, and all tabletop role-playing ones, have been dwindling for years. Ryan Scott Dancey, chief executive of the game company Goblinworks and a former vice president at Wizards of the Coast, said the overall market peaked between 1999 and 2003 and has been in steady decline since 2005".
In early 2006, Wizards of the Coast filed a lawsuit against Daron Rutter, who was then administrator of the MTG Salvation website (on which he was known as "Rancored Elf"). The charges stemmed from Rutter publicly posting confidential prototypes for upcoming Magic: The Gathering card sets to the MTG Salvation forums, ten months before the cards were to be released. Mark Rosewater explained the outcome: "I can say that we [Wizards of the Coast] settled the lawsuit with Rancored Elf out of court to both parties' satisfaction". After the settlement, in a post on the MTG Salvation website, Rutter wrote, "I'm no longer interested in hearing any information about Wizards' products that aren't already publicly available. I'll continue to be a moderator, and I'll continue to be an active member of MTG Salvation. I'm not here to badmouth anyone and I'm happy to put this behind me. I continue to appreciate Wizards for putting out a game that I've enjoyed for almost ten years, and hope to enjoy for many more".
Paizo Publishing's license to produce Dragon and Dungeon magazines, which Paizo had been publishing since it spun off from Wizards of the Coast's periodicals department in 2002, expired in September 2007. Wizards then moved the magazines to an online model. On June 6, 2008, Wizards released the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, with the retail availability of a new set of core rulebooks. Wizards began introducing 4th Edition online content in Dragon and Dungeon magazines. 4th Edition was designed to offer more streamlined game play, while the new rules framework intended to reduce the preparation time needed to run a game and make the game more accessible to new players.
Throughout the 2000s, Wizards continued to release new editions of Magic: The Gathering (Seventh Edition in 2001, Eighth Edition in 2003, Ninth Edition in 2005, and Tenth Edition in 2007). In 2009, Wizards announced a new edition called Magic 2010 which was the first major rules change to Magic since the Revised Edition was released in 1994. On this overhaul, Aaron Forsythe said "the core set has been completely marginalized by the enfranchised player base. It has been perceived as merely a list of cards legal in Standard and little more, and under those circumstances it tends to drift off shelves and out of the public consciousness, making it harder for new players to find the proper entry point. But Magic 2010 will change all that. This set is Magic at its most pure, and it should appeal to players of all skill levels. [...] Another part of our plan to keep the core set relevant is that it will be refreshed every year, not every other year [...] and will give us a much more structured and predictable release schedule of three expert-level expansions and one core set each year". Magic 2010 was the first core set since Beta to feature new cards and it was the first core set with planeswalkers.
By 2008, the company employed over 300 people. On April 6, 2009, Wizards of the Coast suspended all sales of its products for the Dungeons & Dragons games in PDF format from places such as OneBookShelf and its subsidiaries RPGNow.com and DRIVETHRURPG.com. This coincided with a lawsuit brought against eight people in an attempt to prevent future copyright infringement of their books, and included the 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons products that were made available through these places as well as all older editions PDFs of the game.
In 2014, 20th Century Fox acquired the screen rights to Magic the Gathering to turn the property into a movie series with Simon Kinberg attached to the project. Wizards filed a lawsuit against Cryptozoic Entertainment and Hex Entertainment in 2014 alleging that their online card game Hex: Shards of Fate was a Magic the Gathering clone. All three companies agreed to a settlement the following year. In 2015, it was reported that an estimated 20 million people played Magic the Gathering around the world and that the game had a thriving tournament scene, a professional league and a weekly organized game program called Friday Night Magic.
In 2012, Wizards announced a public playtest to develop a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons called D&D Next. The 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons was released on July 15, 2014, with the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set featuring a set of pre-generated characters, a set of instructions for basic play, and the adventure module Lost Mine of Phandelver. In 2014, 126,870 units of the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set were sold. In 2018, 306,670 units of the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set were sold. In 2015, Wizards won the following Origins Awards: Role-Playing Game Fan Favorite (Dungeon & Dragons: Players Handbook), Role-Playing Supplement Fan Favorite (Dungeon & Dragons: Monster Manual), and Collectible Card Game (Magic the Gathering: Khans of Tarkir).
Since the release of 5th edition, there have been over twenty Dungeon & Dragons books published including new rulebooks, campaign guides and adventure modules. 2017 had "the most number of players in its history — 12 million to 15 million in North America alone". Mary Pilon, for Bloomberg, reported that sales of 5th edition Dungeon & Dragons "were up 41 percent in 2017 from the year before, and soared another 52 percent in 2018, the game’s biggest sales year yet. [...] In 2017, 9 million people watched others play D&D on Twitch, immersing themselves in the world of the game without ever having to pick up a die or cast a spell". In 2016, Wizards of the Coast partnered with OneBookShelf to create an online community content program called DMsGuild that allows creators to make and sell content using Wizards of the Coast properties. In addition to being able to purchase community content, older editions of Dungeon & Dragons are available to be purchased on DMsGuild as PDFs or as print on demand books.
People love their jobs here, but it isn't all sunshine. There was talk of explosive yelling matches and the chaos of fast-approaching deadlines. [...] Anytime the mention of deadlines came up, higher-ups in the company grimaced, and some ground-level employees nearly jumped with fright. On average, the company releases a major set of Magic: The Gathering cards in the spring and fall, and two ancillary sets of cards (which include specialty and self-contained card sets) in-between the major releases. On the Dungeons & Dragons side, each year sees a new major storyline adventure with a full marketing push, a separate adventure, and one or two ancillary books full of references and world-building for the players. This amount of output is extreme, and, as [Hugh] McMullen, mentioned earlier, each product has two to three years of development behind it.
In April 2019, Wizards of the Coast announced gaming industry veteran James Ohlen as the head of its new studio based in Austin, Texas, later revealed in January 2020 as Archetype Entertainment. In June 2019, Netflix announced that Anthony and Joe Russo would partner with Wizards to create an animated series based on the mythology of Magic the Gathering. The Russo brothers are set to executive produce the series, with writers Henry Gilroy and Jose Molina as showrunners and Bardel Entertainment on animation.
In July 2019, Joe Deaux, for Bloomberg, reported that "Magic is part of the [Hasbro’s] 'franchise brands,' a segment that accounted for $2.45 billion in net revenue for the company last year, bigger than its emerging, partner and gaming brand units combined. [Chris] Cocks said Magic accounts for a 'meaningful portion' of that, with KeyBanc estimating the game’s contribution is already more than $500 million—including both the physical cards and the nascent digital version. Of the franchise brands, only Magic and Monopoly logged revenue gains last year". In open beta testing since September 2018, Wizards has released a Hearthstone competitor called Magic: The Gathering Arena which is a free-to-play digital collectible card game with microtransaction purchases. Brett Andress, an analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets, predicts Magic: The Gathering Arena adding as much as 98 cents a share in incremental earnings to results by 2021 (which is at least a 20% boost). Deaux wrote that "nearly 3 million active users will be playing Arena by the end of this year, KeyBanc estimates, and that could swell to nearly 11 million by 2021 according to its bull case scenario—especially if it expands from PCs to mobile. That’s just active users, and registered users could be higher by the millions. Already, according to Hasbro, a billion games have been played online".
During the Hasbro Fourth Quarter and Full-Year 2019 Earnings Conference Call in February 2020, Chief Executive Officer Brian D. Goldner said "we delivered compelling gaming experiences, led by the work of our teams at Wizards of the Coast. Our positive results to date have us on plan to double Wizards of the Coast coast revenues over five years from 2018 to 2023. Magic: The Gathering revenues increased more than 30% in the year, behind double-digit growth in tabletop play and a strong first year for Magic: The Gathering Arena. Dungeons & Dragons revenues grew for the sixth straight year".
In June 2020, Ash Parrish, for Kotaku, wrote "with the events surrounding the murder of George Floyd by police, video game companies have made statements in support of their Black fans, employees, and communities. Wizards has made a similar statement, but Black and Brown members of the community have criticized the action calling it 'an act of gross tokenism' while highlighting instances of racism in Magic's cards". The New York Times, Polygon and Kotaku all reported that Wizards of the Coast then banned seven cards depicting racist imagery from tournament sanctioned play and removed the card art from the official card index site Gatherer. These cards, Invoke Prejudice, Cleanse, Stone-Throwing Devils, Pradesh Gypsies, Jihad, Imprison, and Crusade, date back to 1994. Polygon highlighted that the Invoke Prejudice card "effectively kills off creatures that don’t look like the creatures already on the table" and that the card on Gatherer was displayed "at a web URL ending in '1488,' numbers that are synonymous with white supremacy".
Polygon reported "just one week later, on June 17, the D&D team announced that it would be making changes to portions of its 5th edition product line that fans have called out for being insensitive. That includes racist portrayals of a people known as the Vistani, an in-fiction analog for the Romani people. The company will also be making a substantive change to character creation to broaden the permissible spectrum of character types within each of the game’s many races". Historically, some races in Dungeons & Dragons have been automatically evil, and have been described with "language used to denigrate nonwhite peoples of the real world, specifically those of Asian or Black ethnicity". In their official statement, the D&D Team wrote: "throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the peoples in the game—orcs and drow being two of the prime examples—have been characterized as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated. That’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in. Despite our conscious efforts to the contrary, we have allowed some of those old descriptions to reappear in the game".
In July 2020, Wizards of the Coast added a sensitivity disclaimer to some legacy products that are on sale digitally. Many of these products feature cultures inspired by Asia, Mesoamerica and the Middle East. Sebastian Modak, for The Washington Post, reported that the tabletop community has widely approved these changes. Modak wrote that "in its statement addressing mistakes around portrayals of different peoples in the D&D universe, Wizards of the Coast highlighted its recent efforts in bringing in more diverse voices to craft the new D&D source books coming out in 2021. But in a widely circulated statement, Orion D. Black, a narrative designer who was contracted by Wizards of the Coast for seven months, described a workplace where they felt tokenized and neglected. [...] These conversations — around depictions of race and alleged treatment of employees of marginalized backgrounds and identities — have encouraged players to seek out other tabletop roleplaying experiences".
Games and products
In addition to Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon, Wizards has produced numerous other games, including board, card, miniature, and role-playing games. They also publish novels based on games such as Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering and Legend of the Five Rings.
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