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Wizards of the Coast is the obvious leader in boardgames and trading card games, but that does bring up the question: Why has their only homegrown major success been Magic?

Since 1995, WotC has desperately tried to have another game that matches the success and far reach of Dr Dick's World of Wacky Wizards.

One could certainly argue that they’ve had several successes, but none of them are currently being made. Plus it’s my article, so my rules. You don’t like it? Go to Hell.

Seriously though, thanks for reading. We appreciate your business.

SIX TIMES WOTC TRIED TO GET A SECOND GAME GOING
(i.e. one they themselves designed or developed, not an existing game they acquired)


HONOURABLE MENTION
Netrunner

Only because I talked about it here

HONOURABLE MENTION
Battletech

If I knew anything about the game, it might have made the list. Unfortunately, I have no idea why the game failed aside from the usual reasons (not enough of a market etc.) A quick google search gives me the following unverified reasons from internet randoms:

-The mechanics weren’t great
-There was a way better tabletop miniatures game
-Wizards lost the license/FASA went out of business

I don't know where the truth lies. I just wanted to get this in there before some wanker said "Wait, what about Battletech?"


Edit: Turns out a friend of mine was the lead playtester for Battletech! Small world! Introducing Jason Robinette:


"Here's the short answer:

FASA had just come out with the Shadowrun CCG.

They decided that they wanted Battletech back so that they could continue the game.
(note: the game is still VERY popular, collections sell for a lot)

The last set I worked on with WotC hit the testers, and we basically said... whatever you do, don't make these 6 cards (they allowed mixing between factions, the only thing keeping the game from being broken)

They not only kept those cards, they used them in the advertising.

Result - Someone won that year's championships with (if memory serves) an 11-card deck that was unstoppable.

The game never picked up, and FASA had their own issues to deal with legally... the Battletech CCG (a Richard Garfield design) ended.
"


Much appreciated, Jason!


I've worked with Jason Robinette in the past. He knows what he's doing. Check out his latest offerings over at Hack and Slash Games

And with that, on with the real entries:



JYHAD/VAMPIRE THE ETERNAL STRUGGLE

Imagine that. Wizards of the Coast had a card game called Jyhad. 1996 was a simpler time. The name was changed because it really didn’t fit (Jihad meaning “Holy War”, and a struggle between clans of vampires was anything but holy. I mean unless you count neck holes.)

WotC has several times told the story that the Magic card backs almost changed on many different occasions. With Jyhad/V:TES, this actually happened. This was the days before opaque sleeves were terribly common, so a percentage-based mix-and-match rule was adopted.

As you can imagine, this was clunky as hell.

Jyhad/V:TES is also the only WotC game that had the Deckmaster(™) logo on the back, which hasn’t meant anything for over 20 years, and even when it meant something, it meant nothing. Edit: I'm told original Netrunner had it too. Meh. Facts.

The game did reasonably well at the time, but was deathly slow and really only worked as multiplayer. Despite the magic touch of Richard Garfield, the game didn’t do anything close to Magic numbers.

Seeing the bloody writing on the wall, Wizards abandoned the game in 1996. White Wolf picked up the ball in 2000 and did reasonably well with it until 2010, when the final stake went into the chest of a cult classic.


MLB/NFL/NBA SHOWDOWN

These count as a single entry. My rules. Go to hell.

Magic took the very concept of baseball card collectability and rarity. and wove a game around them. Innovative and groundbreaking, the thought of backtracking and making sports-themed games seemed like a natural one.

MLB Showdown was the first, published in 2000. Appearing at the very beginning of the Acceptable Nerd Culture Era, MLB Showdown was embraced by the RPG nerds that enjoyed sports. The game did reasonably well despite requiring a niche market, though the mechanics quickly drove the gameplay away from mirroring the events of an actual baseball game. One strategy involved walking batters until 40 runs had been scored, then using a rubberband mechanic to win. Most baseball games don't end with basketball scores.

WotC poured a lot into Organized Play, running regionals and nationals for 4 years before pulling OP funding. The 2005 Nationals ended in a 4-way split, so it has four national champions. Because that’s how that works.

NFL and NBA Showdowns came along, and left almost immediately after. Math nerds tend to flock to baseball, the national game of ridiculous statistics, and splitting the target audience was probably not the smartest idea.


HARRY POTTER

I consider this one to be the biggest actual effort to get a second game off the ground. Harry Potter was a hot license (the series hadn’t yet finished), the game was well-constructed, fun, and marketed towards children. Magic players could see the stripped-down mechanics and resource system, and didn’t seem to mind the simplified presentation.

Colours were Lessons. Players had two actions which could be draw another card, play a lesson, play a card, or use an ability. The game was delightfully simple and fun.

The game lasted a few expansions, even introducing a fifth lesson type (Quidditch). Unfortunately the game seemed to devolve into games with 3-turn kills. Simple tactical analysis suggested that playing with Creatures was a terrible idea because spells were way better (kinda how Magic has been for 18 of the past 23 years).

Kids would play Harry Potter, and get annihilated by adults with more cards and less morals. Target audience: Destroyed.

Also Snape kills Dumbledore.


Your tears mean nothing to me.



DUEL MASTERS/KAIJUDO

Originally starting as an alternative to Magic, Duel Masters was jointly developed with Shogakugan, and based on strong sales in Japan, the game was translated and marketed in English-language markets.

Unfortunately, most likely due to the ridiculous similarity to Magic mechanics, and the Duel Masters franchise being rather unknown in the US, sales just weren’t there, and Wizards discontinued the game. It still performed well in the Asian markets, however.

Ten years later, things came around. Based on the longstanding success of the game in Asia (mostly Japan), Wizards attempted to relaunch Duel Masters as Kaijudo, which was similar but rules and cards were redesigned making this more of a reboot.

WotC threw a lot of support behind Kaijudo, but it ultimately failed to perform. While players enjoyed the game, the source material didn’t matter to the majority of them. Kaijudo’s cancellation came as a surprise for a lot of people, since it tended to have large pockets of popularity. Just not enough of them.

Fun Fact: Ian Taylor is undefeated at Kaijudo, having played a single game against Erik.

Whee, that was fun!



THE SIMPSONS

This game made such a huge splash on the gaming world, it doesn’t even appear in the Wikipedia list of Wizards of the Coast games. THEY WON’T EVEN ADMIT THAT IT EXISTS!

But it does exist. I saw the GenCon launch. I even played it.

While the Simpsons is a pretty good license for a game, players didn’t flock to the idea of a Simpsons game. Couple of reasons for this:

-The game had a full-art bleed (no art borders), and therefore would suck. Games will full-art bleeds never do well.

-There has to be a reason for conflict. Magic has superpowerful wizards throwing ghosts at each other. The Simpsons had...scenes that you scored for points.

Meh.

It was also multiplayer. So right there, whatever.

The Simpsons TCG did exactly one base set and zero expansions.

The TV series will outlive all of you.


HERCULES/XENA

Way back in 1998, when Lucy Lawless was young and sexy instead of just sexy, and Kevin Sorbo hadn’t gone completely nuts, WotC made a play for the hottest syndicated TV shows that had swords and stuff (i.e., not LA Law).

Hercules and Xena both came out around the end of the first CCG bubble, where a thousand companies all tried their hand at spinning the gold that Magic had spun. Most of those died the deaths they deserved.

The two games featured screen grabs of the action, leather-clad boobs, and little else.

Coming across as a stripped-down Magic clone, Herc/Xena felt like what they probably were. A quick and nasty attempt to make a game based on a franchise. It might have worked.

Of course it didn’t work.

Players had already become burned-out on Magic clones, even ones done by the Mothership. Xena might have gotten there, but most of the actors in Hercules looked like a lumpy thumb.


There’s my look at six games that WotC failed to make a companion game for Magic. Brand loyalty is definitely a thing, but WotC doesn’t really have it. People are loyal to the games. Magic and D&D both have a gigantic following, but it would have those no matter which company was making them (as long as they weren’t messed up, and even then, people survived the Kamigawa block).