Monday, November 10, 2008

The 'Kids Are Not All Right

The announcement came under the simple heading Announcement.
The Topps Company announced today that WizKids will immediately cease operations and discontinue its product lines.

Scott Silverstein, CEO of Topps, said “This was an extremely difficult decision. While the company will still actively pursue gaming initiatives, we feel it is necessary to align our efforts more closely with Topps current sports and entertainment offerings which are being developed within our New York office.”

Upon notifying our partners, Topps will immediately pursue strategic alternatives so that viable brands and properties, including HeroClix, can continue without noticeable disruption. To that end, WizKids will continue supporting Buy it By the Brick redemptions for Arkham Asylum, and the December Organized Play events for HeroClix.

For consumer announcements, please refer to over the coming days for further information.
I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Plastics.
- The Graduate

The sudden and unexpected demise of Wizkids has many likely causes, and if I knew anyone still there, I might even find them out. But since I worked for the about five years back, most of the original team have left, voluntarily or involuntarily or in a combination of the two. So while I can guess about what goes through the Topps' executives minds, I can't really speak to it.

But I do know that oil prices have shot up in the past few years, and with the price of oil, the price of plastic. And that cannot be good for a company's bottom line.

We have a tendency to say that games are "recession proof", but I point out that our games today are not the games of the 70s - we depend a lot more on economies of scale and higher production values than we did back in the early days of the hobby. We have made real the dreams of inexpensive, prepainted miniatures, but those dreams have depended on an economic framework that may no longer be viable.

My sympathies for those that have been "reduced" by this latest business move.

More later,

Update: Wizkids plastic figures come out of the boomtown of Guangzhou, which is now emptying out as a result of factory closings. The story is here. Loss of liquidity is the big reason for the closings, and up to 130,000 people per day are leaving the city to go back to their home provinces.

And this will come full circle to Seattle in that the West Coast ports do much of their business with Asian manufacturers.