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The Night of the Long Wands

Word is that Wizards of the Coast laid off up to a couple dozen people yesterday, including some of the most talented members of its game design staff. Wizards has a long history of shedding employees in December, presumably to improve Hasbro’s balance sheet before the end of its fiscal year. They also often end up hiring again early the next year.

No matter the reasons for the cycle, though, it’s a damn shame every time it happens, and my sympathies go out to all my friends caught up in this latest round of cuts. As always, if there’s anything I can do to help any of you, just let me know.

Comments 14

  1. I just picked this up on EnWorld …

    “Here are the names I have confirmed as of a few minutes ago:

    Randy Buehler (VP of digital gaming)
    Andrew Finch (director of digital games)
    Stacy Longstreet (senior art director)
    Julia Martin (editor)
    William Meyers (creative manager, digital design)
    Dave Noonan (game designer)
    Jennifer Paige (online community manager)
    Jennifer Powers (marketing)
    Jonathan Tweet (game designer)

    -Lisa Stevens
    CEO
    Paizo Publishing”

    OMG
    Dave Noonan?
    and Jonathan Tweet?

    Paizo is going to scoop up more talent.
    Probably end up with the DnD license in the next three year, by my count.

  2. I just picked this up on EnWorld …

    “Here are the names I have confirmed as of a few minutes ago:

    Randy Buehler (VP of digital gaming)
    Andrew Finch (director of digital games)
    Stacy Longstreet (senior art director)
    Julia Martin (editor)
    William Meyers (creative manager, digital design)
    Dave Noonan (game designer)
    Jennifer Paige (online community manager)
    Jennifer Powers (marketing)
    Jonathan Tweet (game designer)

    -Lisa Stevens
    CEO
    Paizo Publishing”

    OMG
    Dave Noonan?
    and Jonathan Tweet?

    Paizo is going to scoop up more talent.
    Probably end up with the DnD license in the next three year, by my count.

  3. As much as I like Paizo’s products, I am a “Superscriber” after all, I hope that they don’t end up with the DnD license in the next three years. It’s my hope that Hasbro continue with D&D.

    I don’t find the turnover in digital gaming surprising. They shifted a lot of the Gleemax stuff to Game Table Online and the Digital Tabletop is way behind schedule.

    Noonan and Tweet are surprises, but only moderately so. Both are very talented, though to break with Monte Cook etc. I’ll say that I think that Robin Laws is the most talented RPG game designer out there (then Greg Gorden at least for systems) rather than Tweet. No slight against Jonathan, I’m just in awe of Gumshoe and have always been in awe of DC Heroes.

    I say only moderately so because as talented as they are, they might be better freelancers for the time being.

    My only concern with regard to Hasbro and D&D is that the company doesn’t find D&D’s contribution sufficient to mention in annual or quarterly reports. Which is sad really, especially if you look at the jump this year’s 2nd and 3rd quarter had (or even stability) knowing that some of that boost/stability came from D&D sales. This is one of those cases where consolidated balance sheets don’t help us find out enough info.

  4. As much as I like Paizo’s products, I am a “Superscriber” after all, I hope that they don’t end up with the DnD license in the next three years. It’s my hope that Hasbro continue with D&D.

    I don’t find the turnover in digital gaming surprising. They shifted a lot of the Gleemax stuff to Game Table Online and the Digital Tabletop is way behind schedule.

    Noonan and Tweet are surprises, but only moderately so. Both are very talented, though to break with Monte Cook etc. I’ll say that I think that Robin Laws is the most talented RPG game designer out there (then Greg Gorden at least for systems) rather than Tweet. No slight against Jonathan, I’m just in awe of Gumshoe and have always been in awe of DC Heroes.

    I say only moderately so because as talented as they are, they might be better freelancers for the time being.

    My only concern with regard to Hasbro and D&D is that the company doesn’t find D&D’s contribution sufficient to mention in annual or quarterly reports. Which is sad really, especially if you look at the jump this year’s 2nd and 3rd quarter had (or even stability) knowing that some of that boost/stability came from D&D sales. This is one of those cases where consolidated balance sheets don’t help us find out enough info.

  5. Stephen: That list mostly matches mine, with one addition: Pete Whitely.

    I didn’t list the names at first because some had called for honoring the privacy of the laid-off employees. However, upon reflection, it seems only in their interest for it to be known they’re out of work. That way, others can offer them help.

    And, yeah, letting go Dave Noonan and Jonathan Tweet makes for huge shocks. I can’t imagine they’ll be out of work for long, as they’re both huge talents—as are many of the other names on the list, like Julia Martin and David Finch. (I don’t know the others as well.) It makes me wonder who’s making these decisions and what they could have had in mind. Perhaps there are good reasons, but they’re opaque from my angle.

    Christian: Good points about the reports. As for Jonathan, he’s been with Wizards since long before the TSR purchase. He led the design for the Everway game, and he’s labored over many of the company’s top releases over the past decade.

    Because these people all work for Wizards, you may not hear of many of their accomplishments. Freelancers like Robin (or me) have to toot our own horns loudly to build an audience for our work, but that’s frowned upon in companies like Wizards in which the trademarks are king. If any of these people go freelance, you’ll probably hear a lot more about their talents, but many of them might wind up in the video game industry instead—or leave gaming altogether.

  6. Post
    Author

    Stephen: That list mostly matches mine, with one addition: Pete Whitely.

    I didn’t list the names at first because some had called for honoring the privacy of the laid-off employees. However, upon reflection, it seems only in their interest for it to be known they’re out of work. That way, others can offer them help.

    And, yeah, letting go Dave Noonan and Jonathan Tweet makes for huge shocks. I can’t imagine they’ll be out of work for long, as they’re both huge talents—as are many of the other names on the list, like Julia Martin and David Finch. (I don’t know the others as well.) It makes me wonder who’s making these decisions and what they could have had in mind. Perhaps there are good reasons, but they’re opaque from my angle.

    Christian: Good points about the reports. As for Jonathan, he’s been with Wizards since long before the TSR purchase. He led the design for the Everway game, and he’s labored over many of the company’s top releases over the past decade.

    Because these people all work for Wizards, you may not hear of many of their accomplishments. Freelancers like Robin (or me) have to toot our own horns loudly to build an audience for our work, but that’s frowned upon in companies like Wizards in which the trademarks are king. If any of these people go freelance, you’ll probably hear a lot more about their talents, but many of them might wind up in the video game industry instead—or leave gaming altogether.

  7. I loved the Everway concept, and am a huge fan of Ars Magica. Tweet can be awesome, but he can be “over the edge” sometimes too.

    Most people who know me know that I am an intellectual property stickler, but I am also a creator rights stickler. And I believe the way that most game company’s don’t give some portion of IP rights to creators is a small evil. I understand not granting rights to a module, or even mechanics of a game, but when someone like Wolfgang Baur owns no part of Dark*Matter there’s something wrong with the system. Certainly, core brands like D&D have corporate, rather than individual identity, but in the case of 4e I think the creators should get some system credit and ownership.

    Not likely to happen, but it would be nice.

  8. I loved the Everway concept, and am a huge fan of Ars Magica. Tweet can be awesome, but he can be “over the edge” sometimes too.

    Most people who know me know that I am an intellectual property stickler, but I am also a creator rights stickler. And I believe the way that most game company’s don’t give some portion of IP rights to creators is a small evil. I understand not granting rights to a module, or even mechanics of a game, but when someone like Wolfgang Baur owns no part of Dark*Matter there’s something wrong with the system. Certainly, core brands like D&D have corporate, rather than individual identity, but in the case of 4e I think the creators should get some system credit and ownership.

    Not likely to happen, but it would be nice.

  9. I heard about it this morning through Ted Stark’s FB status. I’d have thought that given the layoffs earlier in the year (of which I was one of the laid-off), it would have been the end of layoffs for the year, but apparently not.

    And it’s a hard time all around. If you’ve been following the publishing house news lately at all, yesterday was a horrible day for trade publishing houses.

    I have hope that it will pick up again soon, but with all the doom and gloom we’re hearing, we’re probably in for a bumpy ride before it does. In the meantime, if you do have leads on freelance editing, you’re always welcome to toss them my direction. 🙂

  10. I heard about it this morning through Ted Stark’s FB status. I’d have thought that given the layoffs earlier in the year (of which I was one of the laid-off), it would have been the end of layoffs for the year, but apparently not.

    And it’s a hard time all around. If you’ve been following the publishing house news lately at all, yesterday was a horrible day for trade publishing houses.

    I have hope that it will pick up again soon, but with all the doom and gloom we’re hearing, we’re probably in for a bumpy ride before it does. In the meantime, if you do have leads on freelance editing, you’re always welcome to toss them my direction. 🙂

  11. I agree with you. When I work on core game concepts/mechanics, I ask for a royalty on the game and any ancillary products. I don’t always get it, but it’s at least a good negotiating tool to leverage for higher flat fees. When I do get it, it means I participate in the property’s success, even if I don’t own it.

    It’s only fair. Plus, the royalties incite me to continue to promote the property after it leaves my hands.

  12. Post
    Author

    I agree with you. When I work on core game concepts/mechanics, I ask for a royalty on the game and any ancillary products. I don’t always get it, but it’s at least a good negotiating tool to leverage for higher flat fees. When I do get it, it means I participate in the property’s success, even if I don’t own it.

    It’s only fair. Plus, the royalties incite me to continue to promote the property after it leaves my hands.

  13. Stacy: Thanks for stopping by. It has been a hard year for Wizards, with many wonderful people—including you!—let go. As you say, it’s clear that Wizards isn’t alone in its troubles, since a number of large publisher began layoffs yesterday too.

    As for freelance editing, I’ll be sure to let you know if I hear of anything. I’m doing a little myself on the side these days for articles for The Lord of the Rings Online, and it pays well. If you haven’t looked into offering your services to big, well-funded websites like that, I recommend checking it out.

    Either way, good luck, and here’s to happy holidays for us all, whether we have a steady paycheck or not!

  14. Post
    Author

    Stacy: Thanks for stopping by. It has been a hard year for Wizards, with many wonderful people—including you!—let go. As you say, it’s clear that Wizards isn’t alone in its troubles, since a number of large publisher began layoffs yesterday too.

    As for freelance editing, I’ll be sure to let you know if I hear of anything. I’m doing a little myself on the side these days for articles for The Lord of the Rings Online, and it pays well. If you haven’t looked into offering your services to big, well-funded websites like that, I recommend checking it out.

    Either way, good luck, and here’s to happy holidays for us all, whether we have a steady paycheck or not!

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