Thursday, February 10, 2011

Corporate Arrogance and Licensing Tribulations

So it seems that the license for Warcraft that Fantasy Flight Games had with Blizzard has expired.

Licenses expire all the time and so this isn't a bad thing by itself.  But the disturbing repercussions of it are that all trace of the several games FFG did under that license, their expansions, the support files (FAQ's, rules, etc.) and even all community content (forums) have been completely eradicated from FFG's website.  This is pretty disheartening.

Whenever there is an information hole around any given topic, people are going to quickly try to fill it on their own, from wild speculation to thoughtful analysis.  While honestly there can be any number of possible explanations, the current view that seems to have the most traction is that this was a dick move by Blizzard.  I personally believe this to be the case.  Blizzard has grown more and more arrogant over the years and that "shit-don't-stink" attitude can easily translate into actions that, from a base line money making business stand point make sense, really are just asshole moves that piss off or otherwise alienate a portion of their customers.

I can completely accept that Blizzard has the right and the might to demand a sizable amount of coin for any license for their 800 pound gorilla WoW.  It's practically a license to print money.  I wouldn't bat an eye if I found out that the reason the license wasn't renewed with FFG was because Blizzard wanted too much money.  It's Blizzards IP and they can ask for however much money they feel it's worth.  The loss of the license is really no cause for concern (unless you are a hard core fan boy I guess).

But what possible reason could there be to cause FFG to suddenly erase all trace of the games from their website?  It doesn't make any business sense to do so.  There are a lot of current and potentially even new owners of the game (as the currently held stock gets sold) who are going to want access to the support documentation, read old threads about the game etc.  FFG is pretty good about supporting it's large range of games and so I can't think of a single reason that, of their own accord, they would remove all that content.

So the only other option is that Blizzard made them.  But why would Blizzard do that?  My theory is that some marketing dipshit decided that, without the renewal with FFG, they were going to shop the license to some other publishers and being the license that it is they probably assume someone is going to pick it up.  So why have any internet searches potentially hit FFG rather than the new publisher right?

Let's look at this in a little depth.  First, who besides FFG would be interested in and capable of picking up such a lucrative (and expensive) license?  Honestly there is only really one company who could and that's Hasbro/WotC.  Personally I would lament them getting the license but that's a topic for another day.  None of the other major board game publishers are likely to be interested let alone have the capital to purchase such a license.  So lets say that for the sake of argument Hasbro picks it up and publishes a few new titles.  How would eradicating FFG's content help them at all?  The boardgame community is a fairly small one and most everyone is going to know the difference between Hasbro and FFG.  It won't be hard to find support for the different games even for people who don't know the difference so forcing FFG to dump so much good content is nothing less than sheer arrogance.

Mark first told me about this last night as he had noticed I had World of Warcraft: The Board Game in my collections (it's actually a previously owned flag as I sold it last year) and mentioned this development to me regarding it.  While I occasionally regret having sold the game now I'm really torn about it.  On the one hand my reasons for getting rid of it were, at least at the time, good ones.  But since then I've occasionally wished I hadn't and had even thought about buying it again.  It IS a fun game (at least with the Shadow of War expansion it is).  So do I buy it again since it's eventually going to be OOP?

I will say that if I do, it is likely to be the last thing I buy with the Blizzard logo.  Unless some information comes out that Blizzard had no part in the content being removed I have to assume they were the catalyst as it's the most likely explanation.  I had planned on picking up Diablo III when it comes out but now I'm feeling like giving money to a company whose dickishness has gone this far is out of the question.


Cristin said...

::shakes fist at blizzard:: even if they aren't a cause. They put an addictive chemical in their game that makes you crave it nightly...smaaaartass.

Larry said...

This is why I love you! /hug