News Digest Episode 124
This is a copy of the “script” we used to organise Brainwaves Episode 124. It is not a full transcript but should give you an overview of the news as we reported it.
- At the beginning of 2022 Embracer group, a Swedish based company that owns many different games studios, completed its purchase of Asmodee. Since that time we have reported many times on the moves by that company to expand, bring on questionable investment, and generally gobble up as much of the global market as it could.
- Now it seems that its period of rapid growth is over and Embracer is having to tighten the purse strings. This was originally reported on site Boardgamewire and has also been covered across the gaming hobby on IGN and ICV2, as it also affects the world of computer games.
- From the restructuring announcement on Embracer’s homepage. This is CEO Lars Wingefors who was also one of the co-founders.
- “Today we announce a comprehensive restructuring program that will enable us to realize untapped potential in Embracer Group and better optimize the use of our resources. Across the group, we are now initiating multiple actions to strengthen our cash flow generation and leverage our portfolio of IPs to become a stronger company and setting out on a stable future to build even greater games to the benefit of gamers and fans across the globe ”
- The CEO also put out an open letter in which they said this:
- The program is divided into different phases until March 2024 with focus on cost savings, capital allocation, efficiency and consolidation. The initial phase, which is initiated immediately, mainly targets cost savings across the group. The next phase, which also starts immediately, will require further analysis to determine specific actions. The last phase will focus on internal consolidation, further resource utilization and more synergies across the Group. The actions for each affected company will be implemented by the new interim COO and CSO in collaboration with each operative group CEO and management teams. Embracer currently engages close to 17,000 people and while that number will be lower by the end of the year, it is too early to give an exact forecast on this.
- It is painful to see talented team members leave. Our people are what make up the very fabric of Embracer. I understand and respect that many of you will be worried about your own position and I don’t have all the answers to all questions. I want to be clear that the decisions about this program were not taken lightly.
- What this means for the companies owned by Embracer is that there will be a lot of layoffs across the various studios and some in development projects will not be released. The company is looking to reduce their Capital Expenditure by about £200 million in the 2024/2025 Financial Year.
- The effort is being spearheaded by Matthew Karch the interim Chief Operating Officer and Phil Rogers the interim Chief Strategy Officer
nuTSR goes under
- We have covered many times on this cast the company often referred to as nuTSR. For those of you not familiar a little history is likely in order.
- Tactical Studies Rules was the original company that released Dungeons and Dragons way back in 1974. That company was eventually bought by Wizards of the Coast in 1997 when TSR was close to bankruptcy. Wizards of the Coast went onto release various versions of Dungeons and Dragons over the years from 3rd edition to the now incredibly popular 5th edition of the game that has seen the fortunes of both DnD and Wizards on the continual rise.
- Some however were unhappy with the strides Wizards were making in bringing Dungeons and Dragons to a wider and more diverse audience and decided to revive the name Tactical Studies Rules and pursue their own RPGs that were more ‘traditional’ in flavour and would ignore all the ‘woke’ nonsense that they perceived was being committed by those behind the current edition of Dungeons and Dragons.
- This version of the company was set up by Ernie Gygax Jr, son of E Gary Gygax, and Justin Lanassa. It is colloquially referred to as nuTSR. They have had all sorts of controversies from various examples of white supremacist language in their upcoming Star Frontiers RPG to posting transphobic, homophobic and various other horrible things to their twitter accounts.
- They managed to kick up enough of a fuss to attract the attention of Wizards of the Coast lawyers, the company that currently owns the rights to publish Dungeons and Dragons. Wizards sued nuTSR in order to stop them publishing Star Frontiers as they believed it was bringing the DnD brand into disrepute. That lawsuit also included accusations of perjury with regards to the setting up of nuTSR on the part of Justin Lanasa.
- This was all back in episode 107 and since then things have been relatively quiet.
- It seems now that everything is likely over for nuTSR. Shared on Twitter by David Flor, whose tweets we have shared before regarding the original Star Frontiers controversy,
- Huge news… NuTSR has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and has asked for a stay in the WotC case.
- There were some details that came out of the bankruptcy filings. nuTSRs gross revenue for 2023 up that point was $621.93. Their liabilities are $384,000.
- It’s our understanding that chapter 7 Bankruptcy is the kind that a company cannot come back from. The company will have its assets sold off to pay as much debt as possible and then be dissolved.
ITU issue new statement
- In Episode 122 we covered the news that youtube channel Quackalope had been effectively accused of Blackmail by publisher Into the Unknown, the makers of Aeon Trespass Odyssey.
- Jesse Andreson, the head of Quackalope, had issued a statement video on the 23rd May which we covered, and since then there had been no further movement on the story. Until now.
- On the 17th of June Into the Unknown issued a new statement, responding to the video that Jesse had put out. As for the last time there is quite a lot of text so we aren’t going to cover it all. The piece starts out like this
- “Hello, this is Into the Unknown Studio. We are yet again responding to the words of Mr. Jesse Anderson, aka Quackalope, in relation to his follow up videos, “Our Statement” and the Live Stream. We would very much like to wish it was all a big misunderstanding. Sadly, it was not. We are disappointed in Mr. Anderson’s continued denial, lack of accountability and ethics, and his efforts to change the narrative and misrepresent the facts yet again. We also categorically condemn the casual linguistic racism Mr. Anderson employs in the former video, suggesting it was some kind of ‘language barrier’ that led to a misunderstanding. Despite being based in Europe, we know English well enough, our correspondence is also checked by a native speaker. We heard Mr. Anderson loud and clear.”
- They go onto to accuse Jesse Anderson of having a pattern of behaviour that the company found questionable at best.
- They detail an incident involving the game Kingdoms Forlorn that they sent a prototype to Quackalope to play. During one of the videos Jesse committed to giving away one of the miniatures from the prototype without first consulting with Into the Unknown. Into the Unknown subsequently cleared this giveaway with Quackalope but felt they were put in a place where they couldn’t do anything else.
- They say
- “This strongarming tactic – to weaponize his followers – is something Mr. Anderson is known for, and to which you will find ample evidence across all his videos. He is said to have suggested to his fans to ‘raid’ other YT creators videos’ comment sections, to recruit new viewers. This behavior is also widely reported by other sources, in other cases, from fellow Youtubers, commentators, boardgame designers”
- Their final accusation in this statement points to the posts Jesse made up to and around “The Horrible Truth of Aeon Trespass Odyssey”. Quackalope made many vidoes around the game all with the #aeonsend. This was not the hashtag that Into The Unknown were using across their content and other creators. That was #aeontresspassodyssey. The only video of the several the channel created that did have the correct hashtag was “The Horrible Truth” one.
- Into The Unknown also accuse Quackalope of releasing that at prime time for Youtube and the other vidoes at suboptimal times. Into the Unknown attach a screen capture to prove their point.
- It is worth pointing out that we weren’t expecting anything more from Quackalope after the last video due to Jesse’s studying at the Yeshiva and his imminent wedding. The horrible truth video has been removed from the channel.
Asmodee opens European Distribution Hub
- As reported by Boardgamewire, Asmodee, the company that likely owns some of your favourite publishers, is trying to make it easier for stores to get their games, at least in Europe.
- Asmodee have launched the European Player Network which will be a central hub for European retailers to get the games that are produced by Asmodee owned publishers and more besides.
- The article from Boardgamewire also highlighted that Embracer will be looking at some of the properties Asmodee own to turn into videogames and that Asmodee brought in $1.2 billion last year for Embrace. This was against $1.25 billion for the PC and console segments of the company.
Diana Jones Finalists announced
- At Brainwaves we really like the Diana Jones Award. This is an annual award given out at every Gencon to celebrate excellence in gaming. It has been given to conventions, individual designers, games, and even movements within gaming.
- This year’s finalists for the award have just been announced. They are
- Linda Codega, journalist and critic working for io9 and Gizmodo.
- Coyote and Crow RPG by Connor Alexander and published by Coyote and Crow. This is a game with native american themes and setting details written by people from that cultural background.
- Journeys through the Radiant Citadel which is a Dungeons and Dragons sourcebook written by people of colour and containing a setting featuring places inspired by the various cultures of the people who wrote it. It was the first DnD book to be written entirely by people of colour.
- Rosenstrasse a roleplaying game published by Unruly War Birds and written by Moyra Turkington, and Dr. Jessica Hammer. This is an RPG about the loss of civil liberties in Berlin under the Third Reich, and a historical women’s protest.
- Cole Wherle, designer at Leder (Leader) Games and co-founder of Wherlegig. Cole is probably best known for Root.
Renegade Games issues Cease and Desist
- This next story was originally reported by site Cannibal Halflings Gaming
- Renegade Game Studios, publishers of Artisans of Splendent Vale and the Power Rangers RPG, seemed to send their lawyers after a company called Polyhedral Knights. Polyhedral Knights were just at the end of a crowdfunding campaign for an RPG called Renegade City.
- On the 16th of June, they received a Cease and Desist from Renegade games that said included the following:
- “Unfortunately, your use of the term “Renegade” in the title of your new game creates the likelihood that consumers might be confused between our client’s games and your game, or believe that the two are connected or affiliated. The likelihood of confusion is particularly acute because you are using the “Renegade” element on the identical types of products that are sold by Renegade, and you are both selling to the same types of consumers in the same market channels. As such, Renegade must ask that you agree to rename your game to remove the “Renegade” element. As such, Renegade must ask that you agree to rename your game to remove the “Renegade” element.”
- This was received about 9 hours before the crowdfunding campaign was due to end. The goal of that campaign was $3000 and the creator said there was no way they could fight the charge.
- Thankfully this story seems to have had a happy ending.
- Posting on the 19th of June the Polyhedral Knights said on their facebook page
- “Hey there everyone. Good news. I talked with the lawyers representing Renegade Game Studios. It seems to be a misunderstanding and once we talked, we both saw each other’s side on a few points.”
- “I gave them some assurances that I wasn’t trying to poach business from them and that we are not looking to get them in any trouble for us having a similar art to another IP.”
- “Once we pointed out that we share an art style (which can’t be copyrighted or trademarked) and a similar publicly commercial font with a certain IP and that is all, they seemed a little more at ease.”
- “Turns out they will be ok with us using Renegade City for this game name. So please go easy on these guys, they didn’t know and are now better informed.”
- “We are all brothers and sisters in the gaming world. We need to play nice on the playground. Thanks again for everyone’s support. That means a LOT to me.”
Cryptozoic don’t pay then do pay
- Cryptozoic, the company behind the DC Deck Building Game, found themselves being called out for non-payment of artists recently.
- Marco Tamura posted an open letter to Cryptozoic on twitter on the 12th of June. It went like this
- Hello @CryptozoicEntertainment and CEO@coryhudsonjones
- Earlier this year I worked with Cryptozoic on an upcoming project of theirs, all illustrations were delivered within the deadlines.
- Unfortunately 3 months after the first due date I haven’t received a single payment yet. I have talked to other artists and I’ve found out that I’m not alone in this one and digging a little deeper in the company’s history I’ve seen that this is not the first time they do that.
- Back in 2021 they did the same thing on another project for
@DCOfficial (DC Comics)the same happened in the 2019 Lord of the Rings game and yet again on their HEX TCG years ago.
- They seem to do this again and again especially with artists from 3rd world nations. I’m fortunate enough to have a full-time job and also other clients, but many artists count on this money to pay rent, medical bills, food and provide for their families.
- I tried contacting them several times but they either ghost me or give me vague responses that never point to any specific date or even a timeframe I’ve also tried contacting @coryhudsonjones and @Cryptozoic via Email and linked-in but also never got any response up until today.
- I hope @Cryptozoic just honors the contract we all signed and pay what they own us! To all my artists colleagues that read this thread be aware that @cryptozoic does not respect their artists nor honor their own contracts.
- It does seem that the situation is now resolved. Marco posted on the 14th of June
- Hey guys, we received an email from @Cryptozoic stating that all payments should be in within the next 5 business days! For all the people that retweeted, commented and took their time to help us in this campaign, I want to thank you all! Best regards, Marco Tamura
Black Cat Games closing down
- Indie shop and importer Black Cat Games has announced it is closing its doors due to the person who runs the company taking up more responsibilities at their day job.
- Black Cat was an importer of small games from Japan
- However all is not lost for those looking for interesting games from Japan. Ninja Star Games will be taking over what Black Cat was doing
- Discussion: Thanks to Hal Duncan from our Discord for bringing this story to our attention. Best of luck for the future. Reminder that a lot of folk in the hobby have more than one job. It is hard to make a living in boardgames
- Antoine Bauza, the designer for games such as 7 Wonders, Hanabi, Namiji and Oltréé (2021), and Thomas Provoost, co-founder of Repos Production, a Belgian board game publisher of games such as 7 Wonders Duel, Fun Facts and Just One, have announced that they will be launching PlayPunk, a new publishing company.
- The new company puts authors at its core and promises that their games will be:
- “polished down to the smallest detail: gamedesign, narrative, ergonomics, graphics, production, writing…“
- PlayPunk is in the process of publishing two new games, Captain Flip by Paolo Mori and Remo Conzadori, a family game for 2 to 5 players, which will hit stores in the first quarter of 2024, and an expert game for 2 or 4 players, by Gregory Grard and Mathieu Roussel to be released at Spiel Essen next year.
- Discussion: Looks like a number of well-known people working together on this, which is great to see.
- Modiphius Entertainment, creator and publisher of tabletop RPGs, war game, board games and card games, acquired some of Nordic Weasel Games’ IPs. The deal with covers Nordic Weasel’s Five core system, Weasel Tech, as well as many of the games in the line.
- Ivan Sorensen, the game designer behind Nordic Weasel, will be kept on by Modiphius as lead writer.
- Modiphius plan to develop new games in the Five series, starting with Five Parsecs From Home and are currently working on two standalone games, Five Parsecs: Tactics and Five Parsecs: Planetfall. They are also planning expansions for Five Leagues From the Borderlands and working on more Five Core games, including a retail edition of Five Men From Normandy.
- Discussion: It’s nice to see that a smaller brand is finding a new home within a larger company.
Spanish game store offers $2million for the one ring
- Magic:The Gathering looms large over our hobby, raking in barrels of cash for its publisher Wizards of the Coast and having a huge fanbase worldwide.
- In recent years the game has been branching out and has started to bring in other IPs to the world of the card game. Warhammer 40000 has featured and the most recent franchise to get the Magic: The Gathering treatment is Lord of the Rings. The full title of that release is quite the mouthful
- Magic:The Gathering Universes Beyond – Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle Earth
- The set is due for release imminently and amongst the many thousands of boxes and millions of cards is a single unique card.
- The One Ring 001/001 card is a unique version of The One Ring that Wizards of the Coast have printed only one copy of.
- Cassius Mars Sr, a former NFL player, put a bounty of $500,000 dollars on the card, then Dave and Adam’s Card World offered $1 million, but now a store in Spain has set the bounty at 2 million euros, which is a about $2,160,000
- Gremio de Dragones (Guild of Dragons) has offered the bounty on the card which is only available in the Collector boosters. The card can also only be found in the English Collector Boosters.
- Discussion: Each to their own I guess?
Mayfair Games returns
- Webbed Sphere Inc, a toys and gifts retailer offering miniatures, RPGs, video games, board games and apparel, has announced that it will launch a line of games under the Mayfair Games trademark. Mayfair ceased operations in 2018 after selling its assets to Asmodee Group. At the time, Mayfair published games such as Agricola, Grand Austria Hotel and Patchwork.
- With the Mayfair trademarks abandoned, Webbed Sphere filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register and begin using the marks for hobby game products. With no objections filed during the comment periods, Webbed Sphere received Notices of Allowances from the USPTO for Mayfair Games and its logo on 31st of January 2023.
- Webbed Sphere president Jon Huston explained the motivation to reinstate the Mayfair brand by saying:
- “Growing up, Mayfair Games were a staple at our house. The journey ahead is as much a personal passion as it is a business venture. I cannot wait to share what we have in store.”
- Larry Roznai, who was President of Mayfair Games at time of the sale to Asmodee, approved of the plans when he said:
- “I’m happy to see Mayfair Games is coming back,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what games are coming back into print.”
- Discussion: Nice to see the Mayfair Games brand reinstated. Let’s see what games they are going to release.
Jobs, Opportunities, and Events
Metallic Dice Games
Promo Code: ROLLWITHBRAINS
- There have been many combinations over the years that seem completely natural and have been celebrated since. Gin and Tonic; raspberry and ripple, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels; Oliver Kinne, Iain McAllister and Jamie Adams. But, I hear you cry, we need a new one! Well dear listener, try this one on for size.
- A pairing of the 88-year old Monopoly and the 85-year old Scrabble. That’s right it’s Monopoly Scrabble. How does it work? Well, if I need to explain it to you then it obviously doesn’t make sense!
- Here’s how it works. It’s Monopoly, right? But instead of dice dictating movement, it’s the value of the words you spell on Scrabble tiles on the board in the middle of the Monopoly properties. There are some ‘premium’ squares, and if you place a tile over it, you can buy the property right there. But buyer beware! If an opponent can successfully place a word that uses said tile, the property goes to them.
- According to Hasbro and Winning Moves (the publishers), the game will take an hour (I’ll believe that when I see it). Sorry it should be Monopoly ® Scrabble ®
- Whenever Scrabble ® comes up, I usually do this and this time is no different. Shout out to my cousin Ali from Toronto, who regularly plays games of Scrabble ® against herself.
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