Bill Slavicsek, Director of R&D for Dungeons & Dragons Games and Novels at Wizards of the Coast, has left the company. He was with WotC and TSR before them since 1993. He designed Alternity, d20 Modern, revised Dark Sun and Council of Wyrms, Star Wars Revised, and much more. Outside TSR he worked on Torg and Paranoia.
It’s unclear whether he resigned or was laid off, as at the same time Monte Cook tweeted “I wish the best for those laid off from Wizards of the Coast today. Some were good friends. All, I’m sure, are talented and capable.” So it sounds like a larger purge at work. We wish Bill and the others well in their new endeavors.
Bill has a mixed legacy. I love Alternity, but a lot of the problems with D&D 4e are directly his responsibility. I’ve been reading Mike Mearls’ “Legends & Lore” articles hopefully; it seems they’re revisiting older versions of D&D and trying to actually understand why they were good and how 4e has left a lot of the core play experience behind, though it’s hard to get one’s hopes up that they’ll really implement that correctly (I agreed with their critiques of 3e, but what they did to fix them was God-awful.) Bill leaving has re-fueled discussion of a “D&D 5e” (or, more likely, a D&D 5e with a more confusing branding).
WotC does layoffs regularly, though it’s usually after a big release or around Christmas to boost end of year numbers, and usually it’s not someone this prominent, so it’s a bit concerning for the industry. We’ll see what happens…
Well, damn. I wondered why my article on Wizards layoffs in August was suddenly getting hits, and it’s because there are more – a lot more. Lisa Stevens of Paizo confirms on ENWorld that the layoffs include:
- 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) (aka Solice)
- Jennifer Powers (marketing)
- Jonathan Tweet (game designer)
Shockingly big names! And it sucks that it’s right before the holidays, but that’s all trying to make your year-end numbers look good.
So what does this mean for WotC strategy? They just cut a lot of their digital guys. Are they giving up? Or just taking a huge setback? Cutting down on 4e’ers isn’t unexpected – people are saying it’s not performing to expectation and heck, they cut people after the 3e launch too.
My personal favorite here is Tweet – IMO, too talented to be working on D&D, though I’m sure a regular paycheck and health benefits were saying otherwise. Time for a new version of Over the Edge or Unknown Armies!!! I’d love to see Tweet land with Pelgrane, Paizo, or even Hidden City Games if they are going to do more RPGs than just Donut or whatnot. He did a lot with Atlas but they’ve about given up on RPGs. Heck, apparently Mongoose is growing like crazy…
Anyway, best of luck to all the newly jobless.
Well, sadly it was bound to happen. It happened right after the 3e launch too. Wizards announced an innocuously-worded “organizational alignment” the other day. It turns out that a number of people have gotten the axe including Mike “Gamer Zero” Lescault and Linae Foster, D&D Licensing Manager. More to come I’m sure. (P.S. Scott Rouse says they’re still making headway on a GSL revision despite this.)
In other WotC news, I’m a little concerned that Wizards is being referred to by Hasbro as their “digital strategy.” In the Hasbro Q2 2008 earnings call, they only mentioned Wizards thus: “During the quarter, we continued to invest in our digital strategy, including the Wizards of the Coast initiative and building our business with Electronics Arts.” Conspiracy theories about them looking to sunset traditional pen & paper D&D with an ‘electronic’ revenue stream may commence.
This is mildly complicated by Wizards’ Senior Manager of Technology PMO flipping out and murder-suiciding his wife. Sad, and with the recent closing of Gleemax too, seems like there’s a lot of flux at the moment. Hasbro seems to be leaning on the digital angle heavy but will they be able to execute in this environment?
What does this all mean? Jeez, I dunno, but I’m guessing chaos + turnover doesn’t bode well.