As most people who care will already know, White Wolf is ceasing production of VTES. While not totally unexpected (I had heard rumors of licensing issues before), it’s still sad as hell. I’ve played this game on and off for 16 years now, and have been organizing increasingly large tournaments for the last 10 years or so. In addition, during recent years I’ve also attended European Championship tournaments (in Torino, Göteborg, Prague and Mallorca) and have met a bunch of very cool people (and gotten my ass kicked in-game by them). After hearing this news early Saturday morning, the rest of the weekend went by in a fairly melancholy mood. I’m far from the only one; Ben Swainbank writes about his feelings on hearing the news, as does extrala.
As far as I know, the final nail in the coffin (so to speak) was the expiration of the game license (from Wizards of the Coast, for the Deckmaster rules). Apparently WotC would have wanted significantly more money than before, and even though VTES has always been profitable for White Wolf, apparently this would not have kept it profitable enough. In addition, VTES does not fit in very well with WW/CCP’s new mostly-digital publishing direction, and of course it’s based on the old World of Darkness to boot. White Wolf did try to find licensing partners for the game, but apparently that fell through; companies are wary of CCGs, and this one comes with two separate license issues. So… in the end, WotC managed to kill this game twice, once directly and once indirectly.
Sure, it’s still possible that it will rise from the grave sometime in the future. It did so once in the past. However, the chances of that are quite slim; you’d need a company willing to juggle two licenses and invest quite a bit of money. I suspect White Wolf would be quite willing to give decent deals on the license (provided a reasonable business plan), but WotC/Hasbro is another matter entirely.
All that said: the sky is not falling. The game still exists, we have tons of cards (there are an amazing twenty expansions to this game, in addition to the original Jyhad/VTES set), and many of the sets are still available in game stores and via the net. It will take a while before that dries up, so newcomers will still be able to get cards quite easily. Of course, selling a new gamer on a game which is no longer being produced is a bit of a hard sell… but the reason VTES has survived this long is that it’s simply a damn good game. That counts for a lot, in the long run. Right now, right here, the cancellation of the game means little in practice. Some years down the road, when card supplies run low, getting new players will be difficult. On the other hand, it’s already a bit difficult, VTES needs an investment of time and money to get to grips with, and an interest in complex social game mechanics. It’s not an “instant gratification” game, and never was.
To their credit, White Wolf has announced that they’ll still be providing tournament support for a year, and tournaments have always been mostly fan-run anyway. Perhaps now that the game moves even more into the “fan-supported” bracket, we’ll finally get a working ranking system and all the stuff White Wolf failed to provide. The rules are in great shape, thanks to diligent work by LSJ and the rules team, and the tweaks needed to the game are very few. As discussed in the newsgroup, we may want to do something about group 6 vampires (to make them more playable now that we’re not getting more group 6 support), but that’s a minor issue. I’ll still keep organizing tournaments and playing, I think this game has many, many years left before it’s really gone.
It’s only dead when people stop playing, and I don’t see that happening for a good long while yet.
Oh, and to state the obvious: a huge thanks is in order for all the people who helped make the game what it is today: LSJ, Oscar, Robyn, Lasombra, Robert Goudie, and everyone else. You know who you are. And I expect to still play some games with you in the future. :)
(Awesome ‘Crying Ossian’ design is by Jozxyqk, sorry about forgetting to credit it originally).