West End Games is dead, long live West End Games

Posted on February 9, 2010 by

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I am a huge fan of the West End Games Star Wars d6 game.  In fact, if I got two calls on the same day, one with a D&D invite, and one with a d6 Star Wars invite, I’d most likely choose to play Star Wars.  That’s how much I like it, but unfortunately it’s hard to find players for it.

The history of West End Games is a long and complex one, and it falls outside the scope of this article… in a nutshell, the original owner of the company way back in the day had it tied into his family’s shoe business, and it dragged down the company into bankruptcy.  This was back around 1999, right before the launch of the first SW prequel, The Phantom Menace.  Had the company held on a little longer, perhaps history would have been different.

But it was not meant to be.  Today, the company (or what is left of it, mostly the name I guess) is held by a gentleman named Eric Gibson.  I read an interview with him on a blog called The Wild Die  that depressed the hell out of me this morning.  Mr. Gibson, I’d be curious to know how much the WEG would go for if you were to sell it.  West End Games was an instrumental part of the future of Star Wars back in the late 80’s, early 90’s.  People seem to forget that after the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983, nobody was talking about Star Wars, it was Done. Dead. Over.

I will venture to guess that this was the reason why West End Games was able to scoop up the license for the roleplaying game, just like they had the Ghostbusters license.  These were movies that were over and done with, but with enough fanbases to possibly sustain a game.  So what happened?  In 1992 Star Wars released a trilogy of novels that were supposed to be the “official continuation of the saga!” Lucasfilm approved!  And guess whose source material was used to populate all the in-between stuff not seen in the films?  West End Games.  Through their SW RPG, they created tons and tons of stuff that authors of the Expanded Universe would then use to help them in their research of the universe they were playing in.  To this day, the legacy of the material created by WEG lives on in the game’s current (but recently announced as dead) incarnation.

So you can see how the current state of this once really great company, one that helped mold what SW would become post-Jedi, can depress someone that considers himself a fan.  So now what?  What happens to the SW license?  Well, I venture to say that if  WOTC dropped it, then the licensing fee must be too prohibitive for any rpg company out there right now.  Remember, WOTC is backed by Hasbro, and Hasbro has a huge arrangement with Lucas Licensing in regards to toys.  But not even that incestuous relationship is strong enough to keep the RPG and minis game alive. A minis game I feel could probably be repackaged as a “toy”and sold under Hasbro’s license, by the way.

So what should happen to the SW RPG?  Well, if I were Lucasfilm, and I see that the current market will keep potential suitors out of the game, I’d try something else entirely.  I’d license out the game to a small company, one with little to lose.  I don’t know, maybe a company like West End Games?  License it out on the cheap, based on speculation and potential.  The game makes money? Good, now you pay Lucasfilm their share.  Think of the license as a loan.  At this point, Lucas isn’t going to make any money holding on to the license anyway, so what is there to lose.  If the biggest RPG company out there refuses to do business with you anymore, it’s time to reevaluate yourself and what you are holding there in your pocket.  The other option is Paizo, and release it under the d20 Open Game system.  Been there, done that. Too soon I think.

Either way, it’s a shame in two ways.  A shame that WEG is being held by a guy who seems to lack the ability to manage it, and a shame that such a great gaming license will sit unused due to the amount of money the holders think it’s worth.

For what it’s worth, and if you are still reading, do yourself the favor and pick up “Star Wars:  The Roleplaying Game Revised and Expanded” on Ebay, along with “Galaxy Guide 6:  Tramp Freighters”. There is also a website called The Rancor Pit with a great community keeping the game alive.  New material is still being produced by these fans of the system, and some of it is actually quite good.

Buy the books and play in the Star Wars d6 universe.  It was is a great system.

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