Paizo Overview Premier Presentation at the 2013 GAMA Trade Show

Paizo Publisher Erik Mona with pleased expression at GAMA Trade Show

Paizo Publishing’s Publisher Erik Mona at GAMA Trade Show

Erik Mona headed the Paizo Publishing leadership at the Paizo Overview Premier Presentation on March 19 at the GAMA Trade Show, flanked by Pierce Watters and Paizo’s new head of marketing Jenny Bendel. Mona explained that prior to Bendel’s arrival he had handled all of Paizo’s marketing himself, but had recruited Bendel into the company four months previously. Later Mona also explained that Paizo’s name originated with the company’s first publisher Johnny Wilson, who discovered the ancient Greek verb paizo, to play, while in seminary.

Jenny Bendel and Pierce Watters stand side by side at the 2013 GAMA Trade Show

Lvl. 20 Marketing Assassin Jenny Bendel and Pierce Watters

Mona began the Paizo presentation with even more history, explaining that the company acquired the licenses to publish Dragon Magazine and Dungeon in 2002. In 2007 Paizo released The Rise of the Runelords, its first in a series of Pathfinder Adventure Paths and has been an RPG powerhouse ever since. Pathfinder has been the #1 selling game in the RPG category since 2010 according to ICv2 with more than 100,000 Core Rulebooks sold worldwide. Paizo also boasts the largest RPG Organized Play program in the industry and produces monthly releases in several product lines. As of the GAMA Trade Show in March, Paizo’s Pathfinder Society program had over 45,000 players in 23 countries and will have 133 available four-hour Pathfinder Society Scenarios for home or in-store play at the end of the current season, Mona shared. Another revelation from Mona: the Pathfinder Beginner Box was tested extensively with Erik Mona and Paizo geniuses watching behind a one-way mirror to better understand and improve players’ experience.

Third Party Licensing and Releases: Diamond Select & SJG

Goblin art image on stone Granix display slab showing Pathfinder imagePathfinder has a “growing metaverse” in licensing and third party releases, Mona said. Sales of Diamond Select goblin plushes have been strong and Paizo had the prototype of a goblin plush backpack from Diamond Select available in their booth. The backpack will be coming out later this year. Zach Oat of Diamond Select provided further, limited details about the backpack. A rough prototype was shown of it at New York Toy Fair in February, but the product is still very much in development, with pricing still to be determined. Pathfinder Mini Mates are also still in development at Diamond Select, but pictures of concept artwork were snapped at New York Toy Fair. Diamond Select is also producing two Granix display plaques for Pathfinder. A Granix piece uses a roughly 7.5 by 5.5 inch slab of rock as the medium to display artwork, with each piece weighing in at over four pounds.

Pathfinder Munchkin

Red dragon cartoon and pathfinder goblins battle Munchkin players on cover for Pathfinder MunchkinPathfinder Munchkin is another licensed release for 2013, trading off of both the Pathfinder brand and Steve Jackson Games’ iconic game of treachery and greed. Announced in 2012, Pathfinder Munchkin has been playtested, but is still in development with card art submitted by artist John Kovalic. Steve Jackson Games is aiming for a release this fall and plans on bringing early copies of the game to Gen Con in August.

2013 Key Paizo Releases

While Paizo posts a near-constant stream of updates to its customers via its own website and through Pathfinder Society emails, this was Paizo’s chance to share specific products with retailers.

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Cover of Rise of the Runelords Pathfinder Adventure Card GameAnother new product that Mona introduced was the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game which will be composed of 500 playing cards, dice for 4 players, and be supported by 110-card adventure decks. Each card will feature iconic Pathfinder artwork of characters such as Seoni and Valeros (who are themselves referred to as iconics by Paizo). Mona said that the game would be going to the printer in a week when he spoke to the GTS attendees on March 19. Its release will most likely coincide with Gen Con where it will retail for $49.99. Mona detailed that the Burnt Offerings Adventure Deck features six scenarios from the Burnt Offerings adventure, which was originally the first adventure in the Rise of the Runelords campaign. The mention of the Thistletop setting seemed to spark some recognition among attending retailers, if not cheers of approval. According to Jenny Bezel, two scenarios in the Burnt Offerings deck will involve Thistletop and feature “many classic foes and monsters” pulled from Rise of the Runelords.

Pathfinder RPG Releases

Mona moved through the Pathfinder release schedule at a brisk pace, constrained by the hour-long session, and listed future releases of:

  • Mythic Adventures: – Specifically designed for players who favor a more epic or demigod experience for Pathfinder, Mythic Adventures will be released in August for $39.99. The product was first announced after Gen Con in 2012 and any would-be Achilles, Theseus, or Gilgamesh can test its mechanics out using the playtest PDF available on Paizo. Mythic Adventures will be supported the releases of Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Mythic Realms, as well as the Pathfinder Player Companion: Mythic Origins.
  • The Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign Book: For GMs who want to craft the most immersive setting possible, the Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign Book will provide guidance in fleshing out background choices, creating taverns, and building kingdoms. It will retail in June for $39.99.
  • Demonic beings on cover of Pathfinder AP Wrath of the Righteous adventureWrath of the Righteous Adventure Path: With a front cover painted by Wayne Reynolds, the first adventure in the Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path will release in August. Adventure Paths are composed of six interlocking thematic adventures that build upon one another and take players from Level 1 to Levels 15-18, depending upon the AP. Character death is also a distinct possibility in the challenging adventures which form the basis for entire Pathfinder campaigns. The Wrath of the Righteous will be expanded upon in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting: The Worldwound as well as the fantasy novel Pathfinder Tales: King of Chaos by Dave Gross. GMs will also be able to hand loot cards out to players via the Pathfinder Cards: Wrath of the Righteous Item Cards. The Wrath of the Righteous begins with the destruction of a magical wardstone which has helped to keep the demonic denizens of the Worldwound entrapped and at bay for centuries. It will be up to the PCs to stem the demonic tide and prevent Golarion’s absolute annihilation. After attending the GTS, Jenny Bendel subsequently identified the six adventures making up the AP, as well as their authors:
    1. Pathfinder Adventure Path #73: The Worldwound Incursion by Amber E. Scott
    2. Pathfinder Adventure Path #74: Sword of Valor by Neil Spicer
    3. Pathfinder Adventure Path #75: Demon’s Heresy by Jim Groves
    4. Pathfinder Adventure Path #76: The Midnight Isles by James Jacobs and Greg A. Vaughan
    5. Pathfinder Adventure Path #77: Herald of the Ivory Labyrinth by Wolfgang Baur
    6. Pathfinder Adventure Path #78: City of Locusts by Richard Pett
  • Skull and Shackles: While the Skull & Shackles Adventure Path debuted last year in April, in Paizo’s experience, it takes up to two years for playgroups to play through an adventure path, so Paizo and WizKids have been supporting the adventure path with pirate-themed Skull and Shackles miniatures.
  • Cover of Pathfinder Bestiary Box 2 with pawns out front on white backgroundMore Pawns! – Anyone who questions companies releasing overlapping products (such as Reaper selling the same miniature sculpt prepainted, in metal, and in plastic) should take note! Mona said that the Pathfinder Pawns has been the fastest-selling new product launch for Paizo since the Core Rulebook. This is happening at the same time as WizKids is producing the equally popular Pathfinder Battles prepainted miniatures. Pathfinder fans apparently can’t get enough of the double-sided cardboard standees, causing the Bestiary Box to sell-out. Paizo will also be releasing the much-anticipated (and much-delayed) NPC Codex Box set later this year as well as the Bestiary 2 Box. Mona also took note of retailers’ complaints about the Bestiary’s box design, which has the list of included monster pawns on its back. The design makes it difficult for GMs to easily check to see if they have a particular creature when the box is open and still contains pawns, forcing GMs to either raise the box overhead above themselves or crane their necks awkwardly to check the contents. Ideally this helpful list of monsters would be replicated on the box’s sides as well.
  • And Even More Pawns! Mona went on to add that Paizo has also released collections of its pawns (minus the bases) related to particular Adventure Paths. Joining the existing Rise of the Runelords and Skull & Shackles Pawn Collections will be the:
    • Reign of Winter Adventure Path Pawn Collection
    • Shattered Star Adventure Path Pawn Collection
    • Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path Pawn Collection

  • Encounter Packs – Mona also revealed that he helps to make the decision of what to put in Pathfinder Battles Encounter Packs from WizKids such as the Champions of Evil Encounter Pack. He said that there will three Encounter Packs released a year going forward. Rather than a random selection of miniatures, each pack has a designated set of miniatures using pre-existing sculpts from the main line of Pathfinder Battles miniatures.
  • Pathfinder Modules: There will be changes to future Pathfinder Modules as well going forward. Previously they had no spine and were 32 pages in length. Now they will be 64 pages and include a doubled-sided tactical map. Pathfinder Modules are longer than one-shot adventures and are instead intended to be played over multiple gaming sessions.

We Be Goblins, Too!

Paizo gave Pathfinder fans a chance to play as goblins in 2011 in the “We Be Goblins” adventure released for Free RPG Day and gamers’ reactions were so positive that Paizo will release We Be Goblins, Too!, allowing the opportunity to adventure as the demihumans again as a tie-in with Free RPG Day on June 15. WizKids will be releasing the associated Pathfinder Battles Builder Series We Be Goblins set on May 29 to coincide with We Be Goblins, Too! The small range of 12 figures is exclusively goblin-themed and features five news sculpts, while the remainder will be repaints of previously released figures and are all viewable here. The figure boxes are random and will retail for $2.49, with a case going for $75.

Little goblin Warchanter miniature from Pathfinder Battles We Be Goblins Too

Goblin Warchanter: 1 of 12 Sculpts for Pathfinder Battles Builder Series We Be Goblins

Paizo Continuing Releases

The popular Combat Pad, which allows GMs to keep track of player’s initiatives and key stats during combats, has been out of print for some time, but Paizo plans on changing that and will be restocking the item. Initially sold by a licensee, Paizo bought back the rights so the company can sell it themselves. It should be returning to the market early this fall in 2013 according to Jenny Bendel. Mona mentioned another perennial favorite of both Paizo staff and customers, the Critical Hit Deck, which has been reprinted four or five times due to its popularity.

Game Mastery Map Packs -> Pathfinder Map Packs

Mona also announced that going forward Paizo would be retiring the Game Mastery logo on its marketing of the modular map packs and flip maps.
Paizo will instead be using the Pathfinder name, but Mona pointed out that the gridded playing maps will still be usable to track movement for any other fantasy RPG.

Retailer Reactions

Mona did take several questions, with one retailer asking how he is supposed to sell the Pathfinder Core Rulebook for $49.95 when Amazon sells it for $30. Mona conceded, “I think that’s a challenge,” but did not elaborate on how the challenge could best be overcome by retailers. He did point out that when Paizo has its products distributed to hobby stores, the shops receive them on the release date and said that Amazon doesn’t have them until two weeks later.

This would seem to be the case as at the time of this article, April 26, Amazon only has the latest Pathfinder Map Pack, the Army Camp, up for pre-order with an availability date of May 14, whereas customers can already order the 18-card set from Paizo directly.

Pathfinder banner behind Jenny Bendel and Erik Mona at Paizo table in convention center

Paizo Publishing’s Erik Mona and Jenny Bendel Interacting with Attendees in the Exhibitors’ Hall

All product images copyright to their respective owners. Used with permission.

Wizkids Premier Seminar – GTS 2012

District 12 the Game from WizKids box cover art.

Image courtesy WizKids

Justin Ziran, President of WizKids, spoke on March 13 to an audience of mostly experienced retailers. WizKids has an impressive release schedule for the calendar year and the mood was positive and upbeat. Citing Fandango ticket pre-orders for “The Hunger Games”, Ziran pointed out that it will very likely be the next cultural phenonomen on the order of Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings. Wizkids is launching a number of tie-in games related to the movie’s release, based on the popular series by Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games line of collectible miniatures will feature 27 figures, with tributes from all 12 districts. Jabberjay has a MSRP of $9.99 and is a card game of secrets and betrayal, while District 12 is a more typical board game.

They also have a Smurfs game and E.T. figures coming out which, to me, resemble the previously-released Gremlins or Freddy vs. Jason sets, which have a play mat and 7+ figures.

Jabberjay Card Game from WizKids

Image courtesy of WizKids

Ziran moved on to several other WizKids successes, mentioning that the Mage Knight Board Game sold out of its initial run in 20 days. Another successful sell-out was Star Trek: Tactics. Wizkids is aware that some customers have been buying it to play Star Fleet Battles. Switching games slightly to Star Trek: Fleet Captains, Wizkids trumpeted reviews of it as “the best Star Trek game ever produced”. There are expectations of doing expansions and Ziran noted that the Romulans are missing. Wizkids will also be releasing a Hobbit Heroclix game tied to the release of the movie that will play in an hour to an hour and a half.

Pathfinder Battles

Bryan Kinsella, a VP at WizKids Games, presented on Pathfinder Battles, announcing the release of four much larger figures to be sold as a case. Several retailers expressed their concerns about the four-figure cases proposed, pointing out that collectors would simply “buy the cases online”. Someone then suggested 6 figures to a case (including repeats) which would reduce the likelihood that a collector would purchase the entire case. Kinsella showed a colossal incentive Pathfinder Battles figure, the Rune Giant, standing 6 inches tall, and 8 inches to the tip of his sword. WizKids politely declined my request for images of these figures to share, but Seoni’s figure was Kinsella’s personal favorite as he “personally likes the motion” of the sculpt.

Heroclix

An assortment of Wizkids merchandise including the previously-released Galactus and possibly the Abomination.Jerome Gonyeau next stepped in. He reminded retailers that they can still get in on the Infinity Gauntlet prize support saying that “four cases is a breeze to go through in 3 months of play”. Several retailers near me remarked that they could go through four cases in three weeks. Gonyeau then moved briskly through various release dates, images of figures, and numbers in the sets. Of interest to me was his announcement that WizKids will be having 3-figure thematically tied sets, such as Shield teams or Hydra soldiers to tie in with the release of the Avengers movie. Another Marvel product that will be released is a Galactus in a box (as opposed to the previous prize support Galactus figure).

The Watcher and other Heroclix figures as well as other Wizkids product from their GAMA Trade Show Booth.Wizkids next reacted to a a question about Organized Play prize support being sold on eBay and what WizKids was doing to combat illegimate use of their OP prizes. Ziran announced that WizKids takes such things very seriously and that they have a discretionary policy in place to deal with such violations. He said that he pursues it in the spirit of the law, and not the letter of the law, so if there is even a whiff of impropriety, WizKids is interested.

DC Heroclix – Batman will come out in the fall along with the vehicles appearing in Heroclix. This was further clarified at the dinner that evening when the Batmobile was shown. Batman – Streets of Gotham will also include Birds of Prey, the Outsiders, and a “team never seen before in DC” which was subsequently revealed to be Jim Lee’s Wildcats. There is also Batman – The Dark Knight Rises scheduled for release later in the year with its 30+ figures. I do have to note as a casual Heroclix player that the newer sculpts shown at the GAMA Trade Show do seem substantially better than previous ones.

Responding to a comment from the audience that Wizkids was not game retailer-focused, but instead mass-market focused, Justin Ziran explained that when he heard that various WizKids Hunger Games products were in Hot Topic accidentally, within 5 minutes he was on the phone with Diamond Alliance, telling them to release the products to retailers.

Moving on, Ziran also revealed that they’ve been toying with the idea of scenario packs for Heroclix featuring a map and a big bad guy to fight against. When asked about Horrorclix, Justin Ziran replied that “Horrorclix is not on the menu. There’s a reason that Horrorclix isn’t around anymore.” When asked whether WizKids wasn’t oversaturating with so many releases, WizKids responded by saying that they had expected the question much earlier. Several retailers voiced their support for WizKids releases and one retailer earlier was overflowing with thanks to WizKids for the presence of Adam Warlock in his store (and the ensuing sales generated) saying that Warlock had “changed the face of the game” in his store. While I did not catch WizKids actual response to the question of oversaturation, Ziran affirmed that “Marvel and DC are our tent poles.”