Wildfire: Some Companies Have All The Luck

At this point there’s only 3-4 RPGs I actively follow and try to keep up with their new releases. That got very easy very quick with CthulhuTech, since it seemed to exist in a desert or void—every year and a half a new book would pop out of the ether and surprise me, not having been mentioned for half a year or more. It got to the point where I stopped bothering to look for new releases since there never were any; their Cthulhutech.com blog never updated and I’d only find out about new releases when they were three months old.

There was a reason for that; after working through a laundry list of bad publishers, their last one—Sandstorm Productions—wiped itself off the map.

And now, a logo for a company that doesn’t exist any more.

Well, it’s been three months since Wildfire had its last update, and it wasn’t a good one. Such an awesome setting—and really slick set of rules, once you get your head wrapped around them—has had some of the worst support in the world, the unluckiest production run imaginable. Their deal with EOS Press fell through back in 2006 when EOS wanted to focus its limited resources on the Weapons of the Gods game license; next, their reputable publisher named Osseum Entertainment had its death spiral. Their CthulhuTech books produced by Mongoose were pretty badly constructed, and then Mongoose’s internal publishing experiment got dumped before a better produced CthulhuTech came out.

Then, a lengthy deal with Catalyst Game Labs was looking like a good fit, since they shared the same high-quality production values and amazing art design. The game finally got its awesome full-color release, and hit the Ennies with a vengeance. But Catalyst kept up a tradition dating back to FASA, wherein the company owning the Shadowrun and BattleTech licenses implodes financially after a decade or so. That happened to be Catalyst, and Wildfire was caught in that implosion. When Catalyst stopped paying, Wildfire broke out the lawyers.

And it was promptly gobbled up, along with Catalyst’s other big-new-thing license, Posthuman Studios’ Eclipse Phase, by a new company called Sandstorm Productions. They came out with a new Eclipse Phase book or two, and I think three CthulhuTech books, and did absolutely nothing else. Card games and other on-the-side, non-RPG products that I don’t care about, and I’m not even sure how well those were supported. A year ago around springtime, people had considered at least one of those lines—Cthulhutech—on its last legs, or at least in severe distress, along with Sandstorm. The lack of support was deafening.

So it’s not surprising to find Sandstorm’s reach exceeded its grasp, and that the company went belly-up: they bit off more than they could afford to chew, and ended up first dropping their RPG lines, then dying outright. Where does this leave the two licenses?

Posthuman Studios is a bit better off, having already cut the cord with Sandstorm after the lapse in publishing support. They have a nice (if smallish) line of Eclipse Phase supplements and the occasional hardback. They’ve jumped over to the Indie Press Revolution bandwagon, supplemented by DriveThruRPG, so there’s several outlets to acquire their four hardbacks and half-dozen ebooks.

Wildfire’s in more of a bind. Their Shadow Wars miniature line was killed due to the lack of support after one promo figure, and even though a chunk of the CthulhuTech and Void—formerly Cthonian Stars—material is finished (or near enough), they don’t have the same kind of leverage (or time) to get it out there. As with Posthuman (and others), Wildfire is moving more towards ebooks and print-on-demand (PoD) to get their products out.

You can tell from their forum posts that the guys behind Wildfire are really into their games, but as a part-time hobby venture, they don’t have the time or capital to act on it—Kickstarter maybe?—and just want to get their completed products out the door and call it quits. It’s a shame; this once-promising new game line has had the worst luck in the world getting its products out. What was supposed to be a quick six-book run turned into a six-year-plus odyssey.

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