Wizards of the Coast LLC (often referred to as WotC // or simply Wizards) is an American publisher of games, primarily based on fantasy and science fiction themes, and formerly an operator of retail stores for games. Originally a basement-run role-playing game publisher, the company popularized the collectible card game genre with Magic: The Gathering in the mid-1990s, acquired the popular Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game by purchasing the failing company TSR, and experienced tremendous success by publishing the licensed Pokémon Trading Card Game. The company's corporate headquarters are located in Renton, Washington in the United States of America.
Wizards of the Coast publishes role-playing games, board games, and collectible card games. They have received numerous awards, including several Origins Awards. The company has been a subsidiary of Hasbro since 1999. All Wizards of the Coast stores were closed in 2004.
Wizards of the Coast was founded by Peter Adkison in 1990 just outside Seattle, Washington, and its current headquarters are located in nearby Renton. Originally the company only published role-playing games such as the third edition of Talislanta and its own The Primal Order. The 1992 release of The Primal Order, a supplement designed for use with any game system, brought legal trouble with Palladium Books suing for references to Palladium's game and system. The suit was settled in 1993.
In 1991, Richard Garfield approached Wizards of the Coast with the idea for a new board game called RoboRally, but was turned down because the game would have been too expensive for Wizards of the Coast to produce. Instead, Adkison asked Garfield if he could invent a game that was both portable and quick-playing, to which Garfield agreed.
Adkison set up a new corporation, Garfield Games, to develop Richard Garfield's collectible card game concept, originally called Manaclash, into Magic: The Gathering. This kept the game sheltered from the legal battle with Palladium, and Garfield Games then licensed the production and sale rights to Wizards until the court case was settled, at which point the shell company was shut down. Wizards debuted Magic in July 1993 at the Origins Game Fair in Dallas. The game proved extremely popular at Gen Con in August 1993, selling out of its supply of 2.5 million cards, which had been scheduled to last until the end of the year. The success of Magic generated revenue that carried the company out from the handful of employees in 1993 working out of Peter's original basement headquarters into 250 employees in its own offices in 1995. In 1994, Magic won both the Mensa Top Five mind games award and the Origins Awards for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Board Game of 1993 and Best Graphic Presentation of a Board Game of 1993.
In 1994, Wizards began an association with The Beanstalk Group, a brand licensing agency and consultancy, to license the Magic brand. After the success of Magic, Wizards published RoboRally in 1994, and it soon won the 1994 Origins Awards for Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Board Game and Best Graphic Presentation of a Board Game. Wizards also expanded its role-playing game line by buying SLA Industries from Nightfall Games and Ars Magica from White Wolf, Inc. in 1994. In 1995, Wizards published another card game by Richard Garfield, The Great Dalmuti, which won the 1995 Best New Mind Game award from Mensa. In August 1995, Wizards released Everway and then four months later closed its roleplaying game product line. Peter Adkison explained that the company was doing a disservice to the games with lack of support and had lost money on all of Wizards' roleplaying game products. Also in 1995, Wizards' annual sales passed US$65 million.
Wizards announced the purchase of TSR, the cash-strapped makers of Dungeons & Dragons on April 10, 1997. Wizards acquired TSR and Five Rings Publishing Group for $25 million. Many of the creative and professional staff of TSR relocated from Wisconsin to the Renton area. Wizards used TSR as a brand name for a while, then retired it, allowing the TSR trademarks to expire. Between 1997 and 1999, the company spun off several well-loved but poorly selling campaign settings (including Planescape, Dark Sun and Spelljammer) to fan groups, focusing business primarily on the more profitable Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms lines.
In Summer 1997, Wizards revisited the concept of a 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons, having first discussed it soon after the purchase of TSR. Looking back on the decision in 2004, Adkison stated: "Obviously, [Wizards] had a strong economic incentive for publishing a new edition; sales for any product line tend to spike when a new edition comes out, assuming the new edition is an improvement over the first. And given the change in ownership we thought this would be an excellent opportunity for WotC to 'put its stamp on D&D'." He later "Set [the] overall design direction" for the new edition of D&D. Wizards released the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons in 2000, as well as the d20 System. With these releases came the Open Game License, which allowed other companies to make use of those systems. The new edition of the D&D game won the 2000 Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Game. In 2002, Wizards sponsored a design contest which allowed designers to submit their campaign worlds to Wizards, to produce an entirely original campaign world; Wizards selected "Eberron", submitted by Keith Baker, and its first hardcover book was released in June 2004. In 2003 Wizards released version 3.5 of Dungeons & Dragons and the d20 system. Wizards helped to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the D&D game at Gen Con Indy 2004.
On August 2, 1997, Wizards of the Coast was granted U.S. Patent 5,662,332 on collectible card games. In January 1999, Wizards of the Coast began publishing the highly successful Pokémon Trading Card Game. The game proved to be very popular, selling nearly 400,000 copies in less than six weeks, and selling 10 times better than Wizards' initial projections. There was such a high demand for Pokémon cards that some sports card series were discontinued in 1999 because so many printers were producing Pokémon cards. The game won the 1999 National Parenting Center's Seal of Approval.
Within a year, Wizards had sold millions of copies of the Pokémon game, and the company released a new set that included an instructional CD-ROM. Wizards continued to publish the game until 2003. One of Nintendo's affiliates, Pokémon USA, had begun producing a new edition for the game before the last of its agreements with Wizards expired September 30, and Wizards filed suit against Nintendo the following day, October 1, 2003. The two companies resolved their differences in December 2003 without going to court.
Seeing the continued success of Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering, the game and toy giant Hasbro bought Wizards of the Coast in September 1999, for about US$325 million. Hasbro had expressed interest in purchasing Wizards of the Coast as early as 1994, and had been further impressed after the success of its Pokémon game. Avalon Hill was made a division of Wizards of the Coast, in late 1999; the company had been purchased by Hasbro in the summer of 1998.
Vince Caluori became President of Wizards of the Coast in November 1999. As of January 1, 2001, Peter Adkison resigned from Wizards. Chuck Huebner became President and CEO of Wizards of the Coast in June 2002, and Loren Greenwood succeeded Huebner in these positions in April 2004. Greg Leeds succeeded Loren Greenwood as President and CEO of Wizards of the Coast in March 2008.
In November 1999, Wizards announced that Gen Con would leave Milwaukee after the 2002 convention. Hasbro sold Origins to GAMA, and in May 2002 sold Gen Con to Peter Adkison. Wizards also outsourced its magazines by licensing Dungeon, Dragon, Polyhedron, and Amazing Stories to Paizo Publishing. Wizards released the Dungeons & Dragons miniatures collectible pre-painted plastic miniatures games in 2003, and added a licensed Star Wars line in 2004, and through its Avalon Hill brand an Axis & Allies World War II miniatures game in 2005. Wizards of the Coast's book publishing division has produced hundreds of titles that have sold millions of copies in over 16 languages.
After the company's great success in 1999 with Pokémon, Wizards of the Coast acquired and expanded The Game Keeper, a US chain of retail gaming stores, eventually changing its name to Wizards of the Coast, including the company's flagship gaming center on The Ave in Seattle for several years, and its retail stores, which were mostly in shopping malls in the US. The gaming center was closed by March 2001 and eventually Wizards announced in December 2003 that it would close all of its stores in order to concentrate on game design. The stores were closed in the spring of 2004.
In early 2006, Wizards of the Coast filed a lawsuit against Daron Rutter, then administrator of the MTGSalvation website (on which he is known as "Rancored Elf"). The charges stemmed from Rutter publicly posting confidential prototypes for upcoming Magic: The Gathering card sets to the MTGSalvation forums, ten months before the cards were to be released. Mark Rosewater explained the outcome: "I can say that we [Wizards of the Coast] settled the lawsuit with Rancored Elf out of court to both parties' satisfaction."
Paizo Publishing's license to produce Dragon and Dungeon magazines, which Paizo had been publishing since it spun off from Wizards of the Coast's periodicals department in 2002, expired in September 2007. Wizards then moved the magazines to an online model. On June 6, 2008, Wizards released the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, with the retail availability of a new set of core rulebooks. Wizards began introducing 4th Edition online content in Dragon and Dungeon magazines. 4th Edition is designed to offer more streamlined game play, while the new rules framework intended to reduce the preparation time needed to run a game and make the game more accessible to new players.
As of 2008, the company employs over 300 people. On April 6, 2009, Wizards of the Coast suspended all sales of its products for the Dungeons & Dragons games in PDF format from places such as ONEBOOKSHELF.com and its subsidiaries RPGNow.com and DRIVETHRURPG.com. This coincides with a lawsuit brought against eight people in an attempt to prevent future copyright infringement of their books, and includes the recent 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons products that were made available through these places as well as all older editions PDFs of the game.
A 5th edition of D&D was released on July 15, 2014 featuring a set of pre-generated characters, a set of instructions for basic play, and the adventure module Lost Mine of Phandelver. In 2016, Chris Cocks was announced as a replacement for Greg Leeds.
In addition to Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and Pokémon, Wizards has produced numerous other games, including board, card, miniature, and role-playing games. They also publish novels based on games such as Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering and Legend of the Five Rings.