There is a common saying that the Chinese symbol for "Crisis" is a combination of the symbols for "Danger" and "Opportunity". While this is not really true, the underlying truth about the nature of crisis remains. We currently have a global financial crisis that represents a danger and opportunity for many businesses, which brings me to today's announcement from Catalyst Game Labs:
Catalyst Game Labs has tendered an offer with The Topps Company, Inc. to acquire various WizKids’ properties, including such dynamic game lines as HeroClix, the Pirates Pocket Model Game, BattleTech/MechWarrior, and Shadowrun. After carefully reviewing options, Catalyst firmly believes that to protect the properties and ensure the best possible continuity for all communities, acquiring all brands will ensure the on going success of these game lines.
I agree. Catalyst is the obvious choice to pick up and carry these game lines, and this represents a great opportunity for them. It is also a danger, and I am concerned that these are difficult times for Catalyst to be taking on greater financial responsibility. Economic hardship hits everyone, and especially the player base of these games, many of whom are young adults without much expendable income to start with. When money is hard to come by, games are going to be pretty low down on everyone's priority list.
So Catalyst faces opportunity and danger, but is the business to be gained worth the business risk at this time? I'm going to hazard my opinion: YES.
This is only my opinion, and I don't have any sort of special information to back it up, but here is my reasoning: The people who own and run Catalyst are highly motivated and enthusiastic about what they do. Creating games isn't a day job for most (any?) of these folks. They work very hard at their jobs, and then they work harder at the games they love. These folks are also busy. Really busy. There are always pressing deadlines and jobs to do. Normally adding yet more to manage might be a bad thing, but managing these new properties seems to be such a natural fit here that I think it can only help them. The remaining question in my mind is "how much is it going to cost them?", and here Catalyst seems to be in a great spot, because if the licensing rights cost too much they can simply walk away no worse than they were before.
There is perhaps one more obvious point to mention; people at Catalyst obviously thought enough of this opportunity to publicly announce they are negotiating with Topps, which may indicate they are already close to a deal. I wish them the best of luck. More: I'll be cheering for them too!
[UPDATE - 12/16/2006]
Catalyst and Pinata Games are teaming up. Maybe. And who is Pinata Games anyway?