John Wick Presents Lays Off 7th Sea Staff
  • John Wick Presents Lays Off 7th Sea Staff


    A couple of years ago, John Wick's 7th Sea 2nd Edition smashed tabletop RPG Kickstarter records by raising a phenomenal $1.3M - a record which has only been surpassed once since, by Matt Colville's $2.1M Strongholds & Streaming. Unfortunately, it seems that the company is running into financial difficulties.



    The company had some sad news to share in a Kickstarter update to backers yesterday. John Wick Presents has just laid off all of its employees. Wick himself says that this will not prevent the rest of the line being released, but that it will slow down. He's trying to bring on board other companies to help with printing, board game production, and fulfilling his 7th Sea obligations.

    "After reviewing the company finances in August, I discovered JWP was not making enough to sustain its current work force. And so, in the ugliest and hardest day of my life, I had to lay off all the JWP employees.

    What this means is the 7th Sea lines are going to slow down. I cannot maintain the release schedule we promised before GenCon. That doesn’t mean books aren’t going to happen, it just means they’re going to be slower than expected."


    The campaign has delivered plenty of rewards already (I'm a backer myself and received my core rulebook long, long ago). The core rulebook released on time, and various stretch goals have been met, with updated production schedules announced monthly -- the latest production schedule was announced in August (the company posts one each month to keep backers updated), but Wick says that that schedule cannot be maintained now. So far 7 of 12 sourcebooks have been released.

    A second Kickstarter, 7th Sea: Khitai was launched last year, which raised $200K. The latest update on that Kickstarter doesn't delve into any of the company's problems, but does say:

    "I’ve been talking to various companies about partnering with JWP to continue printing 7th Sea as well as expanding it into territories JWP couldn’t. We tried doing board games (twice) and both times failed. Another company, with a stronger reputation for making board games, could make War of the Cross fly in a way I couldn’t. That’s why I’ve been talking to other publishers about partnering up to fulfill our 7th Sea obligations.For Khitai, I anticipate a May-June release. This may be sooner depending on a lot of factors. As soon as those projects are done, I can let you know where everything else stands. I'll have a better idea of the entire release schedule once negotiations are done with our potential publishing partners.

    2018 has been an awful year for everyone, myself included. Let's hope for a better 2019."


    The company cancelled its War of the Cross boardgame Kickstarter back in August.

    John Wick Presents has done a good job of keeping backers updated. While unfortunate for the employees who were laid off, it only points to a slowed release schedule rather than a full stop.

    It's not the first report of financial speedbumps at RPG companies recently. Last month, Evil Hat Productions announced a scaling back of the 2019 publication schedule, and some departing employees.
    Comments 34 Comments
    1. imagineGod's Avatar
      imagineGod -
      This is a harsh headline, but sadly, the reality was not an ideal outcome, especially for some staff who left work at other companies to join John Wick Presents.
    1. Anthro78 -
      This seems to be a recurring theme with these huge money Kickstarters: It all starts out with dreams and promises, but the day to day realities of running a sustainable game company seems to be the thing that trips them all up. Sounds like we need a Kickstarter to pair good business managers with game designers to allow some more of these companies to last beyond the initial blush of the Kickstarter rose.
    1. imagineGod's Avatar
      imagineGod -
      Quote Originally Posted by Anthro78 View Post
      This seems to be a recurring theme with these huge money Kickstarters: It all starts out with dreams and promises, but the day to day realities of running a sustainable game company seems to be the thing that trips them all up. Sounds like we need a Kickstarter to pair good business managers with game designers to allow some more of these companies to last beyond the initial blush of the Kickstarter rose.
      John Wick Presents actually delivered all the original products of the Kickstarter (new core rules and The New World sourcebook) and even many stretch goals.

      Sadly, the initial recruitment went into overdrive after the Kickstarter instead of smaller sustainable teams.
    1. JeffB's Avatar
      JeffB -
      Isn't this the guy who claimed that running Tomb of Horrors destroyed all his childhood friendships and blamed Gary?
    1. imagineGod's Avatar
      imagineGod -
      Quote Originally Posted by JeffB View Post
      Isn't this the guy who claimed that running Tomb of Horrors destroyed all his childhood friendships and blamed Gary?
      But that was a private statement that still has nothing to do with the 7th Sea role playing game nor the publisher.
    1. lyle.spade's Avatar
      lyle.spade -
      Quote Originally Posted by JeffB View Post
      Isn't this the guy who claimed that running Tomb of Horrors destroyed all his childhood friendships and blamed Gary?
      I believe so. He also wrote an article a few years ago about how most editions of DnD are not RPGs.

      He has also failed to deliver some materials on an earlier KS, the work towards which was seemingly eclipsed by the success of 7S. A friend of mine is still waiting on that one, and has actually asked Wick in person about it. Wick gave him a shabby dodge of an answer and sent him on his way.

      Wick shows up at my local con every year (I live in the same state as he does), and he's an odd duck: friendly enough, but also very strident in his views and seems to take pleasure in rubbing people the wrong way if they disagree with him. He's quite certain that he's right all the time, or at least that's how he comes across. I found his comment about how "awful" 2018 was for everyone strange, too - because he seems to imply the gaming industry. If so, he's way off, although there are some smaller companies, like Evil Hat, that have struggled (due to their own mistakes, in that latter case).
    1. Von Ether's Avatar
      Von Ether -
      Quote Originally Posted by Anthro78 View Post
      This seems to be a recurring theme with these huge money Kickstarters: It all starts out with dreams and promises, but the day to day realities of running a sustainable game company seems to be the thing that trips them all up. Sounds like we need a Kickstarter to pair good business managers with game designers to allow some more of these companies to last beyond the initial blush of the Kickstarter rose.
      That's why I'm more leery when I get a "For gamers, by gamers" vibe from a company.
    1. JeffB's Avatar
      JeffB -
      Quote Originally Posted by imagineGod View Post
      But that was a private statement that still has nothing to do with the 7th Sea role playing game nor the publisher.
      It says a lot about the owner and his ability to deal with life. No matter what game we are talking about.
    1. Derren's Avatar
      Derren -
      On one hand its sad for the staff and also I generally like the idea of Age of Sail era RPGs. But the 7th sea names are simply too cringe worthy for me to actually consider it.
    1. Toriel -
      Quote Originally Posted by lyle.spade View Post
      I found his comment about how "awful" 2018 was for everyone strange, too - because he seems to imply the gaming industry. If so, he's way off, although there are some smaller companies, like Evil Hat, that have struggled (due to their own mistakes, in that latter case).
      I associated his comment about 2018 more with the political climate in the US than with the gaming industry. We would have to ask him to know what he meant exactly.

      I will say that I was a backer to both 7th Sea and Kitai and have been very satisfied with the way things have been going. I really like the system and find it makes creating adventures easier. It does take a different frame of mind to set the scenes but after a few games, things come more easily.
    1. lyle.spade's Avatar
      lyle.spade -
      Quote Originally Posted by Toriel View Post
      I associated his comment about 2018 more with the political climate in the US than with the gaming industry. We would have to ask him to know what he meant exactly.

      I will say that I was a backer to both 7th Sea and Kitai and have been very satisfied with the way things have been going. I really like the system and find it makes creating adventures easier. It does take a different frame of mind to set the scenes but after a few games, things come more easily.
      Perhaps it was about politics - he wasn't clear. I, too, backed 7S and have been pleased with the book I got and the many add'l PDFs I've received. I got to play with one of the designers a few years ago; he was really intense, too, but ran a good game,
    1. J.M's Avatar
      J.M -
      I don't think this year has been a bad year for the industry. But it has taught us that there is a difference between launching a successful game, and having a business model that generates a steady revenue stream over time. I wish JW the best and hope we continue to have a vibrant "indie" scene.
    1. LuisCarlos17f's Avatar
      LuisCarlos17f -
      In this game Castilla is building schools and universities for the native people in the New World and Avalon is making money with the slaves trade and the piracy and where the craftmasons have ordered all bishops who doesn't accept the new regalism (= clergy controlled by lay powers) have to be terminated? If an Avalonian squad destroys an alien ship (like in the movie Stargate) are they heroes, but if it is destroyed by Castillian conquers then is it a barbarity?

      Sorry but I don't like that subtext about nations ruled by craftmason lodges are better than regions who are still loyal to the Church.
    1. EthanSental's Avatar
      EthanSental -
      I think J.M. is correct in my book. Need a revenue stream to keep people on staff. Not depend mainly on money raised 2 or so years ago for an entire staff if book/pdf sales of current or new content aren’t enough....with the entire staff laid off...it seems likely that new sales weren’t enough 2 years later...where his often maligned D&D comments is continual growing. Also of note..all the people in the threads back when D&D supposedly “laid off” people means nothing as we know now the growth 5e has experienced year after year.

      I backed the 7S kick starter and enjoyed reading it but couldn’t get enough interest in the system or setting to run a game.
    1. Shasarak's Avatar
      Shasarak -
      Quote Originally Posted by JeffB View Post
      Isn't this the guy who claimed that running Tomb of Horrors destroyed all his childhood friendships and blamed Gary?
      I could imagine the damage getting that product at the wrong time in your gaming life could do.
    1. pickin_grinnin's Avatar
      pickin_grinnin -
      A safer, more flexible way to do things is to have one or two-person game companies that bring in others as consultants or contractors on a project by project basis.
    1. Jester David's Avatar
      Jester David -
      I also echo J.M.'s sentiments that they likely hired too many people following the successful Kickstarter. Possibly expecting their next few Kickstarters to do even better, creating sustainable sales each year. And instead it raised a sixth as much money.
      And instead found that everyone who wanted the game had already bought the game, and sales were slow. And, more than likely, quite a few people bought the books and went "Wow, this is great. But I have zero time to run this right now..." and didn't bother getting accessories and expansions.

      Also... D&D is also really huge right now. Which could be good for the industry, but really makes it hard to compete. D&D isn't just the best selling RPG, it's pretty much the top three selling RPGs.
      In a couple years when the massive influx of people move on from D&D to other games it will be great for the indie publishers. But that isn't right now.
    1. Cergorach's Avatar
      Cergorach -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jester David View Post
      I also echo J.M.'s sentiments that they likely hired too many people following the successful Kickstarter. Possibly expecting their next few Kickstarters to do even better, creating sustainable sales each year. And instead it raised a sixth as much money.
      And instead found that everyone who wanted the game had already bought the game, and sales were slow. And, more than likely, quite a few people bought the books and went "Wow, this is great. But I have zero time to run this right now..." and didn't bother getting accessories and expansions.

      Also... D&D is also really huge right now. Which could be good for the industry, but really makes it hard to compete. D&D isn't just the best selling RPG, it's pretty much the top three selling RPGs.
      In a couple years when the massive influx of people move on from D&D to other games it will be great for the indie publishers. But that isn't right now.
      I'm in the "Wow, this is great." camp, but with the realization that I'll never run or play in such a campaign. Simply because there is so much other stuff to play or run that is higher on the priority list, maybe not even on my own, but on people who would want to play it. L5R also filled that spot. Great worlds, but not something that would fit my gaming group as an RPG. I do enjoy the world that is described and thus bought book in the past, but after filling up my bookcases with 'classics' I'm now down to buying the pdfs...

      And while D&D is huge right now, it's always been huge compared to 7th Sea. Before D&D 5E Pathfinder was huge, before that 3(.5)E was huge and 2E... I would rank 7th Sea as a third tier RPG, with a short popularity spike (in this case due to a KS campaign). It's not about quality, it's about finding enough people in high enough concentrations in an area to sustain a gaming group and for 7th Sea I suspect that is difficult and not everyone is interested in virtual RPGs.
    1. Koloth's Avatar
      Koloth -
      Before all the long knives get drawn, keep in mind that WOTC has a track record for laying off a lot of folks once a product is mature and many of the promised books are out the door. There are a few threads on this forum discussing past WOTC Christmas layoffs. Once a product is mostly complete, produced and shipping, the harsh truth is you either need a new product line to keep folks busy or you don't need the folks.

      Sounds like this KS got most of the stuff out the door and into backers hands before the layoffs hit.
    1. Grimkrieg's Avatar
      Grimkrieg -
      I'm not really surprised. I own the new 7th Sea I can run the game perfectly from the first book and the supplements mostly contain world information and advice instead of useful game tools like adventures or monsters. The next books were of little interest to me because of that. I just don't see how producing a storygame with the splatbook model of a more rules and options intensive game like the old 7th Sea was going to work.

      Hopefully, everyone lands on their feet, and Jon Wick finds a way to satisfy all of the backers.
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