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Wizardry's Wild Ride from West to East: VentureBeat on the fate of the Wizardry IP

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Wizardry's Wild Ride from West to East: VentureBeat on the fate of the Wizardry IP

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Wed 8 May 2013, 16:27:48

Tags: Reggie Carolipio; Sir-Tech; Wizardry

Sir-Tech Software's Wizardry series was one of the first great Western CRPG franchises. After Sir-Tech's final collapse in 2003, the series disappeared in the West, but confusingly, Wizardry games continue to be released in Japan to this day. Over at VentureBeat, there's an excellent article attempting to sleuth out just what happened to the Wizardry IP. Here's what the author discovered:

Though the Jagged Alliance rights found a home in 2002, Wizardry’s rights were still up in the air. That is until 2006 when the mystery company holding onto those rights finally offloaded Wizardry’s trademarks to an unexpected suitor. On November 28, 2006, Wizardry’s trademark and associated assets were signed over by Norman Sirotek to a Japanese company by the name of Kabushiki Kaisha Aeria IPM. Or, more simply, Aeria IPM.​

In Japan, a Kabushiki Kaisha (or K.K.) is the equivalent of a stock company or a corporate entity over here. It’s also the most common form of company in Japan. For example, Konami Digital Entertainment Co., Ltd. is also referred to as Kabushiki Kaisha Konami Digital Entertainment.​

Aeria IPM didn’t have a long history. It didn’t seem to exist at all until a month before it had apparently acquired the Wizardry rights, but half of that partnership, Aeria, had actually been around for a good while.​

There’s not a lot of information on exactly who IPM is; although, the “Aeria” part would eventually be dropped in 2008. As to who Aeria was, a strangely isolated page dedicated to IPM seems to point to them as Aeria, Inc., one of the largest MMO game companies in Japan that is also known as Aeria Games. If the information is accurate, it also shows that Aeria IPM was formed a month before Wizardry’s rights were signed over. Aeria Inc. has been around since 2002 and, according to their history, founded Aeria Games & Entertainment in the United States in 2006.​

In 2008, Gamepot became the majority stakeholder in IPM, changing the name of the company by simply dropping the “Aeria.” Gamepot had also become a wholly owned subsidiary of the So-Net Entertainment Corporation in the same year, a company that also happens to be a subsidiary of Sony. And in coming full circle, IPM would also be hearing back from their former bosses. Last year, Aeria Games and Gamepot announced a merger in December which brings parent company, Aeria Inc., back into the picture.​

All through this, Wizardry continued to enjoy plenty of success in Japan well before the ink had dried between Norman Sirotek and Takahiro Shinozaki in 2006. While Wizardry has “eight” formal chapters, nearly double that (including Wizardry Online) have come out in Japan after Sirtech Canada closed in 2003. Sadly, aside from Wizardry Online, most of those would never make it back to the West in the way that Wizardry: Tales of the Forsaken Land for the PS2 did back in 2001.​

IPM, Inc. is still holding onto Wizardry. It’s still referred to as the trademark holder, licensing Wizardry out to Gamepot, which you can see mentioned right at the bottom of Wizardry Online’s English homepage. In a very roundabout and indirect way, it’s also in Sony’s hands — as strange as that sounds. Not only is Sony backing Gamepot, but it’s also a part of Wizardry Online, too, which you can see prominently displayed on the same page.​

There are still a number of questions without many answers — some of which might still be buried in an unclaimed storage unit somewhere in Ogdensburg, waiting to be discovered by an antiquities dealer just as a cache was found late last year and put up for auction on eBay (most of which eventually ended up mysteriously canceled). Or they may never be found, which leaves only rumors and speculation,such as that surrounding the whereabouts of the Sword of Ultimate Sorcery from Atari’s Swordquest series.​

But, for now at least, that’s the end of Wizardry’s wild ride … and one of the strangest journeys of survival and success for a Western CRPG.​

Thanks to evdk for inspiring me to find this article!

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