For a number of months I have wanted to get round to doing a review of the Warhammer Historical rule set Gladiator. Instead it seems a epitaph would be more appropriate! I am sure that by now everyone who cares already knows that the plug has been pulled on the whole of the Warhamer Historical series. As to why I would imagine we have about as many ideas as we have posts on the subject. Having worked with the sticky subject of licences in the past I have yet another idea to throw into the melting pot, that of expired or withdrawn licence. Given that Gladiator was only released last year and had adverts for yet to be released product it's safe to assume that if the licence was drawing towards expiry that the holders were expecting to renew the licence. But something happened in the mean time and not that long after Gladiator was released. The half price sale towards the end of last year really points towards an expectation to loose the licence either through none renewal, removal of licence or quite possibly a renewal price that was set at a unaffordable price which would be a possible reason for the half price sale in an attempt to raise the cash to keep the licence. The key thing about licencing is that whilst you may have done all the work on producing an item, that item will not be your intellectual property if a licence comes to an end. OK it may not be held by the issuer of the licence but what will be certain is that the item can not see light of day without permission.
So what does this mean for rule sets such as Waterloo and Over The Top etc.? Well some of the comments I have read has people thinking that it's possible for these rules to be released into the Public Domain, or that another company could "just change a few words and a few rules and release as a fresh product", well er no, not a chance, unless someone wants to take of the might of Games Workshop who will be forced to protect their intellectual property. OK I hear you, but GW did not do the work, they did not spend hours and hours play testing the rules etc. Sure your right and it counts to nothing. Unless the designer goes to the trouble of almost complete re-write they are playing a dangerous game. WH books are based on a series of rules that already have seen print. Gladiator is based on the LOTR rule set, if that had been released post licence loss and could be traced back to LOTR series then GW have cause to claim copyright infringement, intellectual property theft and have the financial clout to see it through the courts. Now to be fair GW would have to prove finical loss (either currently, in the past or FUTURE LOSS) to get a financial payment from the infringes. But even if they do not get any money from the suit, they would almost certainly get the new product removed from sale or free release. The legal cost would cripple who ever had tried to release the product even without damages being awarded. This is why any product that was in development won't see the light of day beyond play test copies.
So how about unsold copies of the rule books? This is tricky, typically once a set date has gone past no more copies can be sold by the vendor, even copies that have been sold on to other companies can be recalled with the right clauses (with the cost of buy back etc. being born by the supplier. Whilst this is somewhat unusual what tends to be the norm, is that any sub-companies or direct trading partners are banned from selling post this date and so often what you get is a mass dumping of the product to a budget supplier. It would be wise to keep an eye on such as The Works etc. though GW may well have bought the stock. What you won't see is the local stores suddenly offering them, nor will you see e-bay suddenly flooded by the original supplier. Worse case scenario will be the stock will be destroyed, unlikely but quite possible dependant on who will lose out the most on the financial fall out. The idea that stock levels were low is unlikely to be true. It seems fair to say that notice of the decision regarding the licence was relatively short and whilst the fire sale will have sold many a copy that very many more were in stock, especially the newer items that would have had a fairly huge print run given the selling price of £20 a copy.
Is it the last rights? I think so, it's possible that the licence could be offered back at a reduced price or a greater royalty. It's also possible the licence could be handed over to another company with a deal done on the unpublished works. I am not 100% sure on the relationship between GW and WH and the website selling the rules. it's possible the last two are shell companies ran by GW or syndicated companies. What ever the reason GW has for dropping the line it's a shame for those who have bought into the system and it''s a shame that the most profit rich companys in the business has again turned away from historical wargames. Am I fan of GW? No but they were the company that I bought WRG 6th Edition Ancients from and they were the company that introduced roleplaying to the UK in a way that it stuck.