Blizzard & Tokyopop End Six-Year Relationship [Update2]

Posted by on March 3, 2011 - 8 Comments »

The Novel Post has been a staple column in the Lore Hound diet since the beginning. Long running and often updated thanks to Blizzard’s various licensing deals across numerous literary medias, the column is going to slim down in 2011. That’s not because we writers are getting lazy. Heavens no. It’s because Tokyopop, Blizzard’s most frequent producer for the Expanded Universe, over 20 products to date, is no longer making manga for the Blizzard universes.

According to an inside source, Blizzard is no longer in a relationship with the Los Angeles-based publisher of anime and manga. “The TOKYOPOP/Blizzard program ends with [the latest] books” the source said.

Tokyopop has been struggling to remain profitable in recent years, with a major restructuring occurring in 2008. More recently, the company saw its COO John Parker resign in February, followed by more employees layoffs on March 1. The collapse of Borders and its inability to pay what it owed content creators forced Tokyopop’s latest cutbacks.

This week’s downsizing included well-known manga editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl and Troy Lewter. Lewter’s name should ring a bell to Blizzard fans, as he was the editor behind Tokyopop’s most recent batches of Blizzard-based manga.

[Update]

According to the source, the dissolution of the agreement has nothing to due with the most recent layoffs. The decision for the companies to go their separate ways “was actually made a while back.”

[Update2]

A further inquiry was just returned. Blizzard decided to end the agreement, despite being happy with the returns, due to its own inability to fully commit to the project. The developer felt that it did not have enough time to devote to co-developing and reviewing the products in a timely fashion. See the Feast of Winter Veil story in Warcraft: Legends 3 coming out months after the holiday as evidence.

[End Updates]

Blizzard protects its intellectual property closely – ask any number of people that have been hit with cease and desists letters – and has been known to let licensing agreements expire due to quality concerns. Just ask Upper Deck Entertainment. The internal strife at Tokyopop likely precipitated the end of the relationship (See updates above), since the books saw at least modest commercial success. But the exact reason remains unconfirmed.

Fans of Richard A. Knaak and Kim Jae-Hwan are probably wondering what is going to happen to The Dragons of Outland. The proposed trilogy from the team that created The Sunwell Trilogy had its second installment released earlier this week (along with StarCraft: Ghost Academy Volume 3). The third and final chapter, and only announced manga not produced, is now in limbo.

We’ve reached out to our contacts to have these questions answered, but none have responded as of press (see update).

It’s quiet sad that this avenue of storytelling is going away. Manga offered a perfect way for Blizzard to get stories out that needed to be told, but for whatever reason, haven’t made it in to the games. Case in point, the absolutely stellar origins story for the Headless Horseman. Warcraft: Legends really hit its stride the last two volumes. To those at Tokyopop that made the products happen, thank you for the hard work and captivating stories and artwork!

You can see, and buy, all of the products created during the six-year relationship in our Extensive Expanded Universe piece.