|Industry||Role-playing, board, wargaming|
|Fate||Bankruptcy 1998. Partially merged 1999 and fully acquired in 2001 by Humanoids Inc. Acquired 2003 by Purgatory Publishing. Remnants acquired 2016 by Nocturnal Media.|
|Successor||D6Legends, Inc. (a Humanoids Inc. unit, 1999-2003)
Purgatory Publishing (2003-2016)
|Headquarters||New York City, New York, United States|
|Daniel Scott Palter (founder)|
West End Games (WEG) was a company that made board, role-playing, and war games. It was founded by Daniel Scott Palter in 1974 in New York City, but later moved to Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Its current and past product lines include Star Wars, Paranoia, Torg, DC Universe, and Junta.
West End Games was named after the bar in which the meeting that finalized its founding occurred: the West End Bar near Colombia University. Initially a producer of board wargames, the company began producing roleplaying games in 1984 with Paranoia. The high production values demanded by the wargames industry made them one of the few companies who could compete with TSR, and they were able to acquire the license from Columbia Pictures to produce an RPG based on the film Ghostbusters. This game, Ghostbusters: A Frightfully Cheerful Roleplaying Game, formed the basis of the D6 System which was to be heavily used in many of their licensed products.
In 1987, the company released their Star Wars role-playing game. Since the films had been released some years previously, and there was (at the time) no new media forthcoming, the success of these books came as a surprise. The game established much of the groundwork of what later became the Star Wars expanded universe. Lucasfilm considered their sourcebooks so authoritative that when Timothy Zahn was hired to write what became the Thrawn trilogy, he was sent a box of West End Games Star Wars books and directed to utilize the background material presented within. Zahn's trilogy, in turn, renewed interest in the franchise and provided further sales for West End Games.
1990 saw the release of the Torg roleplaying game, followed in 1994 by the Masterbook system, which was mostly used in licensed RPG adaptations: Indiana Jones, Necroscope, Species, Tales from the Crypt, Tank Girl, and World of Aden. Another licensed game, the Hercules & Xena Roleplaying Game was the last title released by the initial version of the company: in July 1998, West End Games went into bankruptcy, following mismanagement between West End Games and its then-parent company, shoe importer Bucci Retail Group. When the parent company filed for bankruptcy, West End Games was forced to go under as well.
The bankrupt West End Games became WEG / Creative Design Group while a new West End Games (D6 Legends, Inc.) was formed in partnership with Yeti, a French design house and publisher and subsidiary of Humanoids Publishing, in March 1999. Under court supervision, WEG / Creative Design Group sold off product and assets to pay off debt. WEG / Creative Design Group sold to the new company intellectual property, the Paranoia licensing contracts, and the trademarks. Licensing contracts for Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Xena remained with Creative Design Group, though the Star Wars license was soon lost to Wizards of the Coast, who released their own Star Wars game in 2000. As Humanoids Publishing was the publisher of the Metabarons graphic novels, they utilized the D6 System to release an RPG based upon that setting.
At the 1999 GAMA Trade Show, the new West End Games announced a third edition of Paranoia for late June or early July of that year, followed by a Bug Sector supplement, but these were never released. The DC Universe license was acquired and a new RPG was also announced at that time, which was published in 1999.
In November 2003 West End Games was bought by Eric J. Gibson's Purgatory Publishing. He moved the company to Downingtown, Pennsylvania, in 2004. Under his tenure, Torg received a revised edition and a generic version of the D6 System was produced, which led to a line of irregularly produced supplements and met with general approval from fans. However, this did not translate into high sales; in a post on the official West End forums in 2008 Gibson announced that none of the D6 products produced since he acquired West End had turned a profit, and West End's other RPG lines were not performing as well as he had expected, leading to losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
West End also expanded back into board games, beginning with a new edition of Junta, which according to Gibson was one of the few products that did turn a profit.
In 2007, the company announced a new science-fiction RPG by Bill Coffin called Septimus, offering preorders, but following delays it was publicly cancelled by Gibson in March 2008. Gibson stated in July 2008 that West End Games could not afford to provide refunds to customers who preordered the cancelled Septimus product, and indeed could not even afford to pay the postage to ship books to individuals who were willing to accept a refund in the form of products instead of money. Following the Septimus cancellation and fan backlash, Gibson said that he was planning on selling all of WEG's properties, although this did not occur at that time. WEG eventually released Septimus via PDF and print on demand.
Gibson stated in a 2010 podcast interview that he was "perhaps foolishly optimistic" in assuming sales would be higher than they turned out to be because "the name West End Games would carry a lot of weight". He further stated that this led him to print more books than he could sell, books which he eventually had to destroy in order to save on storage costs. Gibson planned to release the d6 System under the terms of the Open Gaming License (OGL) to increase sales but also "to protect it from myself", meaning that if the company had to be sold or go out of business, the system would still be available to the general public. In 2009, West End Games moved forward with these plans, with the resulting license known as OpenD6.
Following the Septimus project, Purgatory Publishing sold off most of their properties. In June 2010, Torg was sold to German game company Ulisses Spiele, while in July 2010 the Masterbook system, Shatterzone, and Bloodshadows were sold to Precis Intermedia. West End Games itself and its remaining properties--which by then consisted primarily of the D6 System--was purchased in April 2016 by Nocturnal Media, White Wolf Publishing founder Stewart Wieck's gaming company.
Nocturnal intended to keep the West End Games brand alive, and their first project using this branding was a revised edition of Greg Costikyan's 1984 WEG boardgame, Web and Starship. A Kickstarter was launched in April 2016 and was successfully funded, but the death of Nocturnal owner Stewart Wieck in June 2017 ultimately resulted in the cancellation of the project. No further WEG-branded titles have been announced since that time.
Game designers previously affiliated with West End Games over its long history include: