Despite the best laid plans, sometimes we make changes to the D&D product release schedule. Usually this happens well before we’ve communicated our plans, but sometimes we must make changes to schedules that have already been announced. That happens to be the case we have here.I'm not at all surprised, as Wizards had already begun cutting back on releases and switching to cardstock tokens in all of their boxed 4E products (i.e., Gamma World, Monster Vault, etc.). While these were fine for boxed sets, the loss of the pre-painted minis is disappointing as Wizards was by far the largest producer of this cheap option for minis.
We have made the decision to depart from pre-painted plastic miniatures sets. Lords of Madness stands as the final release under that model. We will continue to release special collector’s sets (such as the Beholder Collector’s Set we released last fall), as well as make use of plastic figures in other product offerings. Check out the Wrath of Ashardalon board game next month for the latest example of this. Moving forward, we will continue to explore more options for players to represent characters and monsters on the tabletop, including Monster Vault and other D&D products that feature monster and character tokens.
In addition, last fall, Wizard's parent company Hasbro (under the Milton Bradley moniker), stopped production on Heroscape, their constructable, miniature battles board game. The big "H" was watching sales dwindle after they dumped the original time/reality-hopping theme in favor of the almighty D&D. A stunted release of Heroscape under a Marvel Superheroes license led no where as well.
So what's the reason behind the poor sales for all these plastic minis and mini-related games? It's hard to be sure but I'd bet that poor shelf visibility and feeble marketing support are at least partially to blame. Wizards/Hasbro also seems to saturate the market with these products (and yet provide substandard marketing!) and then bail completely, much like the Star Wars RPG debacle in January of last year (Ah! It IS a tradition!).
I myself have bought bunches of the little guys (and some Heroscape stuff too for the scenery), which has been a lot of fun--and affordable for those of us who don't have time/cash to paint and prepare metal minis. While this might be a boon for companies like Reaper and their Legendary Encounters pre-paints, they're not running anywhere near the quantities or variety that WotC had. So there is no real heir-apparent.
Here's hoping the void is eventually filled. And frankly, at this point, I'd be happy to give my hard earned geek bucks to someone else. In the meanwhile, remainder stock will no doubt slowly dwindle from FLGS shelves...