Weisman graduated from Francis W. Parker High School, in Chicago, Illinois. He went to the Merchant Marine Academy and briefly attended University of Illinois at Chicago, before leaving school to pursue his business interests.
In 1980, Weisman founded role playing game publisher FASA Corporation (short for the Freedonia Aeronautics & Space Administration, named after the fictional country in the Marx Brothers film Duck Soup) with partner L. Ross Babcock.:119 Weisman and Babcock printed up a few hundred copies of Weisman's early adventures for the pen and paper role-playing game, Traveller, and sold them to a local Chicago store before sending them to nationwide distributors.:119 Although working out of Weisman's basement, he and Babcock were looking for outside talent and brought William H. Keith, Jr. and his brother J. Andrew Keith into the company from GDW.:119 The company's first professional publication was I.S.P.M.V Tethys (1980), a set of deckplans for a mercenary transport, drawn by Weisman and featuring three scenarios written by Andrew Keith.:119 In August 1981, FASA came to an agreement to publish the digest-sized magazine High Passage, on which Weisman and Babcock did the layout and editing.:119 Weisman wanted FASA to produce its own science-fiction roleplaying game, so he and Babcock secured the rights to produce their own 1983 Star Trek: The Role Playing Game.:120 FASA introduced a game about battling mechanoids called Combots (1983), by Weisman and Fawcett.:121 FASA later produced the successful BattleTech and Shadowrun franchises.
In 1987, Weisman and his father Morton Weisman founded Environmental Simulations Project — later renamed Virtual Worlds Entertainment —, the company that produced the BattleTech Centers.:122 Working with Incredible Technologies, VWE created the world's first immersive networked location-based virtual reality gaming centers. VWE was a critical, though not a commercial success.As Weisman got more involved in VWE, Sam Lewis became FASA's president.:122
In 1995, Weisman founded FASA Interactive with Denny Thorley and Morton Weisman to personally take over the development and production of the hit MechWarrior PC games; FASA Corporation (the RPG company) provided FASA Interactive with a license for its properties in return for stock.:125 The franchise is one of the top-selling PC games of all time, with sales of over 9 million units worldwide.
On January 7, 1999, Microsoft acquired Virtual World Entertainment Group and FASA Interactive; VWE was sold off to some of its developers, while FASA Interactive became Microsoft's FASA Studio.:126 Babcock and Weisman went over to Microsoft, with Weisman becoming the Creative Director of Microsoft games from 1999-2002.:126 While working at Microsoft, Weisman and his unit created a new genre of interactive entertainment called alternative reality games, and developed the alternate reality game "The Beast", to promote the Steven Spielberg film A.I.
Weisman had been working on a design for a computer game called Corsairs!, set in an alternate universe United States, and he convinced FASA Corporation to develop the board game Crimson Skies (1998) to enhance the value of the property.:126
In 2000, he founded WizKids, with his new idea for miniatures games involving the "clix" miniature figure that contained a dial to depict the miniature's stats.:126 WizKids produced the games Mage Knight, HeroClix, and Pirates of the Spanish Main. WizKids grew rapidly and went from start-up to over $30M in annual sales in just two years. The company focused on miniature figure games that are easy to learn for younger players. Weisman sold WizKids to Topps in 2003.:128
In 2003 he founded 42 Entertainment, a design company in the new field of the alternate reality game or ARG's.:128 42 has created multiple ARG's, including, "I Love Bees", to promote the Xbox game Halo 2, and "Year Zero" to promote the Nine Inch Nails album of the same name.
In 2006, his Cathy's Book, a novel with interactive elements co-written by Sean Stewart and illustrated by Cathy Brigg appeared from Running Press. The book was a best seller in Germany and sold over 100,000 copies in the USA.
In 2007, FASA Studio was dissolved and all of the FASA rights were then licensed to Weisman.:127 In 2007 Weisman founded Smith & Tinker (named after the characters in The Wizard of Oz). It was through Smith & Tinker that Weisman was able to relicense his old FASA properties.:128 Smith & Tinker has licensed the electronic entertainment rights to Crimson Skies, Shadowrun, MechWarrior and other FASA properties that had belonged to Microsoft.
The same year Weisman co-founded the start-up Fyreball with Pete Parsons (formally of Bungie Studios and currently serves on the Board of Advisors along with Ed Fries). The company is now operating under the name Meteor Solutions
On May 27, 2009 Weisman's Smith & Tinker announced their first game had been released to public beta. Nanovor is an online battle game targeted to 7 - 12 year olds. In support of the game, Smith & Tinker is releasing episodic cartoons, graphic novels, comic books, figurines and more.
On June 9, 2009 Weisman and J.C. Hutchins released Personal Effects: Dark Art (Griffin). On the same day Weisman along with Russ Bullock announced that the MechWarrior franchise would be seeing a relaunch.
Jordan is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Interactive Media Division at the USC School of Cinema-Television. In 2012 he started to raise money, through Kickstarter, for Shadowrun Returns, a new video game adaptation of Shadowrun. His new company is Harebrained Schemes and they released their 3rd game Shadowrun Returns in July 25, 2013. Shortly after, on September 10, 2013, Jordan's company launched a Kickstarter for its first tabletop game, Golem Arcana. After successfully funding, Golem Arcana released the following year on August 13, 2014. On January 13, 2015, Harebrained Schemes launched another Kickstarter campaign to partially fund development their next Shadowrun game, Shadowrun: Hong Kong.
Awards and honors
Weisman has won more than 100 awards, including election to the Hall of Fame by the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. In 2003 he was selected as the Pacific Northwest Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young.
Weisman's design credits in paper RPG and miniature game design include:
- The click base concept for miniature gaming, MageKnight, HeroClix, etc.
- Star Trek III: Starship Combat Game Box Set (1984)
- MechWarrior: The Battletech Role Playing Game (1986)
- Shadowrun (1989)
- Earthdawn (1993)
- MechWarrior: Dark Age (2002)
- Aerotech 2, Revised Ed. (BattleTech) (2004)
- Golem Arcana (2014)
He also served as production manager and/or graphic designer on a long series of titles, and is co-author with Sean Stewart of Cathy's Book, a young-adult novel with ARG components.
- Shannon Appelcline (2011). Designers & Dragons. Mongoose Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907702-58-7.
- "The intricate plot behind 'A.I.' Web mystery". USA Today. 2001-06-28. Retrieved 2010-05-07.
- Weisman, Jordan (2007). "Magic: The Gathering". In Lowder, James. Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. 192–195. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0.
- "Smith & Tinker is pleased to announce that it has licensed from Microsoft the electronic entertainment rights for Mr. Weisman's previous creations...". 2007-10-15. Archived from the original on 2007-12-13. Retrieved 2008-02-07.
- "Connect, Collect & Battle with Nanovor". 2009-05-27.
- "MechWarrior Q&A - The First Details". 2009-07-09.
- "Shadowrun Returns". 2012-04-04.
- "Harebraided Schemes official release date announcement". 2013-06-18.
- "Golem Arcana Kickstarter".
- "Golem Arcana Release Announcement".
- Kickstarter (Jan 13, 2015). "Shadowrun: Hong Kong". Retrieved Jan 15, 2015.
- Harebrained Schemes
- Weisman's rap sheet at MobyGames
- Escapist Magazine's biography/article on Weisman
- John Cook's Venture Blog at SeattlePI.com
- Jordan Weisman at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database