The Week in BG
By far the biggest news this week, and probably the biggest gaming news of the year so far, is that Fantasy Flight Games is bringing to an end one of it's most successful Living Card Games, Android: Netrunner. The news came as a surprise to many, especially as it seemed that FFG was turning somewhat of a corner with the 6 year old game. With the announcement and release of a new Core set relatively recently, and the first card rotation in their history, they were really gearing up to revitalise the game going forward. This even seemed to be working, as interest in the game was at a high not seen for years, with the new Core sets selling faster than they could make them. Normally when a game is shuttered, it is losing popularity or is just not making the company money anymore, neither of which appeared to be the case with Netrunner.
Which begs the question. Why now?
As some out there will know, Netrunner is actually a licensed property of Wizards of the Coast, publisher of Magic: The Gathering and D&D. They license Netrunner out to FFG to make an LCG in their Android universe, but before that it was a CCG published by Wizards using the same blind-pack-CCG model as Magic. It's this licensing deal coming to an end that has prematurely halted the game right when it seemed to be picking up some momentum. While there is no concrete info on the reasons for the split, based on the tone of the FFG announcement, and their recent and upcoming product schedule, it seems this has come as a bit of a shock not just to their fans, but to FFG themselves.
When lead developer Michael Boggs says in the announcement article "When I was first told Android: Netrunner was ending, I was… something. I don’t really know the name for the emotion that I was feeling. It was a mix of sadness, confusion, and nostalgia" you can tell this wasn't a planned, or even wanted, exit from this franchise.
There's a chance Wizards asked for too much money and FFG didn't think it was worth it anymore, or maybe Wizards pulled the whole thing without offering a relicense deal at all. As owners of competing card games, Wizard's potentially thought Netrunner was getting too big and decided not to renew, or they wanted to bring the license back in-house where they can then make their own Netrunner, which would no doubt be a blind-pack-CCG again and not what most fans would want. There are further complications to this when you consider the owning companies of each, with FFG owned by the giant Asmodee, and Wizards owned by the even giant-er Hasbro. Asmodee is creeping up on Hasbro for size and market share, and this could be seen as an easy way to remove one of their key product lines. All of this is just speculation however, with the only real fact being that the game will cease to be created in this form as of October 22nd.
FFG are going to release one last Deluxe box, Reign and Reverie, which was announced prior to this, and hold one more world championship later this year and that will be that. Obviously the game itself is not going away, and for those that still want to play they will be able to get old packs of cards and still play the game. But the key selling point for these Living titles are the constant stream of incremental updates, new small packs every month, new deluxe boxes and story based expansions and the discussions around these. It's a shame that such a loved game has to end due to back office business reasons and the designers and players won't get to see it out in the way they wanted.
We can only hope that FFG put the team onto making something new and cool, maybe even in the Android universe, and that Wizards put the Netrunner license to good use on their side.