Gaming and the Future According to FFG

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Team Covenant this week put up a pretty interesting video from a gaming business perspective. It’s a bit dry if you’re not interested in the topics, but they interviewed Fantasy Flight’s CEO Christian T. Petersen about the Asmodee merger last year, what it means, and Fantasy Flight’s direction going forward. I love Team Covenant’s videos, especially the one where I walk in the background at Gencon 2016 because it has my pretty face on it. I’ll let you find that one yourself if you haven’t seen it. The info from this video seems to be from Nov 2016 as there is some dated material, but it’s still worth the watch as it’s been posted this week.¬†

I enjoy the insights into the nuts and bolts of the industry — how each division works, how they are set up for distribution and the like. It’s a reminder that this is a very complex and difficult business, and it takes a lot of forethought and organization to get a few geeks getting together rolling dice.

A lot of people were shrieking and flailing about Asmodee’s acquisition of FFG last year, at least in my circles. The concern was that a monopoly was being formed, and that in conjunction with rising game prices was going to push the hobby’s pricepoint even higher — and it’s not cheap to begin with. ¬†Prices have gone up, but the standards for art, game components and game design have all gone up with it. It’s weeded out a lot of the crap that we’ve seen in years past. The bar is REALLY high now, and there’s no skimming. FFG has never skimmed on any of their components or game mechanics, and while $100 feels intrinsically crazy for a board game, the components and quality of gameplay of something like Rebellion is so phenomenal, I would probably even double that purchase price if I had to. I’m fully aware that they have to make a profit, or there’s no point in them existing, and I’m fine with this as long as they continue to make excellent products.

But the other fear, monopoly elements, is a bit unjustified too. While they’ve bought up a lot of my favorite gaming companies, Asmodee has been smart in that they’ve picked and chose just that: my favorite gaming companies. Asmodee itself has always produced very high quality games, and they want to maintain their brand. This isn’t an Amazon situation where it kills every other business it comes across. Gaming has plenty of distribution, plenty of stores, plenty of other game companies (I mean… Hasbro is more worrisome, isn’t it? They produce LOW quality games and have a near monopoly on the shelves, though that is slowly starting to change) to produce things. And kickstarter provides a vibrant community for the smaller companies or solo developers. Again I believe that Asmodee is going to do, and has done so far, is to raise the bar for what we deem worthy of our time.

Another interesting point he brought up is technology in gaming, integrating apps. While I like to fully separate and get off the screen while I play, I understand that innovative mechanics and interesting stuff can come of it. My friends have adored the new Mansions of Madness, and though that’s not a game for me, I recognize its value. ¬†Petersen here mentioned that they will continue to drive technology in games but they’re going to be careful to not just get lazy and rely on apps, because he understands that there’s a physical component that’s important to that social setting. This portion of the interview gets a big thumbs up from me.

Of course, they talked about their proposed games going forward, which I’m interested in taking a look at as well, but the first half of the video with insights into the gaming industry are what I found intriguing. Great interview.

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