I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now, since it exploded across the board game universe, but in case you missed it, here’s the news: two major board game publishers, Fantasy Flight Games and Asmodee, have announced a merger. This link provides some details and an FAQ: http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_news.asp?eidn=5212
This is definitely a major event within the board game sphere, and worth commenting on. I’m sure we’ll hear a lot of hopes and fears from a lot of different people over the next few weeks, and we’ll slowly get more details and facts about the merger as it happens, but here are a few thoughts and comments about the whole thing.
Keep in mind one thing here: I don’t work for Fantasy Flight or Asmodee. I’m not on the inside. These are my thoughts and opinions without clear knowledge or foresight of the whole deal.
1. It won’t ruin board gaming.
I don’t know if anyone actually thinks this. It is pretty crazy that two major publishers are conjoining, but even combined, these companies are a fraction of the size of the biggest board game player – Hasbro. The world of hobby board gaming and such is that even the biggest companys are, compared to the rest of the world, small-to-medium sized publishers.
I don’t think Asmodee or Fantasy Flight are out to ruin your hobby. This isn’t Verizon or Time Warner Cable trying to grab hold of a monopoly on the industry so they can charge you more for lesser quality products. Hopefully this goes without saying.
Asmodee is a great company and already has a large number of small-house publishers under it’s wing. As far as I’m aware, none of these companies have been ruined, and if anything their reach and product quality has grown.
I hope that the two combined make for even better quality, cheaper board game products we can all enjoy.
2. Merger vs. Acquisition
A few months ago, Asmodee announced that they acquired Days of Wonder. This time, the deal is called a “merger.” I’m not a business expert, but I think the terms imply different things. Days of Wonder will be completely engulfed by Asmodee. This Fantasy Flight thing sounds more like a partnership. While it does sound like FFG will be taken under Asmodee’s “umbrella” I think FFG will operate fairly independently. I don’t think Asmodee will try to make FFG make smaller, simpler games. I think FFG will continue to churn out the same big, epic products we’re used to.
This merger should allow both companies to pool their resources for improvements across the board.
I looked up the DoW/Asmodee announcement and in fact that was billed as a merger as well. My mistake. Still, it looks as though Fantasy Flight will operate fairly independently, as will Days of Wonder, while sharing resources in both directions. Perhaps it’s just some of the wording in the announcement that made it feel closer to a partnership – wording that implies Fantasy Flight has a lot of resources to bring to the table and share with Asmodee’s current family of game companies.
In the DoW announcement there was a rather large emphasis on the games added to Asmodee’s line, while in this announcement the focus seems to be on production, manufacturing, and logistics.
3. Sales, operational and marketing infrastructure
This is my biggest hope for what all this means. I’ve noticed lately that Fantasy Flight games are getting darn cheap. Their boxes are still packed with beautiful art, excellent cardboard, and plastic miniatures to boot. But their prices for those components are extremely reasonable. The Witcher is clocking in around $50. XCOM is supposed to be $60 with a boatload of minis and a companion app. Star Wars: Armada is $99 but you get amazing, beautiful, stellar miniatures in that box. The point is, Fantasy Flight is nailing their production costs and print runs to give us cheaper products that are very high quality.
My dream is that Asmodee will benefit from this. A game like Hyperborea could be $60 instead of $99. If Asmodee can take advantage of the production mastery of Fantasy Flight, we could be seeing cheaper games across the board. I also hope that this will improve supply, so that new games go on sale and sell out immediately, forcing many people to wait a few months for another print run to arrive. Asmodee hasn’t had a huge problem with this, but there’s always room for improvement.
I just noticed a subtle emphasis on the use of Fantasy Flight’s production facilites – mentions of operations, production, logistics, development, and manufacturing – in various parts of the announcement, shared across Asmodee’s game developers.
4. Expanded Product Lines
Fantasy Flight has been churning out Star Wars games like a 6 year old eats candy. They’re all extremely expansion friendly, and most of them are definitely a bit more on the “gamer” side of complexity.
As this article from Clever Move points out – we could see more games utilizing Fantasy Flight’s licenses in a broader spectrum of game styles. I’m sure that’ll be great news to people who are fans of, say, Star Wars but not minis games, or who want to avoid LCGs.
5. Only time will tell
Nothing is certain. I have hopes for the future, that this will be a great event for the expansion of the hobby. I hope we’ll see more games, better games, cheaper games, and games that don’t run out of stock immediately. It’s entirely possible that games will get more expensive, that the number of products will shrink, and that the universe will tear in half tomorrow. Whatever happens, though, it will certainly be interesting.