Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Firepower of that magnitude: FFG, GW and licensing

Fantasy Flight's X-Wing has been causing a great disturbance in the FLGS, being unusually accessible with its well-known setting, light rules and prepainted miniatures. And soon there'll be Star Wars: Armada, for battles with capital ships.

It's easy to see how dogfights between stands of fighters in Armada could be played out as full games of X-Wing, to get the best of both systems and deepen the experience. It's also easy to see how FFG's Star Wars RPG could be used to frame the battles, or play out a level of action on board the capital ships and even the fighters as a battle goes on.

There aren't too many tabletop gaming producers that can offer that breadth of in-house crossover. The daddy is GW of course, and 40K especially: Space Fleet or Battlefleet Gothic can be mixed up with Space Hulk-based boarding actions and massed landings in Epic scale, with fraught face-offs in Inquisitor, and possibly 28mm special operations.

But just think. Little of that seems actively supported by GW these days. FFG on the other hand is just one springy step away from the core of it, and needs only to introduce a dirtside system of some kind to muscle in. With 28mm maybe a little too close to the action figure in size, and prepaints working well with vehicles, it may be 6-10mm comes first, building out from the battles of Hoth and Endor. That would follow a path Firestorm: Armada is taking with Planetfall, and a form Dropzone Commander is showing can work.

If a licence could be or has been agreed to cover it, why wouldn't FFG want to? Is that the plan? They'd win over more of the more traditional wargamers and boost interest in their existing systems, but more usefully draw more core GW wargamers while they're still available and position themselves to exploit a growing vacuum if or as GW flounders.

It could be the future of GW that decides it, and with those new movies coming it might even decide the future of GW. FFG has also likely learnt from the LotR tie-ins at GW, and would presumably transition play before licenses expire to its own long-term brands.

Of course, having said all that, it's not clear that Lucasfilm, and maybe more to the point Disney, would want to support FFG in this. True, the alignment of Lucasfilm and Disney on the FFG side and GW with New Line and presumably Warner Bros. on another does suggest vast powers battling by proxy in tabletop gaming. But the alignment is likely to be temporary only, and while Disney might want Warner Bros. pushed back on game tables by FFG gaining relative to GW, it surely wouldn't want GW knocked out for good.

After all, a major licensor - or any party looking to outsource a thing - presumably wants not a monopolistic market with one powerful company to have to do a deal with, nor a highly competitive market where many thriving firms means each can't easily keep its customers under control, but more of an oligopoly in which several large companies compete to some degree, but with large hinterlands of guaranteed customer ready to go.

If all of this is the case, the question then is a fairly eternal one: how might a local party, here FFG, achieve its own ambitions even where these might conflict with those of a more distant patron (or 'partner', obscuring the power relationship), but without the patron becoming aware or concerned? One advantage may be in FFG better understanding what the numbers currently coming out of GW could actually mean, and where the GW player base is at this moment in the history of the company and its two major systems.

Thoughts welcome of course. It might be worth adding that for the title of this post I almost went with "Is FFG a faster hunk of junk than GW?", but that would have been folly. It's a whole other subject for another day - a doorway to one of the biggest there is.


Jim said...

If they were to come out with a 6 or 10mm scale system, it would be the thing to finally pull me in to the ffg star wars gaming systems.
I love drop zone commander, and Firestorm Armada, but I'm the only local with armies and the flgs's in the area haven't been able to bring in stock of either. On the other hand, star wars x-wing has been taking off and I am very close to diving in.
I wouldn't be able to give money fast enough if they did a recreation of hoth. That would be awesome, and I could see it happening post Armada's release. Perhaps Christmas 2016? That would be too much for my poor wallet. Bring it on!

Porky said...

That seems a very reasonable guess at the timing, and I'd bring it forward to Gen Con 2016 - X-Wing appeared at the same point two years ago.

You wouldn't be alone in diving in I'm sure. It could even turn out to be a fairly big moment in tabletop history, a meeting space for wargamers from various past and present player bases, and not least for GW games, alongside other gamers drawn by the setting and newcomers arriving through X-Wing and Armada.

Stu Rat said...

Dibs on the Ewoks!

Porky said...

I didn't think of that. An Ewok list could change a few minds too, and even mainstream wargaming. Imagine: lots of landscape-based options and the ability to capture and use another faction's equipment, or try to. Still a rare thing even in 2014.

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The good times of today, are the sad thoughts of tomorrow.
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