Friday, April 17, 2009

How Do You End a Game Line?

It appears that Fantasy Flight Games is no longer going to be supporting the Midnight d20 setting, and that a possible sale of the setting's rights is in the works. Several blogs have used deprecating terms to describe this move—"ditching" the game, the "shame" of FFG turning its back on Midnight—but I hold a different opinion. I believe it's entirely possible to end a successful game line, and I don't think it's fair for Midnight fans to hammer FFG over this latest move.

I had the privilege of gaming with Jeffrey Barber, who did most of the original writing on the first Midnight book (and got a spine credit on said book, which is fairly unheard of in the RPG industry). He put a ton of creativity into that initial setting, and since 2003 FFG has supported the hell out of the Midnight line with an enthusiasm rarely seen by publishers today. To date, the company has published more than a dozen supplements, adventures and sourcebooks, and the core book is in its second edition. I've playtested Midnight's adventures and played the game with Jeff and other folks who worked closely on the game.

No one ever wants their favorite game line to end—not the gamers, not the writers and editors who worked on the books, not the retailers who want to keep regular players coming back for the latest release.

Simply put, Midnight fans were not left out to dry. They got a very well-supported game and a host of official products from a stable company known for producing quality stuff. And it appears PDF-only readers won't get the shaft, nor will the hardworking folks at Midnight Chronicles, a television series that seems closer than ever to seeing the light of day.

Not everyone wants or needs a dozen supplements to have a good game. But Midnight's fans never wanted for shiny new books to buy, if the mood ever struck them. We should all be so lucky.


Anonymous said...

I am /so/ with you on this. I actually prefer games that are officially "out of print" because it means there is no longer new material to have to absorb into your games, except the material you bring in yourself.

I guess this helps explain my love of Star Frontiers, B/X D&D and games like Lacuna Part 1 and other self-contained games that won't -ever- have a supplement printed.

Spiralbound said...

Besides, FFG must have had a reason for this decision. One doesn't suddenly drop support for a popular series for no reason. Perhaps it was no longer selling? Perhaps another FFG line is REALLY taking off and the company had to choose between a popular (but old) line and a REALLY popular and new line. Whatever the reason, it must have made good business sense to them, otherwise they wouldn't have done it.

It's not like the CEO woke up one morning and said, "Today I'm going to screw my company & stick it to our loyal customers - just because it's Wednesday!" :-)

Another thing, just how DOES a company end a line? Nothing will remain popular forever, so eventually there is going to be an end. To assume otherwise is somewhat childish.

The only thing I could see being done differently would be to announce the end in advance, publish one concluding product, and close that line. This assumes however that the Midnight line was continuing to sell such that FFG would make money from a farewell book, which may very well NOT have been the case. Pulling the plug in one move may have been their only recourse.