Fantasy Flight adopting a more ‘thoughtful' approach to game expansions: ‘We’ll no longer ride the horse until it collapses’
The studio head of Fantasy Flight Games has weighed in on the company’s plans for future expansions to games such as Arkham Horror, Star Wars: Imperial Assault and its living card games, saying that the publisher will be taking a more ‘thoughtful’ approach to releasing expansions going forward.
Speaking in a recent ‘Ask Me Anything’ livestream, which was later condensed into a blog post, Andrew Navaro responded to questions about the way Fantasy Flight follows many of its base games with a number of expansions.
While the company has earned criticism from some players about the number and frequency of expansions – with some accusing it of limiting content in core sets to encourage players to pick up expansions – Navaro insisted that many of the games were not specifically designed with expansions in mind.
“To say that all of our games are always built around expansions – that’s not necessarily true,” he said. “I think that a lot of our high-profile games, and obviously even the games mentioned as examples [including Descent, Imperial Assault, Runebound and Arkham Horror], were definitely conceived of as having a lot of expansions, but we’ve done plenty of games that we’ve always intended as more standalone titles, especially if you go back through our history and our entire body of work.
“But I think one thing that a lot of our games really allow for is expansions, by the way that they’re designed and the way that the content is designed. We’re not doing a tight, abstract Eurogame… oftentimes you can just put more narrative on our games and then you have expansions.”
However, Navaro acknowledged that Fantasy Flight had previously taken a “do as much as we can and ride the horse until it collapses” “mentality” to expansions for games, releasing as many expansions as possible for each game.
While the ongoing success of existing games thanks to expansions helped the team to grow, continuing to develop additional content for so many games eventually meant the studio struggled to invest in brand new titles, leading to a shift in the way that games were supported after release.
“That became untenable,” Navaro said. “We couldn’t really continue to support that and also do more products.”
“Now we’re in a spot where we have a lot more flexibility given our size to be very thoughtful about the things that we make.”
Navaro added that a key change has been the treatment of games and expansions as releases with a planned ‘complete’ run of content over a fixed period of time or number of releases, rather than as open-ended wells to pump until they run dry.
“When we create game lines, we’ve started to conceive of them as game lines, as opposed to ‘Hey, we’re just gonna do this core game and then we’ll just do a bunch of expansions and wherever that takes us, we’ll do it,’” he explained.
“We’re looking at a game as a total: to see the beginning, and all these things in the middle, and then a planned conclusion. We’ll look at that planned conclusion when the time comes, and say, ‘Well, does it make sense to keep going from here, or should we just stick with what we’re planning and then move on to the next big cool thing.’”
Approaching games as ‘game lines’ with a “finite existence” will result in better-quality expansions and experiences overall, Navaro claimed, although he didn’t rule out the possibility of certain games having expansions released on a more ad hoc basis in response to demand, rather than as a pre-planned run of content.
“Other games, we’ll be taking a little more of a wait-and-see approach, where we’ll release the core game, and then if it does well, we’ll begin working on expansions,” he explained. “By doing that, it puts a lot of distance between the core game’s release and the first expansion.”
Following on from his wider thoughts on future expansions for Fantasy Flight games, Navaro responded to specific questions about why Star Wars: Imperial Assault had stopped receiving content, citing “business reasons” but suggesting that Imperial Assault had reached a natural ‘completion’.
“I think that at the end of the day, it makes a lot of sense, given how much content exists for that game,” he said. “There’s a little bit more than 60 products – so much content, a lot of really great stuff. Considering how we’re approaching product lines now, I think we’d consider that a complete product line.
“There’s enough there to really satisfy people for years and years and years. I hope that people are happy with the line as it exists and happy with the stories that the game told, but even when it comes to supporting Star Wars, we only have so much bandwidth, and we really want to focus on the things that are exciting us at the moment.”
Navaro previously confirmed that 2020 will see the long-running Lord of the Rings living card game bring its current cycle of expansions to an end and ‘take a break’ for an undefined length of time before returning in the future – but not with a second edition.
A Game of Thrones: The Card Game was also said to be ‘slowing down’ its expansions, as the living card game reaches a point where it has exhausted all the material available from George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series.