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Fantasy Flight's Organized Play Explained

In Interview

Published: 02/06/2013 02:25am
We recently reported on Fantasy Flight Games’ Game Night Kits (see "FFG Plans Game Night Kits"), and we wanted to understand how those fit into past FFG organized play programs and what the full scope of OP at FFG is now.  We spoke to Marketing Operations Manager Anton Torres to get the answers.
Fantasy Flight announced that it is putting out Game Night Kits for both LCGs and X-Wing?
Correct, and it goes beyond just those products.  We also support Dust Tactics and Dust Warfare with Game Night Kits; and an LCG that has been in publication but is newly supported is the Lord of the Rings: The Card Game.
A Game Night Kit is a small bundle of promotional premium items that we produce on a regular basis.  This year we have three seasons of kits, so every four months we’re going to make available one kit per product line that is supported by OP.  These kits are sold at cost to retailers.  For the most part they go directly to retail and they allow the retailer some tools to help make their store the hub of player activity.  Our goal is player engagement and the truth of the matter is that having players in the retail store out in the world playing and enjoying games, building community, is a really strong proposition.  It shows the enthusiasm that these players have and it will grow the population of the game.
The pricing on the Game Night Kits are, I believe, $18 to $20 on the high end, and inside are some giveaway items.  This year for the Living Card Games, we have produced alternate art cards of some fan favorite cards that players would use. 
It’s a way we can offer incentives; we maintain the design of the Living Card Game so that there’s never exclusive content in these kits, in that it mechanically changes the game.  These are cards that are available to all players, but now they have incentive to go participate in their local store’s game night because they have the opportunity to win one of these alternate art cards of one of their favorites.
So in addition to the LCGs, the kits will also cover the Dust games and X-Wing?
Historically, card games, where you’re customizing your decks, and miniatures games are two categories of products that respond very well to the structure of organized play.  And in both cases these are games where players can really customize their approach and their strategies.  They have lots of options typically, and they need to decide how they build their deck or their force.  Many of these games are one-on-one and it lends itself well to that structure.  With the games in our catalog, we have Dust Tactics and Dust Warfare which are two tabletop minis games, but one is on a board and one is on a terrain table.  And X-Wing is now part of that, being a tabletop skirmish miniatures game, and all three are supported with OP.
A few years ago Fantasy Flight told us about a league program for LCGs  (see "Interview with Steve Horvath").  What’s the connection to Game Night Kits?
That’s a great question.  Game Night Kits grew out of that league kit offering.  About two years ago we changed the title of these kits and rather than calling them League Kits we called them Game Night Kits.  The reason, and what we see as important to stress, is that not everybody is interested in playing highly competitive, aggressive, tournament play.  And what we discovered was that the title "League Kit" was actually turning some players away.  They thought, "I just started playing X-Wing because I love Star Wars and am really enjoying the game.  I just want an opportunity to go play."
One thing that we’ve done that I see is unique in the space of OP is we are fairly hands off.  We do sell the kits, but we sell them at cost.  There’s no registration or logging of events from the retail level.  So that means, "Hey, I’m a retailer and I know I’ve got some players that I know just want to come and play some games in a more structured manner every week.  I can use the kit contents and I can hand out randomly some of the elements every week until I run out and I’m free to order more kits to support that, or could hold a demo day to highlight the game in my store."  Retailers can use the kit in whichever way they see fit.
We didn’t want to restrict ourselves to the sense of league play, but I know some folks are using it that way, but I also know that retailers are making use of it just as premium items just to support that game in their store. 
We’ve also seen announcements for Preview Events for X-Wing.  Is that something you do regularly or is that a one-off?
As far as OP goes, we have Game Night Kits, which again, are released three times a year so every four months there’s a new kit for the season with new contents.  Then between April 1st and June 30th, there are regional tournaments which are more formal, competitive events.  We have a North American national championship at Gen Con and we have world championships in November.  That all comprises organized play and that’s ongoing year to year.
Are those tournaments the same games that have the Game Night Kits?
Yes, there’s a set of games supported by organized play and Game Night Kits, regional, national and world tournaments all comprise the organized play program.
The reason I bring that up is to distinguish it from preview events.  Preview events are something that we as a marketing department will host when the opportunity presents itself.  Those are completely separate and we do those just because it’s good fortune, we have access to the product or because it’s an exciting way to launch a product.
Are there any preview events planned for this year?
Just at the end of 2012 we ran a one-off special event for Star Wars X-Wing players that were waiting on the arrival of Wave Two.  We have not announced anything yet for 2013.  
We’re focused right now on the regionals tournament season; at this point we’re collecting applications from players all around the world and retailers.
Last year was a huge success for OP.  It was the best year we’ve ever had on every level and the biggest turnout across the board.  For the world championship, international players who win their national tournaments in key countries will now be flown over as part of their prize package.  We had players from Germany, France, Spain, and Poland and we had other players traveling on their own from India, Japan and Italy last year.
While we don’t have any preview events, we’re really kicking regionals and the competitive side of organized play up a notch.  This year is going to be tremendous.  I’ve got regional sign-ups that easily double what I had last year.  So it’s a very exciting time.
How many regionals are there?
Our goal is to distribute them to allow for as much player participation as possible.  Not to be heavy handed, but we try to accommodate as many players engaging in whatever territories there is interest.  Generally in the U.S., we ask for organizers or retailers to provide a primary and alternate date, so if there are two occurring the same weekend, we have some leeway to allow for players to participate in both. 
Last year we had about 100 regional events around the world, but I’m well past that for sign-ups this year.  We collected applications through the 31st of January, then we will vet the list, and February 15th we will post the final list worldwide.  Those will take place between April 1st and June 30th for the regionals. 
How many stores do game nights?
For 2013 it’s a heck of a lot more than 2012.  We were going to launch in January, but we posted on the Website that we’re delaying the first season, that the first season would be shorter because the orders that were placed were far and away above anything that we had ever seen or had guessed.  We have retailers that in the past had been very hesitant really see the value of organized play. 
How many in 2011?
I don’t have the number of retailers total.  It’s one of the drawbacks of not registering every store.  We allow them to re-order if they wish. We don’t want to restrict it.
We’ll see in the future, we may have to adapt how we approach it, but at this point we want to get the kits out where the demand is and allow them to enjoy building community in their stores.  The retailers should be the focus of activity, and so far this seems to be working.
 
 
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