Written by Josh Bailey
This subject has been in my head for a long time and the recent changes to the Fantasy Flight Games Upcoming Page has made me want to finally sit down and write about it. In case you are unfamiliar, the Marvel Champions expansions for Green Goblin, Captain America, Ms. Marvel, and Wrecking crew were originally announced to come out monthly from November through February. Recently, those projected release dates were changed to go from January through April, and then again to the first three expansions all coming in January with Wrecking Crew coming out in February. That means no new expansions for the holidays and a Core-Set-only experience for 2-3 months.
I want to point out from the beginning that what follows is just my opinion and I’m not saying that other viewpoints on this issue are wrong. Despite this being the internet, I’m not here to proclaim truths, give takes, or win arguments. This has just been on my mind and I want to say it out loud. This is the internet, after all.
For years now, Fantasy Flight Games has received constant criticism about their ability to deliver products in a timely manner consistent with their own stated release dates. They are also criticized, rightly in my opinion, for a lack of clear communication around product releases and delays. I am a firm believer in transparent and early communication in situations like this and wish FFG would offer more, but when it comes to why the delays keep happening in the first place, I am much more forgiving and that’s probably due to (quite a lot of) projection. Projection can be a negative thing so let’s call it “Empathy” instead.
Nearly every Fantasy Flight expandable that game I’ve participated in (which is a lot of them) has had stretches of product delays or lack of news that the fan bases always get quite vocal about. I usually suffer through somewhat silently because I see a lot of my own professional problems mirrored in the business of FFG. I work in a manufacturing environment and unfortunately get to experience the role of a supplier failing to deliver products according to the original promise date. It affects me. I sometimes fall asleep thinking about it and quite often wake up thinking about it. I am not good at leaving work behind when I go home and, despite constant advice from coworkers and bosses to do otherwise, continue to take these shortcomings in a personal way. I do not know how to be good at my job without doing so. I imagine working at Fantasy Flight must be a lot like working at mine, so it’s from this mindset that I approach these criticisms.
I’m an engineer so I approach everything in life assuming that, when you look into it further, it’s more complicated than you first thought. One of the rules I live by is that any time somebody starts a sentence with some variation of “Well, all you’ve gotta do is…” what follows is inevitably not worth your time or attention. Problems only seem simple when you haven’t thought about them enough and solutions are only obvious when you have no idea of the real obstacles standing in their way.
That’s how I feel about the genre of complaints surrounding product delays and release schedules that simply focus on the fact that the current situation is less than ideal. I doubt anyone in charge at FFG is an idiot that doesn’t realize that releasing products when you’re supposed to and avoiding large gaps in releases are good ideas. No entertainment-related product gets pushed back from holiday-filled Q4 to January because an executive thinks that makes the most business sense.
But the other side of the coin is that these are still failures. Somebody or some people made some decision somewhere at some point in time that led to products being delayed or unavailable. Maybe it’s because they were bad at their job, or maybe it’s because the knock-on effects of their decisions were inscrutable at the time. Or maybe it’s completely outside of their control. Obviously, anybody at the top of the organizations involved would say this kind of thing is unacceptable and they will work to improve in the future. And they should. But the fact is that things like this will continue to happen at some (hopefully reduced) rate.
What I try very hard to do is remind myself that everyone involved is human and, for lack of a better phrase, things happen. When I see multiple expansions delayed multiple months I try not to think “ugh, typical FFG why don’t they just figure out how to release things on time” and instead think “wow, that’s unfortunate that so many people worked hard on that release and some mistake was still made.” For every person involved that made a correctable error and bears some responsibility, I would wager there are at least 10 other people involved who were doing everything they could to avoid this situation but still came up short.
I know that probably sounds a little too touchy-feely for some, but more and more in the current culture I feel we desperately need to increase our ability to recognize the humanity involved in the businesses, products, and other faceless aspects of our world. It’s easy to think of an LCG as just another product that should be delivered on-demand to our homes/local stores with the same dependability as a fast-food hamburger or an eBook. But LCGs, hamburgers, and eBooks are all created, cooked, written, packaged and delivered by people (or Amazon drones…) and keeping that in mind helps me feel connected in a disconnected society. And it makes me feel a little less alone when I screw up.
Thanks for reading.