Old card games don’t die, they just fade away. Take Netrunner, for example. The other CCG from designer Richard Garfield (famous for creating Magic: The Gathering) hasn’t been in print since 1999, yet still retains a strong player base. That loyalty will be rewarded later this year, as Fantasy Flight Games has announced plans to revive Netrunner with a Q3 2012 release.
Originally set in the world of R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk RPG, Netrunner features 2-player asymetric gameplay, where a Runner player faces off against a Corporation player. Thematically, gameplay is centered around hacking, with the Runner trying to prevent the Corp from executing secret world domination plans. However, in Fantasy Flight’s upcoming reboot of the game, players will be greeted with an unexpected thematic twist.
Gone is the setting of the Cyberpunk RPG. Fantasy Flight Games has chosen instead to transplant the classic Netrunner gameplay into their home-grown Android setting, already the recipient of one game and several fiction novels.
The original Netrunner logo, to remain a collector’s item after the game is re-themed for the Android setting
An early look at the game hasn’t provided much detail on how gameplay may differ in the upcoming set, but several of the cards shown on the Fantasy Flight website are near-direct reprints of classic Netrunner cards. That insight, combined with the fact that original designer Richard Garfield will not be involved, indicates that changes will not be drastic beyond thematic tweaks and the adaption from the CCG to LCG format.
The real story here is how Fantasy Flight Games is making a trend out of reviving in-demand classics. This is nothing new to the board game industry, as companies often make a name for themselves by updating old titles. Instead it is the method Fantasy Flight is using that has turned heads, where they are not only publishing games with built-in consumer bases, but also managing to convert original game settings into franchise-worthy IP at the same time.
The other recent example is Rex, a reprint of the long out-of-print but very much in demand Dune board game. Rex circumvented a sticky (and expensive) rights issue by ditching the Dune setting in favor of Fantasy Flight’s own Twilight Imperium universe.
Adding Android and Twilight Imperium to Fantasy Flight’s range of Terrinoth-themed games means the publisher now has a wide range of franchises to pull from. As a benefit for gamers, this should allow the company to take more gameplay risks as they can rely on some amount of built-in sales from theme alone. Only time will tell how this flexibility will ultimately be used, though.
This is also a vote of confidence on the LCG format, as Fantasy Flight Games is prepared to launch both Netrunner and Star Wars in a short time frame. If both are expected to succeed, then the inside data on LCG sales must indicate a good bill of health for the company’s existing games such as Call of Cthulhu, A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Lord of the Rings.