There have been a couple of similarly-premised “what is to be done” threads recently, so I’ll address them collectively.
Firstly, I think it’s wrong to attribute the entirety of a complicated physical card game’s health, in 2018, to the number of humans who provide a data point based on some predefined weekly real world meet-up at a game stores or in similar environments.
These meet-ups are notoriously inconvenient and inflexible. Players who would otherwise respond affirmatively to “game health” cannot because they have to perform some other activity such as work or child care at the appointed time. To invert the question, can those players respond that they think the “game is healthy” if they can never seem to play it?
Similarly, using a vertical slice from the highly infrequent but high-stakes tournaments is not helpful. These are daytime weekend events which don’t work for everyone either. This time, the players who must perform work or child care on weekends are excluded instead of those who perform work or child care on weeknight evenings. Average weekly turnouts look low, isn’t it! What about that guy who comes once every two months? Do we disregard his data point because he isn’t there every week, or do we look at the fact that he does show up every two months as the more valuable data point?
I think the better metric of “health” is to try to establish engagement versus disengagement instead of just a numbers-based in-person participation.
How frequently did the player interact with the community on forums? How often did they report feeling happy about Netrunner? How much community-generated content was viewed/listened to/read? What is the total Patreon value of Netrunner? How many fan alt-arts were circulated? How many native languages do Netrunner players count? How many fan-organized tournaments were participated in? How many countries were the participants from? Did participants who participated in a fan-organized Cache Refresh tournament report higher overall satisfaction or engagement with the game?
We don’t need to “save” Netrunner. We need have a better conversation about “health” that isn’t some 1940s box factory with an absenteeism problem mentality.
In any company I’ve worked for, having a low-thousands group of insanely fanatical, ludicrously engaged users and a longer tail of several thousand engaged but ultimately passive users would be considered a fucking goldmine. Stop thinking of health in whatever way you’re thinking of it.