I thought it would be useful to have a comprehensive timeline of how FFG killed the ANR playerbase, to show people thinking of getting into L5R, and hopefully to serve as a ‘what not to do’ for anyone launching a card game in the future. I’ve written it in a way that hopefully non-Netrunner players can understand what I’m talking about. The only thing is, I’ve only been playing the past couple of years, so could someone help fill in any details from the early years that I missed? Other feedback is welcome as well! Then maybe we can publish it as an article.
How FFG killed the Netrunner fanbase:
November 2014: Fantasy Flight announces rotation out of old packs… after the 8th cycle of data packs is released. Only the first 2 cycles will rotate out, leaving the card pool at a minimum of 31 ($15) packs, 4 ($30) big boxes, and 3 ($40) copies of the core set. Most fans feel this is still too large of a card pool to attract new players.
Mid-2015: After original Android: Netrunner lead designer Lukas Litzinger moves on to Star Wars: Destiny, FFG appoints his co-designer Damon Stone as the lone developer of the fifth cycle and designer/developer of the 6th and 7th cycles. Promoting the co-designer might make sense, if he wasn’t well known for designing extremely broken cards for Call of Cthulhu and A Game of Thrones. Even the best of designers is unlikely to create perfectly balanced cards on their own without a developer to help balance them.
First half of 2016: An overpowered card called ‘Faust’ causes virtually everyone to play the same runner deck for the first half of the year, using an ID called Whizzard that can dismantle the corp’s board state. On the corp side, things aren’t as unanimous, but two of the top decks ‘Industrial Genomics’ and ‘Gagarin’ win with slow, grindy, ‘prison’ decks that are considered Negative Player Experiences by most. Regional championships during this period lose about 40% of their players from the year before.
August 2016: A new ‘Most Wanted List’ (Netrunner’s way of limiting how many overpowered cards you can play) goes into effect, shaking up the meta for the first time in ages. A fun 200+ person tournament happens at Gencon with the new rules, but later in the month a pack with 2 of the most broken runner cards ever printed is released: Rumor Mill and Temujin Contract. The interesting, post-MWL meta lasts less than a month. It will take 8 months for these cards to finally be put on the MWL.
November 2016: At the World Championships, 16 out of the top 16 corporations are NBN, and 14 out of the 16 top runners are anarchs. The matches are interesting and strategic, but the lack of variety bums out many, especially the more casual players who don’t like being forced to play the top factions.
Early 2017: Store championship season for 2017 is marked by powerful new runner cards making it difficult to win as the corporation. This only gets worse when the new runner card ‘Sifr’ is released that is so oppressive Damon Stone warns on a podcast that ‘people will want it on the MWL on day 1’.
April 2017: A new MWL is finally released that substantially improves the game! However, there had been no communication about when it would be released, so the community had been depressed for months before it dropped. Even with the improved game, regional attendance is about half of the year before and a quarter of 2 years prior.
Also April 2017: A new ‘Pandemic Legacy’ style expansion for Netrunner, called ‘Terminal Directive’, is released, and only requires TD and one copy of the core set to play. It is clearly intended to attract new players, but with the community being so small and dispirited by this point, many stores had small or non-existent playgroups to hype the product. The campaign mode gets mixed reviews.
Summer 2017: 100 days pass without any new Netrunner products being announced, leading some to speculate that they’re saving a big announcement for Gencon. Instead, Fantasy Flight does not acknowledge Netrunner at Gencon, except during the Q&A when someone asks when the next cycle comes out, and they cannot confirm that it will come out this year. The North American Championships at Gencon have less than half the attendees of the year before.