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AEG Sells L5R to FFG

posted Sep 24, 2015, 1:17 AM by Douglas Sun

It has been six years since I have had any formal association with Legend of the Five Rungs, but even so, I’ve been digesting the news that Alderac Entertainment Groups is selling the franchise to Fantasy Flight Games like a chunk of lumpy oatmeal. I’m not a regular L5R player, nor am I in any position to comment on its wisdom a a business move. My reaction is purely personal, and a sentimental reflection on my own history in the game industry. But this is my blog, and I’ll mull if I want to.

L5R was the last living link to AEG as it was when I first started freelancing for them, around and about 2000. AEG struck me as a hive of activity back then, with an in-house staff of talented writers and designers like John Wick, Dave Williams, Rob Vaux, Pat Kapera and jim pinto (many of whom I got to meet and work with) spinning out product lines like L5R, Warlord, Seven Seas and the unfortunately short-lived Legend of the Burning Sands. AEG put less faith in product licenses than most of its peers, preferring to invest in original IPs, created in-house and exploited for all they were worth, to its sole benefit. It was a gutsy model, a model that required a lot creative energy to work, and I liked it.

Notice however, that all of the product lines that I just mentioned have fallen by the wayside except for L5R and that they flourished as CCGs and RPGs — two categories that have been in decline for at least the last five years. If not in decline, at least CCGs and RPGs have been eclipsed by board and non-collectible card games (I don’t like to use Eurogames as a generic term, because this dominance has gone well beyond European imports and games that try to imitate them). AEG, swimming with the industry tide, has transformed itself primarily into a boardgame publisher, buying other people’s ideas rather than developing them in-house.

L5R was the last link to that time in AEG’s history when it operated on the assumption that a game company’s best bet was to de develop its own ideas rather than buy them from the outside. Implicit in that belief was an argument that game designers and developers were just as creative as “real” writers, or artists, or anyone else. It was an argument that gave dignity to game designers and developers, and fully embraced the possibilities of fusing the richness of narrative entertainment with the interactivity of gaming.

Stasis is but a comforting illusion and change is the only certainty in life. In that sense, Legend of the Five Rings has had an astounding 20-year run under AEG. And I have no reason to doubt that Fantasy Flight will prove an excellent custodian of the franchise, in their own fashion. But for me, personally, I know that when the 2016 Kotei season comes to an end and AEG officially hands the reins over to FFG, it will feel like a world that slipped away from me before I was ready to accept its passing will be gone forever.