Today we’re going to talk about FFG’s delayed shipments to the UK, and also wider issues with FFG and Asmodee across the world.
Since around the start of the new year, we have been seeing more and more delays in FFG releases in the UK. Notable delays as far as L5R players are concerned were CotE, which was originally announced as 3 weeks late but managed to be rushed into “only” being 2 weeks late, and the most recent Crane pack. The recent Crane pack had a global release date of 25th April, and successfully released in the US, and all localised EU languages. What didn’t happen was an English release in Europe or the UK.
Some might put this down to a delay getting the product from the US to Europe, and while that would be frustrating, would make sense. However in early May, the Netherlands was able to release English copies of Crane Pack, meaning there were at least some on this continent somewhere, and yet around that time, it was announced by FFG’s EU Organised Play department that Crane pack would not be available in the UK until “early June”, a month and a half after the “global” release date.
This delay has meant that the Crane pack will not be legal at UK’s Grand Kotei on May 31 – June 2, the same weekend as a US kotei with Crane pack legal, and a week after a different US kotei with the pack legal. A lot of Europe (not all) has had this pack since release and will have been testing and playing with it as such in preparation for Birmingham. Hell, even many UK players were already proxying and testing with it in preparation.
That’s the “story so far”, and if you’re thinking “huh, that’s a little annoying”, you’d be right. But that isn’t the full story. To look at and understand FFG, we need to dive a little deeper.
The only reason we know the pack will not be released in time for Birmingham (it needed to release within a month of release date) was an announcement from FFG OP EU on the Facebook event as follows –
Perhaps you notice something missing from this statement? There’s a distinct lack of the words “sorry”, “apologise”, or “mistake”. No, FFG don’t want to admit there’s any actual issue with us. In fact they’ve thanked us for taking this into account, without admitting any of their own accountability!
A week later, and there’s still no other post that apologises to attendees for this, and in fact there has been no apology from Asmodee or FFG regarding the delay for UK players of over a month. Understanding delays happening, were Asmodee to apologise and/or attempt to offer some kind of explanation, players could possibly forgive them. But given a multi billion dollar company fucking up like this, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to not forgive them if they’re not even asking for it. Asmodee don’t want your forgiveness, they just want your money, and they don’t want to be held accountable for their own mistakes.
This isn’t the first time FFG have refused to apologise for their mistakes. This isn’t even the first time THIS MONTH that FFG haven’t apologised for their mistakes. The Elemental Championship Kits were announced months ago (Q3 or 4 last year I believe) for stores to order kits. It was specifically announced at the time that Wave 1 and Wave 2 kits would have different prizes, and as such, FFG baited retailers into ordering Wave 2 kits. As we know, the Wave 2 kits don’t have different prizes. They have the same prizes. Right down to the “2018” trophy in the kit. I have spoken to several stores, and they all feel like FFG fucked them on this. With FFG not announcing the locations on their own site until 1 day before the first wave 2 event, and not publicly announcing that the prizes were THE SAME until 1 day before the first event, you can perhaps understand why FFG don’t give a fuck about you. They don’t. Their announcement for the Wave 2 kits fuck up read as follows:
Do you see the glaring lack of apologies again? At least they attempted to provide some kind of explanation. Though given how long they’ve had to produce Wave 2 kits, fuck knows how they couldn’t “fix” them, they needed a handful of promos which they print in house, and a trophy that doesn’t say fucking 2018 on it for tournaments that don’t start until May 2019. But the lack of apology again stands starkly out of this announcement. They talk about the “quality” of the Wave 1 kit, but the wave 1 kit was promos printed in house, playmats printed in house (I think, pretty sure they print their playmats in house too), a trophy with the wrong year on it, and some sleeves. I have seen fan run events create better quality prizes in less time than the over half a year FFG had for these, so whatever they were producing for Wave 2, I like to imagine it must have been the OP’s kids scribbling in crayon on some notepads. The fact that they thought “more of the same!” was the “best course of action” suggests that they don’t have a fucking clue what the “best course of action” actually is.
I know in the US they’re giving retailers a 50% discount on their kit. That doesn’t help the retailers who get nowhere near the expected numbers. We already know there was one EC with 3 people who showed up. There was another with no kit in time. They literally couldn’t send the same kit they’ve had since the start of the year to a shop on the same continent as FFG HQ. UK retailers were offered the difference in any costs they lost buying the pack. But does that make up for outright false advertising? It’s not just a “mistake”. FFG LIED to us, and they lied to stores. They haven’t apologised for lying, directly to us.
Back to the delayed Crane pack then. As we can see FFG don’t like apologising, or giving real reasons for delays to their paying customers, I decided to go digging by myself. And now I can see why Asmodee don’t want to actually explain to their customers the issue.
We were told last week that the Crane pack was “on its way” to the UK direct from China. Now shipping from China to the UK takes about 20-30 days, so for it to not arrive and be ready until early June would suggest it literally didn’t even leave China until after it’s intended release date. Asmodee aren’t stupid, their logistics department would know when the ship left China, which means at global release date, Asmodee already knew the UK was a month or more out from getting its pack. The announcement didn’t come until May.
But why was the ship so late leaving China? After some digging with some sources at Asmodee UK, the answer appears to be simply that Asmodee UK are too cheap to expedite shipping on delayed products. Asmodee UK’s shipping contract with China doesn’t allow them to ship a container on a ship that isn’t full. If that container goes on a half empty ship, it’s stuck there in dock until the ship is full. We know the ships are giant, and that meant that most UK delays are due to FFG containers going on a ship that doesn’t fill with enough containers to ship on time. However, given this ship doesn’t appear to have left port for over a month (assuming they loaded in time to ship to the UK a month ahead of April 25 means they should have been loaded March 25), I’m hesitant to blame this entirely. Perhaps they swapped to a cheaper shipping company, one that can’t fulfill delivery dates. Because from what I’ve heard, their shipping contract doesn’t guarantee dates. Or maybe it does, and Asmodee won’t be passing the restitution they receive onto you. They can’t even pass an apology onto you. One thing I do know, you can pay to get those ships moving. It’s definitely not cheap. But do I need to keep reminding you that Asmodee’s value is in the billions? They can afford it if they want.
Ultimately, the issue is FFG and Asmodee have shown that as a company, they do not give a fuck about you, me, or any of us. Individuals in the company may do, but the company lines, the official statements from the company, and the complete absence of apologies, explanations, or acknowledgements of mistakes is strong evidence that they don’t care about how you feel, as long as you give them money.
You might have friends within Asmodee or FFG. Our main public interface with the company is through their Organised Play department (which is just Marketing, OP exists to sell product, it’s why OP is part of marketing. And the guys who work there are fantastic, they aren’t the company though, just the friendly public face of it). But the company isn’t your friend. The company exists to make money, and are clearly cutting costs to make more money because an estimated value of over 2 billion isn’t enough. They want more.
From me, they won’t get more. They won’t get more support, they won’t get more money. We all know big corporations don’t care about us, but at least a lot of them have the decency to PRETEND to care. Asmodee don’t even pretend to care. Neither do FFG (they’re just a part of Asmodee anyway). If Asmodee and FFG can attempt to even bother offering apologies when they fuck up, and getting product to people on time, and getting the correct product to stores rather than lying to them about what product they get, I might start playing and enjoying my hobby again.
I’m going to the Grand Kotei in Birmingham as that’s already booked. I MIGHT attend Worlds this year as I was already planning it. But in the meantime, I won’t be buying any more FFG product. I won’t be releasing any more podcasts relating to their products. Until FFG and Asmodee can demonstrate to me that they at least want to LOOK like they care about its customers, rather than just their wallets, I’m done with them.
And that really fucking sucks, because the communities and games from them are my main and favourite hobbies. So fuck you FFG, and fuck you Asmodee for constantly doing your best to ruin them.
UPDATE: A lot of people are taking Crane pack delays as the reason for my decision at the end of this blog post. While it’s certainly the straw that broke the camel’s back, it’s not the sole reason and people should understand that. This is an ongoing persistent trend from FFG and Asmodee that constantly overlooks their paying customers and treats them poorly. It’s had minor enough effect in the past that I’ve been able to overlook it for the games I love playing. But this year specifically has just greatly exacerbated the issues, they’re more frequent, more impactful, and too much for me to want to deal with anymore. This is about their responses to issues, and the failures with Organised Play, more than this is about any delays.