Whatever your opinion of 2016 in other ways, it was a pretty good year in gaming. The hobby as a whole is growing at around 30% where most industries can hope for about 10% of that. We saw the arrival of some major new franchises like Dropfleet Commander and GW seem to be organising themselves in a slightly better way in many areas, despite still carrying on with Age of Sigmar (!). The rise of the board game strengthened more than ever, and there were a lot of great Kickstarter projects that were announced/launched and sometimes fulfilled. Not a bad time at all to be a gamer.
After looking over the Man Battlestations Blog, I thought it might be fun to do a similar predictive series of posts here over the coming days. So, what do I think is on the horizon for 2017?
Mantic have been doing pretty well of late, and despite what you think of their Kickstarter pre-ordering system for their games, they seem to be getting more right than wrong. I wouldn't say they're a runaway success, but they're not screwing up at every turn either. 2016 saw them add a major franchise to their line-up with The Walking Dead license, which was another big success with 3,700 backers raising almost $700k. It'll be interesting to see exactly how Mantic handle this, although they are probably one of the most experienced companies in running and delivering Kickstarters in the current market.
One thing they definitely are getting right, is communication - at least on the broad meta-scale. Those of you who are signed up for their mailing list will have had several new-year(ish) posts from them stating exactly where they are with each of their games systems and what's going to happen in 2017 for them. This is golden, as it sets expectations right from the off and doesn't preclude them doing a few surprises along the way either. I don't really play Mantic's games (We have Deadzone, which I enjoyed, but it's one of my 3rd tier games I'd say. I also bought Dungeon Saga but have yet to play), but even so I was quite excited by these emails! They're also on the Mantic blog.
Mantic are an interesting company for me - given that they were formed by an ex-GW employee, they clearly went after what they saw as GWs weaknesses with very similar products but a different philosophy. I have to say were I a disenfranchised GW manager I'd probably have gone a similar way. Mantic operates with free rules, open - almost FFG style - communication and a nice, easily-navigable website. They feature products from other manufacturers that go with their games, and overall they generally look like they've got their shit together.
Despite this, I feel Mantic are still fighting off something of a "me too" image. This is probably unfair, and maybe their recent Kickstarter products will start to get away from this more as people come to Mantic for reasons other than "GW f*cked up Warhammer". That said, GW have probably been one of Mantic's best sales tools, because killing the Warhammer world in the way they did must have driven people to Mantic - not everyone, for sure, but a whole slew of people - after all, Mantic welcome anyone and even say your existing figures are compatible...as close as saying "Yeah, GW did a number on you, but screw them, we love you - bring your toys over and play with us. BTW, here's a ton of cool stuff you can also buy, which is cheaper than you're used to...".
One thing is certain, - for the time being, Mantic Games are here to stay, and seem to be getting stronger as they go. I'd be interested in feedback from more invested players in their games to see what it's like to be a dedicated customer, but one thing I don't hear is the wholesale grumbles that come whenever someone mentions the GW monolith, so they can't be THAT bad! I'm not going to do massive predictions for Mantic, because they've stated quite clearly what they're going to so hardly much of a crystal-ball moment. However, I like the way they're thinking and the way they're progressing. Releasing a (let's face it) direct competitor to 40k which uses their already-developed Deadzone universe is a good idea - you get two games for the (much lower than GW) price of one - nice move.
A couple of things I feel they could improve is their plastic - the Deadzone models I have are that god-awful restic stuff that offers plastic minis with the assembly disadvantages of resin...I can't comment on more recent kits, but proper styrene-based plastic kits would put it in a much better place vs others on the market - especially if they're capturing ex-GW addicts. Reading some of the reviews on their website this is carried out in some of their other sets too, where assembly or quality issues
come into play. Other ranges, however, get really good reviews, so it may just be that the newer sets are better and they're learning all the time (which would make sense)
The second is in some of their designs just feel...well...a bit off, if that makes sense? Not bad sculpts per-se, but just a bit odd. Not all the time, either, just like the sculptor has an off-day or a tight deadline and you end up with something that isn't quite right. This is different from the epic GW fails we've seen (like the appallingly bad AoS dwarves) where the design is just stupid, but more a question of execution. Take this as an example;
Look at the guy second from the left in the front row - yes, the guy with the weird frog-face. He's also in the rear left corner. That's what I'm talking about - these odd sculpts that just feel "off". Compare that with this guy;
This guy is great, and he's £7 and metal...rather than £14 and plastic if he were from GW. I think it may just be that they're growing, becuase I LOVE these fish dudes that are coming for Kings of War;
Oh wait, they do crab-things too....
...but I digress (and no, must resist urge to buy into another games system!)
So overall I think we can expect some good stuff from Mantic in 2017, let's hope their execution and materials live up to some of the sculpts, and lets hope the percentage of "slightly off" sculpts are reduced. If they continue this with everything else they're doing, then they look to be solidifying their position in the market, and rightly so. If you've any other information out there, please let me know! Finally, if you want to read about Mantic's plans from them...here's their own blog link on the subject;