Tuesday, August 2, 2011

NG International Fate Uncertain, Fans Keep Playing

Only a month ago I wrote about the Italian company NG International (a.k.a. Nexus) that produces the Wings of War games and accessories of which I’m so fond. After severing a relationship with Fantasy Flight Games as American distributor for their games (ostensibly to directly serve the distributor tier themselves), NG International seems to have closed its doors, as a flurry of rumors recently reported. Much of this speculation emerged this past weekend on various forums, some with from posters claiming to be owners or staffers; the NG International website, which hasn’t been updated much since the announcement about the distribution shift, still remains online with no mention of new product developments or the current status of the company (not surprising, since nobody likes to announce they’re going out of business). Nobody’s sure if the company has closed completely or is undergoing a reorganization, or if any other entity is seeking to acquire rights to continue producing the Wings of War game.
Discussions of the situation on various message boards runs the range between cautious optimism and the understandable anger and feelings of betrayal that comes when, for whatever reasons, a company and beloved game disappear in a cloud of uncertainty. As of this writing, NG International hasn’t released any official press release or announcement about the status of the company or its games; not that companies in financial or other trouble go to great lengths to advertise their misfortunes. Until someone makes some kind of official announcement, internet speculation among fans and others continues to run rampant.
Despite all this uncertainty, I continue to maintain that no matter what happens to their favorite analog games, fans will find ways to continue playing and enjoying them (the fate of digital games, however, remains another matter entirely, as I recently reflected).
Many people -- both fans and gamers -- loved West End Games’ Star Wars Roleplaying Game using the D6 system. Frequent readers know that I personally worked on the game line for five years before West End hit financial troubles, lost the license, and effectively shut down production on further products (besides laying off the staff, etc.). Despite the game’s apparent “death,” many people still play it today, whether in nostalgic one-shot games or entire evolving campaigns. I still run Star Wars D6 scenarios at conventions and they usually fill up with enthusiastic players. The Internet Age has ensured renewed interest in and life for Star Wars D6 roleplaying, with online fan communities, web pages for personal campaigns, fan-produced sourcebooks, and even new iterations of the D6 System, like AntiPaladin Games’ excellent MiniSix variant ruleset (available as a free PDF download).
Wings of War has similar resilience thanks to online communities like the Wings of War Aerodrome, avid players, and fans capable of creating their own miniatures, scenarios, and new cards for aircraft, targets, and maneuvers (some of which they can share on the internet). Some toy companies and a few game manufacturers produce period aircraft miniatures near the 1:144-scale planes NG International released for Wings of War (though these are primarily World War II aircraft); I noticed several I should have picked up during a recent visit to a Hobby Lobby location; I also wonder how aircraft figures from the Axis & Allies Miniatures Game might work. Although the miniatures certainly add an appealing visual element to the game, one can still play using aircraft cards in lieu of minis.

Wings of War aficionados soldiered on in the face and last month’s distribution change; despite some mixed feelings and understandable disappointment with the most recent news, they continue to enjoy playing and creating new materials for their favorite game.

Update Aug. 2, 2011: Seems like the website ICv2 is reporting from a reliable Italian source that NG International is in fact liquidating, having fired or lost all its employees but its CEO overseeing the final arrangemetns; let's hope another company picks up the rights to develop, produce, and sell new material for Wings of War.