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Author Topic: Current Climate of Wargaming?  (Read 23781 times)
Leon
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« on: 26 August 2017, 09:09:20 PM »

This past week has seen several companies either closing down or selling up; Steel Fist Miniatures is up for sale, Spartan Games closed down unexpectedly and Tor Gaming has announced that they're shutting down.  In the US, On The Lamb also announced their closure.  So is this all just coincidental timing or are we entering a difficult period for wargames businesses?

There's a variety of factors at play and no real way of knowing which was the cause of each company's issues.  Over the past 5 years there's been a huge amount of wargamers spending money going to Kickstarter campaigns, money that would have previously gone on existing companies/products.  This year's Games Workshop financial report showed a huge turnover increase of over £20 million I beleve, so are more gamers heading back to GW and not spending with the smaller companies?  On the historicals side of things, are people still looking to smaller skirmish games like Saga that don't require as much investment, or pre-packaged boxsets that are easier and simpler to get on the table?  Down here in 10mm, we're always operating within our own niche, so larger market trends don't seem to affect us as much but it is something I'd spoken to other traders about.

Since the global crash I've noticed how many new companies have appeared, some successfully, some not.  With people being made redundant or worrying over the security of their day jobs, I think a lot of folks turned to their hobby to see if they could make a living from it.  Obviously the more companies we have, the more diluted the spending power becomes and everyone has to fight harder for every sale. 

From a business perspective, we've seen costs go up quite a lot in recent years.  Metal prices (priced in $'s) have gone up 20% with the fall of the pound, taking raw material costs up to 20% of our turnover.  Staff wages, utilities, business rates and shipping costs all creep up annually, taking more and more money out of the pot.  Are all these factors slowly pushing more companies towards the brink?

I've wondered for a few years whether we'd see a 'crash' of sorts, where a lot of the new businesses we've seen over the past 5-10 years reached a point where it wasn't viable for them to continue, leading to a phase of mergers as bigger companies picked up the smaller ones. 

So, what does everyone else think?
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T13A
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« Reply #1 on: 26 August 2017, 09:49:15 PM »

Hi Leon

Interesting.

Having been a wargamer for over 50 years now and one who has absolutely no experience of running a business there has been one thing that has puzzled and amazed me for the last few years. That is the variety of ranges, scales, periods etc now available. I look at some of them, particularly the fantasy/science fiction/role play type ranges, and really wonder how there can be a market for them and how a company can actually make a profit from producing them. The same goes for companies producing some terrain/buildings and of course some historical ranges as well. Without wanting to offend anyone, and purely a personal opinion, but Aztecs, really?  Evil

I'm also not familiar with the companies that you mention or what they produce but are some  companies wondering too far from their 'core' business and what they are really good at. A certain set of WWII wargame rules produced by a figure company springs to mind.  Wink

I know companies have to change and evolve but in the current financial climate I suspect they need to be very careful.

Then again, what the hell do I know!

Just my tuppence worth.

Cheers Paul 
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Steve J
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« Reply #2 on: 26 August 2017, 10:07:26 PM »

I remember a piece in WS&S by Rick Priestly which, to my mind and IIRC, was lamenting to move towards SAGA style games as they were having a detrimental effect on the business side of the hobby. One box of plastic figures giving a complete force compared to many times that for a Black Powder type game and you don't have to be a genius to see what impact that would have on a business.

With regards to my reply on the topic of Spartan Games closing, I re-iterate that I think it is extremely difficult to keep small/cottage type businesses going at present. Add in the boon in Kick-Starters and the pot of money is being increasingly diluted. Long term I do not believe this is sustainable. How long these 'smaller' players carry on depends largely on the will and the drive of the owners. I would love for them to carry on trading, but when I see yet another 'Space Marine' type figure being developed, I do wonder the rational behind it.

As Leon has said, costs have risen a lot of late post-Brexit, with the devauling of the pound having a major impact (it has already affected the company I work for). Add in business rate rises, the minimum/living wage and other pieces of legislation and you have to wonder that many businesses are able or willing to carry on. Maybe the companies already mentioned have reached the point where they simply can't be bothered anymore.
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Fenton
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« Reply #3 on: 26 August 2017, 10:09:10 PM »

I think one of the problems is the huge amount of Kickstarters is pumping out too many products for too few buyers. I think  many of these Kickstarters produce good games but gamers get it play it a couple of times then a new Kickstarter appears and the former game is forgotten. Spartan Games though not through crowdfunding jumped from game to game with no real development band in the end nobody was satisfied

On another point the companies that are closing seem to be mostly ones  that produce figures and rules in one package rather than just figure manufacturers
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Sandinista
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« Reply #4 on: 26 August 2017, 10:22:47 PM »

If a company can't operate unless it pays poverty wages then it does not deserve to operate.

Cheers
Ian
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petercooman
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« Reply #5 on: 26 August 2017, 10:38:37 PM »

If a company can't operate unless it pays poverty wages then it does not deserve to operate.

Cheers
Ian

You should Tell All those big sport brands who let sweatshops produce their over priced shoes!
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Sandinista
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« Reply #6 on: 26 August 2017, 10:53:10 PM »

It is not just the sports brands, but that is a wider discussion.

Many hobby based industries exist due to owners not taking a liveable wage, relying on partners incomes to subsidise their hobby business. Not a viable business model and one that has a negative impact upon those trying to make a living out of their hobby, as pricing does not reflect real costs.

Cheers
Ian
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Norm
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« Reply #7 on: 26 August 2017, 10:59:35 PM »

I do not have any insider or business knowledge, but can only offer some observations that I see from this Command Post!

I boardgame and figure game.

For boardgames, my local store tells me they have 150 new items on pre-order, that is almost unbelievable and when one takes into account a lot of that is either kickstarter or P500 type commitment, then that represents a lot of money taken out of todays pot for games that will be made tomorrow. Companies all seem to need 'a game out and one in pipe' to maintain cash-flow. Kickstarter is flooding the market, while by-passing the bricks and mortar stores.

A lot of these games are big systems that need some game time to appreciate the nuance of play and that should be favourite regular games, but it is hard to have a regular, often played game because we are too quickly being bombarded by the next shiney new thing. I could stop buying games and have enough game time with what I already have, to see my days out! and I think some people are seeing that as realistic way to manage their time and money. For my own part, I have become quite selective on boardgame purchases and now support a narrower range of companies and make far fewer speculative purchases. I am also buying more series type games, so I learn a single set of rules for a period or genre and then buy the games in that series as they are released.

Down-sizing of collections seems to be a popular thing at the moment.

Figures, the lead pile is likely having exactly the same effect as the big collections of boardgames ...... some people can say, I have enough.

At shows, scale diversity is being lost. On the show circuit, just three big names are doing 6mm, 10mm and 12mm. 15mm is spotty and then 28mm is everywhere, with several stalls essentially selling exactly the same product. Have we reached saturation point in some scales / periods and are the collections of dead gamers starting to influence market forces.

GW is re-inventing itself with game systems that are more playable and require fewer figures. I forget the name of their latest system release, but I do know that for some shops this was massive with the likes of 350 pre-orders. A generation of GW fans from the 80's may have left wargaming to have a life and kids and all that sort of thing and are now are returning ... with money and new enthusiasm.

The mature, but young gamers are playing magic the Gathering instead of buying and painting figures.

Skirmish gaming is increasingly popular.

Black Powder et al talks to us in a language of 12 x 6 tables, while in reality, most of us are gaming off kitchen / dining tables.

My 5 days 11 hours and 58 minutes spent so far on this forum significantly represents lost painting time Cheesy

Bottom line, storage and available gaming time may be the two biggest factors that dampen down buyer enthusiasm.

On the upside, at shows I see plenty of people younger than me, so I do not think the term 'greying hobby' is an accurate portrayal of where we are. We still have 3 wargame magazine titles on the shelves of the high street newsagent and blogging is providing some inspirational material to encourage  gamers to improve their terrain and to try new periods / scales and also I am still growing my figure collections.  
« Last Edit: 26 August 2017, 11:03:28 PM by Norm » Logged

FierceKitty
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« Reply #8 on: 27 August 2017, 02:24:58 AM »

T13A - have a look at 15mm websites. Aztecs do have their support base.

For the rest, I don't understand the major forces very well in economics, though I do understand enough history to distrust those who claim they do understand economics, then get caught with their pants down every time things go wrong. But it is certainly easy to mistake a minor cold for a terminal case of TB (and if it's what you live off, no great wonder!). From where I'm standing, looking back at a gaming life that began about 1974, we're doing very well indeed.
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Orcs
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« Reply #9 on: 27 August 2017, 07:55:27 AM »

I think that part of the problem is the influence of the internet and the way it can twist things.

Years ago you would go to a show and buy the figures you wanted off of trader A because you liked his figures. Lets just assume you have bought  WW2 Russians.  After several shows and having the bulk of the army you are chatting to the trader and say “I would really like a female sniper team, will you be making one.  Trader A replies “ I have thought about it and you are the third customer to request this in the last few shows”.  A couple of months later having had requests from several regular customers to produce a female sniper team he releases one.  This then sells reasonably well as he has produced a figure that people who regularly buy figures off him requested it.

What seems to happen now is that Trader B has a website with contact details and a Forum. Somebody on the forum requests  an American Civil War Negro sergeant with a wooden leg and smoking a pipe. This is immediately seen by everyone on the forum  Because of the ease and speed of reply 1500 people say “Wow yes that would be a cool figure, please make it”  without any real thought as if they would actually buy it , giving the impression of at least 1500  sales.  

The reality is very different, of the 1500 people 150 have never bought anything from the manufacturer at all, and actually only 100 have ACW armies with only 50 of them actually have a negro unit. In the end only 5 of them actually buy the said figure.  Resulting in the manufacturer having a large outlay for very little return despite what looked like huge interest. Recovery of just his costs will take years.
A while ago there was much interest in Pendraken producing a Marching band.  From the picture it required 10 different masters.  I wonder how many packs they have actually sold and how long it will take to cover their costs?

Likewise Ebay and forums allow the redistribution of figures easily and quickly.  When you fancy a new period rather than wait for the next local(ish) show to see what manufacturers have on offer, you can pick up the base army from the wilds of Scotland at  a fraction of what it would cost from the manufacturer from somebody you have never met and would never see at a show.

There is also a growing culture of wanting things instantly and expecting manufacturers to invest heavily in the next range before they have covered the costs of the ones they already have.


P.S Like T13A I am sceptical about the Aztec range
« Last Edit: 27 August 2017, 08:11:14 AM by Orcs » Logged

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Orcs
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« Reply #10 on: 27 August 2017, 08:09:17 AM »

I also think that the current run on Skirmish games is not helping as you can have a good evenings game with a handful of figures.

We are playing a lot of the Rule sets released by Osprey at club. The cost involved is around £10 for the rules and £50 for the figures. Consequently we all buy the rulebook and most buy an army.

For the same reason we do Chain of command at club, you get the rules, main army lists and scenarios for £22, Other army lists are available as free downloads, campaigns are £3.50 a download

 
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Steve J
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« Reply #11 on: 27 August 2017, 08:33:21 AM »

Quote
Many hobby based industries exist due to owners not taking a liveable wage, relying on partners incomes to subsidise their hobby business. Not a viable business model and one that has a negative impact upon those trying to make a living out of their hobby, as pricing does not reflect real costs.

Only too true as my point earlier about my friend and his business. If I work as a freelance modelmaker, I can earn £20 - £30 p/h. I have scratch built terrain for friends before (see the link below) but there is no way I can charge myself out at this rate. The average working wage roughly equates to £8.50 - £9.00 p/h take home. Again, I simply cannot charge that rate to make things. I'm sure the same applies to many of the small scale businesses that operate in the broad wargaming sector.

http://wwiiwargaming.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/bespoke-hill.html

I can only echo both Norm's and Orc's points.
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fsn
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« Reply #12 on: 27 August 2017, 09:23:06 AM »

I think there are a lot of factors at play here:
  • The hobby is that it is dominated by gentlemen of an older persuasion. The Great Wargaming Survey shows the "greying" of wargames*, as well as the increase in "new" gamers. This would suggest that people are trying gaming and then dropping out. My perception is that a number of the new forum members are those who have returened to the hobby after a number of years.
  • The hump that is Games Workshop. For me Games Workshop dominated the hobby by attracting new people to it in a the early 2000s. These are the people who came into the hobby being  presented with everything in one place. If I may be rude, GW offered people the ability to take part without having to think too much. The GW bubble has burst a bit (though I notice stock prices are at an all time high) and I wonder where next for these people.
  • Again, the Great Wargaming Survey shows that younger game are more likely to be in it for the social aspects, and less for the gaming and research.
  • The diversity of rule sets and figure ranges present the novice and the not so novice with a huge range of choice.
  • Again, younger gamers prefer SF, Fantasy and other non-historic periods, only WWII getting a look in at the top 5 - possibly due to Flames of War?
  • As technology gets better, the figures will get better and so we're going to see bigger battles with smaller figures - 28mm will be relegated to skirmish games as BBB will be fought more aesthetically with 6mm and 3mm figures.
  • The increasing complexity and quality of computer games offer a time-cheap and easy way to game. Why bother with a table and painting and researching when you can just pop in a disk? (Don't even need to do this now.)

So whither the hobby? TBH, I think it could do with some trimming down.

As the "Old Guard" die out, then the next generation will expect convenience gaming. Everything in one place - rules, figures, terrain, paint and information.






*https://www.karwansaraypublishers.com/wss_gws/gws-2017-time-tally/
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Leman
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« Reply #13 on: 27 August 2017, 09:38:36 AM »

I really have no idea, other than the market may well be saturated. I rarely go down my club now as games tend to be either boardgame (not what I'm after), role play (no interest at all), fantasy/sci fi (no interest at all) or historical stuck in the 70s/80s. Tried introducing some new styles of gaming such as BBB, Neil Thomas style rules, Impetus, Altar of Freedom but it seems too much like trying to prise a limpet from a rock. Went on the club's face ache page yesterday (not visited in a while) and 90% of the posts were along the lines of ooh I've discovered this new kickstarter for (goblins, faeries, ridiculous future machines - take your pick, they're all there), and within a couple of months ooh I can't wait for the next edition of (faeries, monsters, silly machines). I suppose the most consistent thing I've seen down there over the last five years or so is WH40K. In other words maybe the punters are too fickle or too unwilling to change. All I can offer is that I now do most of my gaming at home or during the day down the club with a select group of about half a dozen people.
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petercooman
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« Reply #14 on: 27 August 2017, 10:23:51 AM »

First up, i'll start by saying this:

I don't know steel fist
i don't know tor gaming
i don't know On the lamb

I do know spartan games, but was put off with buying from them when they decided to limit uncharted seas (wich i was really appealing for me)

So with that, i have been dabbling with minis for about 23 years now, and visit a lot of wargame sites and regularely look at what's coming and what's out and in, and i don't know 3 out of the 4.

You can't buy if you don't know it exists.

Now about spartan games. They had a nice company, and i remember seeing uncharted seas doing very well. I was contemplating to start with the game and then saw a message on their site that they would we cancelling the distribution of the game. from that announcement:

Our people have got lots of great ideas that we want to keep bringing you, but we recognise that Spartan Games – and just as importantly the wargames market itself – can only support so many games through an indirect sales model. Although we re-sculpted Uncharted Seas 18 months ago, incorporating all the skills we’ve learned in model design and making since the original launch, customers’ interest has moved to our other games.

"Because of these factors we have taken the difficult decision to discontinue Uncharted Seas from distribution from July 1st 2013; thereafter it will continue to be sold mail order only. Whilst we understand that deleting a game brings about issues for our customers, we feel that it is the right thing to do and we hope you understand the above reasons. "


No more distribution = no more window shopping/impulse buys. Less new people into that game and so harder to find someone to play with. I thought it was a stupid move. IF you don't want to distribute, you can always keep it simple, starter box and starter fleets to get people playing and more 'specialized' items through your website.

For me, i just didn't want to start on a game that was unsure of it's future. After all, canceling distribution probably means it's no longer of interest to the company AS MUCH as their new games.

I saw their new product coming out and never got the idea of them dropping uncharted seas out of the back of my head, and so never bought their stuff.

On another note, the Halo license was a pretty bad move as well i think. Computer games are much better off to be brought out as boardgames, not wargames. I don't know about the sales on that one, but i can imagine that it's more of a 'niche' IP than star wars and the walking dead for example. I know halo By name but have never played it and it doesn't interest me one bit. I imagine there are a lot of wargamers who are like me, and don't know it.

Looked like a niche IP in a niche market. Not the best thing to build your company on.



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