UK opinion here. The Airfix generation has ridden the wave that is and has been the wargame explosion since Charles Grant, Tony Bath and Don Featherstone first showed us what we could do with our toy soldiers. It has brought us from A to B, an amazing journey that has seen the professionalising of hobby, but still largely within a cottage industry environment. That baby boomer generation is getting older.
Like many areas in life, over the intervening 40 plus years, choice has massively increased, so have incomes (generally), though free time has probably decreased (we do actually have a lot of free time, but too much of it is spent in front of a computer).
What is following in our wake. Well for many years the young blood has been investing their time and money with Games Workshop, who did court them, while the historical side of the hobby did not court them quite frankly.
Recently though, there seems to be a sign that this young blood is spreading its wings and looking at other systems, other companies and this includes flirtations with historical. I think Flames of War has been quite attractive to that group.
In the UK, convention numbers have probably been holding their own over the past few difficult years. Three magazines are on the shelves in the high street and one of those magazines has just gone under new ownership – so there must be confidence there, even in this digital age.
At the same time, against a background of shop closures on the high street and our hobby outlets under fire. A number of new wargame shops have opened up around the country, with gaming tables, plenty of plastics and plenty of choice – so again something feels vibrant and good.
I’m not sure that the US was ever the hot bed for figure gaming that Sam suggests, I have always thought that the boardgame side of thing was really strong in the US but that figure manufacture (and supporting lines) have always have been strong in the UK. Although the US has a population 5 times greater than the UK, it’s land mass is much greater than that ratio and so perhaps there is an effect of dispersal – as there would be if I looked at the European scene rather than just the UK.
The UK is quite small, so I can reach half the yearly conventions within a 2 or so hour drive, I do not need to stay over and I tend to ignore those shows in the other half of the country, so in this regard all the shows get quite a bit of support because the encatchment areas substantially overlap and spend can be spread throughout the year, rather than a single hit at the ‘one’ show you go to.
As an aside, I am always surprised at the vigour behind the opinion that the wargame community are big, fat and smelly. That has not been my experience as a generality. When I go to a show, it has a good family feel and they are generally friendly and buzz because people are in ‘their zone’. Everyone who knows me knows what I do and that doesn’t seem to cause any problems. It’s not sexy or cool, but so what, neither are a ton of other things, sometimes I feel wargames hit themselves too hard.
I think the only thing that annoys me is an occasional sense that some gamers think that the wargame part of the internet is just a owned by the UK and US and that a conversation can go on that frankly can be either rude or offensive to others in the rest of global wargame community, sometimes I would just like to see a little more consideration.
I am obviously in no position to know whether the US has a dying wargame sector, but I look at boardgamegeek and there are a huge amount of US posters, likewise at consimworld and TMP. I run a fairly well supported blog and would say that the US visitors compare to the UK visitors on a 5 to 3 ratio. While that seems substantially bigger audience, when comparing population levels, it may well be that per head, there is a higher percentage of wargaming going on in the UK, since internet penetration is probably about the same.
In anycase, the number of active gamers in the US seems significnt, whether they are spending at a level that commercial interests need to see would be a different question.
- This reply was modified 5 years, 5 months ago by Norm S.