Home Forums General General The end times are nigh – or are they?

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  • #130314
    craig cartmell
    Participant

    A few days ago, a friend of ours (Nick of Meeples fame) wrote the article below regarding the sad news that Fenris Games was closing, and the general state of the gaming hobby for small producers.

    Please read it before continuing with this article:

    https://meeples.wordpress.com/2020/01/16/small-producers-use-them-or-lose-them/

    As a small producer ourselves, and being friends with many more across the hobby, we understand the financial pressures that such people are under.

    Having to do most things yourself takes time and energy, and the financial rewards are very slim. A 5% dip in sales one month can mean not paying your bills, having to put products on sale because cash flow is king in small business, which in turn wrecks your margins for that short term boost. We know producers who have sales simply to meet the gas bill. These producers are one bad month away from having to chuck it in and get a ‘proper job’.

    In the short term all we can do is appeal to all you hobbyists to put some cash across the trade stands of the small producers at shows. To order from them online and not get in a tiz if they don’t have the delivery times of Amazon. I once waited nine months for three gorgeous trolls from Fenris and it was worth every single minute. Support their kickstarters – a marvellous, yet dangerous tool for small businesses to create new ranges and realise fantastic projects.

    In the longer term though we small producers have to re-examine our business models. Casting in our sheds, writing in our attics, hoping friendly local games shops will stock our stuff, and relying on shows to sell physical product is a model is that we cannot expect to compete with the big boys.

    We have to consider how we can leverage all the new technology out there. Most of us have websites and some of us have webshops – the latter of which eats up far too much time for a one-man band – which is a start. However, we now live in a world where 3D printing is coming into its own, and print on demand is reaching decent quality levels.

    So should all those really talented sculptors, who spend two thirds of their time coaxing recalcitrant casting machines to produce product, re-skill and go digital?

    Should authors like us dump our printers, stop packing and sending out physical products, and instead do a deal with one of the big POD companies, or just go entirely digital?

    So what do you hobbyists think?

    Cheers,
    Craig

    The Ministry of Gentlemanly Warfare

    #130320

    I’d like to say up front I feel your pain.

    Contrary to popular opinion I don’t think we’re living in a “Golden Age” of the hobby, I think we’re seeing it’s death throws.  After all care givers to terminally ill patients often report that they rally and appear to be getting better just before the end.  Plastic figures, Kickstarters, CAD design and the plethora of rules, supplements and add-ons have pretty much killed my hobby, my hobby is painting metal miniatures and playing games with painted armies.  Contrary to popular misconception strength is not achieved through diversity it is achieved by unity, as wargamers we should all be aware of what Alexander said “Divide and rule” which was later paraphrased by Julius Caesar to “Divide and conquer”.  Wargaming is in it’s nature divided by genre, but now there is far too much division within the genres and the hobby is in no fit state resolve the issues that divide it never mind defend against external threats like computer games and even activities like LARP and Escape Rooms etc.

    Wargaming has changed considerably since I started all those years ago when flairs were considered the height of fashion, and while my hobby is dying, the hobby is evolving into something, something that I personally don’t care for, but I’m alright, I have painted armies and all the rule books and supplements I’ll ever need as I’m at the point where I’m winding down my painting due mostly due to age, and I already own or can still easily acquire anything I may need (want).

    In my experience when a call goes out to support something or loose it, it’s usually to late to save it, but not to worry there’s a bright corporate future for the gaming industry.  As for the small producers they should take on board what Darwin said on the matter,

    “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

    #130321
    Phil Dutré
    Participant

    I support small businesses in various ways – order from them online and buying at cons.

    But of course, in the end, it’s all about the products. If you don’t have product that people will buy, you will not survive, no matter how fancy your ads or webshop are, or how much effort and passion you have put into your rules or miniatures.

    As long as you just spend your weekend time on your businesses (next to your ‘real’ job), and are happy to break even, then you can of course pursue whatever esoteric product line you fancy. But if you want to make a living out of your business, then you’ll have to cater to a significant portion of the market.

    Tiny Tin Men Blog: http://snv-ttm.blogspot.com/
    Wargaming Mechanics Blog: http://wargaming-mechanics.blogspot.com/

    #130322
    Mike
    Keymaster

    But if you want to make a living out of your business, then you’ll have to cater to a significant portion of the market.

    This.
    As a maker of 15mm desert fantasy skirmish models, and formally of 6mm sci-fi skirmish models, the demand is not there to earn enough to make a living.
    If you had a big budget and or time, you could massively promote it and make it look great, thus growing the market for the product, but in my situation that is not an option.
    I suspect the same applies for any niche within a niche, where people will not pay a premium just because it is rare.

    #130324
    George Chambers
    Participant

    Both the original article and Craig’s blog post were very interesting.  I think there are just too many sets of wargames rules and wargames manufacurers.  Lots of choice seems like a good thing but really it’s not.  It leads to too much fragmentation and noise.  It’s getting so hard to keep up with the number of new rules on the market that I’m starting not to bother.  These days something has to be really good to get my attention and once I find it I try to stick to it.

    I think we’ll see many more small scale manufacturers, producers, and retailers go bust and there will be a sort of Darwinism where the most adaptable will survive.

    For the future I think effective and cheap 3d printing will cause huge changes.  Even if people can’t afford them, I think we’ll see maker spaces where they will be able to buy space on a printer.  So figure designers might not have to worry about actual production costs although they would have to worry about file sharing.

    As for rules, pdfs with a print on demand option are probably the way to go.  I just don’t have space to physically store rule books any more no matter how nice they look and resent paying £20 plus for the latest shiny rule set which I either won’t play at all or won’t play much.

    What I’d like to see in the future is wargaming going to a more community based approach.  Instead of buying rule books or figures people would pay to be members of a community which would then provide them with the files they needed to get physical objects made but they would also get to contribite their ideas so that what the community made would constantly evolve.  In this system, there would be no subseqent editions of a rule book but rather a living one owned by the community.  Figures could be altered or revised or produced in multiscale because of the ability of 3d printing to do this and what was made would be what people actually wanted, not what they would be persuaded to buy.  The community could still be lead by authors or artists who could maybe still make some money from the enterprise in a way like people do from Paetreon.

    #130326
    Thomaston
    Participant

    I think it’s oversaturation of the industry. From the post, Fenris Games only made a third of their rent, that’s a lot of sales they need to breakeven. Years ago I read 6mm sci-fi was over saturated and saw several companies disappear, this looks to be about the same.

    I don’t think 3D printing is a solution but as an enabler to further saturate the market. Not only are traditional sculptors competing with each other but 3D sculptors and modellers are getting into it as well. It’s also much easier to get a foot in the industry but unless you have a lot of funds to design and produce miniature games that cater to the mass AND continue to support it I don’t think it’s going to keep up with rising living cost. With how modern culture is obsessed with the new shiny I think small producers will find it hard to keep up with new start ups, let alone the big companies.

    Edit
    I think niches is the answer. Odzial Osmy 1/600 and Tumbling Dice as examples. The niche is big enough to be sustainable but not big enough for the bigger companies to take a bite. The beasuty of this is it doesn’t overlap with other scales. Then again I like tiny miniatures.

    Tired is enough.
    R-rated narcissism

    #130327
    Mike Headden
    Participant

    Personally, I like the plethora of rules, loathe pdf’s and am happy to shell out money on nicely produced rules I may never play providing they trigger inspiration of some sort.

    Then again, I’m happy to buy scenery, rules and figures for projects I may never even start, let alone complete.

    The older I get, the worse my eyesight, the more arthritic my fingers, the smaller the figures I am drawn to … go figure!

    As to community based projects … “a camel is a horse designed by a committee.” 🙂

    Fenris are/were a company I always wanted to like but they rarely, if ever, seemed to do things I wanted in a scale I used. I’ll be sorry to see them go but it’s a bit like:

    “I love the merry organ and the bells across the snow;
    I love the Church of England, although I never go.” – Sydney Carter “The Vicar Is A Beatnik”

    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional!

    #130334
    Nathaniel Weber
    Participant

    This end of the hobby sure is taking a while. I remember it being imminent back in the early 90s, when I first started going to conventions and overheard hushed conversations about the greying of the hobby and the horrors of GW stealing young gamers away from Napoleonics.

    As for small gaming businesses: I get stressed just imagining your stress!  As a nonbusinessy person I barely understand most issues you encounter. What small things I can do for that side of the community I try to do as often as possible: buy directly from sellers; use cash at conventions; don’t sweat if a delivery takes 4 weeks instead of 2; share product info and painted pictures online; hand out business cards of the makers of the minis i use in games for the players in case they are interested in their own.

    Shopping carts are great but what is the time cost of handling orders via email or PM and paypal requests, vs the benefits of those carts? Again, something I am ignorant of. I imagine most gamers not on that side of the hobby are ignorant of these sorts of things.

    #130335
    Nathaniel Weber
    Participant

    Another point, about wargamers as buyers: my wife’s hobby is sewing, often buying cool, custom printed fabrics off of Facebook groups. Nobody in those groups scoffs or complains about shipping and all of the sellers charge for shipping. I worry that wargamers can get quite fussy about shipping, as if it is an expense that the sellers don’t have to account for.

    #130336
    Nathaniel Weber
    Participant

    And like a cetain TV detective, let me turn around and say one more thing: outside of the small business side, if the hobby has a problem now it is probably gamers having the time to meet for games.  And that is probably more due to the insane modern world in which we live, where modern automation and efficiency has still left us with no more, and in some cases less, free time than before.

    Or not, I dunno.

    #130342
    Rhoderic
    Participant

    By this point I’m starting to see grimdark prophecies about the demise of the hobby as an encouraging sign that all is normal and we’re doing just fine.

    #130344
    Nathaniel Weber
    Participant

    By this point I’m starting to see grimdark prophecies about the demise of the hobby as an encouraging sign that all is normal and we’re doing just fine.

    Haha yep!

    #130346

    Frankly? I am not mocking anyone here, but this is now the THIRD time I have heard of the hobby’s upcoming demise.

    It has ALWAYS been bad for small producers, for a start.

    Also, my hobby is gaming. Gaming’s doing great and, like I did during the first two end ‘o times (RPGs and CCGs), I gamed and selectively recruited new blood to that corner of the hobby that is playing games with painted metal miniatures. I have recruited lots of folks.

    As for metal minis, yes, those may be going away except for the wealthy, the same way in which people once could play with armies made up entirely of hollowcast Britanics, but the hoinpolloi can’t do that anymore.

    We adapt and survive. Smaller scales, smaller scale gaming, and plastics are three ways that happens. If your hobby is exclusively defined by large games with 28mm metal figures, then you’d better be wealthy, or yes, it is dying.

     

    We get slapped around, but we have a good time!

    #130348
    Roger Calderbank
    Participant

    I wonder if the current trend of skirmish games isn’t helping here. Mike, you do ‘15mm desert fantasy skirmish’. If I buy enough to play a few games, am I likely to buy more to expand, or am I equally likely to go for ‘28mm jungle Mayan skirmish’ or whatever looks interesting at the time? Since I don’t need many figures/terrain pieces/etc. for a game, it is easy to switch to something entirely different. If, on the other hand, I’ve put together lots of figures for a large Napoleonic (or whatever) game, I’m probably more likely to want to expand what I’ve got, rather than change to something new. Of course, I can get new figures from another manufacturer, but I’m less likely to do that if I’m planning to use the new figures with the old, rather than playing a completely different game.

    I fully understand (it has been discussed here in several threads) the reasons why skirmish games are more popular – time, space, cost, variety. I agree that the hobby is evolving, which can look like dying out only if you aren’t evolving with it. However, the easier it is for someone to switch the type of games they play, the harder it is for a small trader to establish a loyal customer base.

    I don’t have any solutions. I suspect I’m one of those being left behind by the changes, but that doesn’t worry me whilst I can still play the games I like. As I get older, I’m being left behind more and more anyway. It just seems desperately hard for a trader to maintain a business when there is so much to tempt people to move rapidly from one thing to another.

    RogerC

    #130349
    Norm S
    Participant

    I doubt enough of realise how lucky we actually are that our very niche hobby has the product support that it currently has and probably too much is taken for granted, especially those of us in the UK, where we have a lot of the worlds production, the three main wargame mags and wargame shows within a drivable distance coming out of our ears. In truth, all those things are under threat in a way that they didn’t feel threatened a decade ago.

    Wargame shows and magazines were the fabric and the glue to what we did, now the ‘free’ interweb does much the same thing. As a behavioural thing, we have less time because we spend too much of what should be our quality time looking at screens and for many of us, if we never bought another thing, our full shelves are bulging enough to keep us going for a long time.

    The stack high and sell cheap business model of the internet only works while volume can be sold, saturation or the loss of repeat customers and too much Kick starter will bring pressure to that model. I spoke to a trader selling boardgames and on a £72 game, he was making £3 and this is his core job! You need to shift a lot of product to pay this month’s bills.

    If a ‘re-balancing’ of the wargame economy is due (or happening), it is likely linked directly to the fact that the wargamer is no longer playing or spending or painting enough to keep the number of current traders buoyant or expanding.

    As I look at my own hobby place, over recent months I have decided to rationalise much of my gaming activity. For boardgames, things need to earn their place of the shelf, that has resulted in selling stuff not used, but also buying stuff that stands more of a chance of getting onto the table. For figures, I am changing scale and going to a single scale, so there is selling off, which frankly doesn’t raise much and then quite a spending program to invest in the new scale. The net result of this is that my own enthusiasm has shot up and January has seen a notable increase in playing and painting and the associated commercial side (buying) and interestingly enough, my screen time activity has dropped (replaced mostly by painting, modelling and a bit of research …. abit like the good old days really :-). I have returned to buying the three main wargame mags and doing a bit of writing for a magazine. I am really looking forward to my next wargame show and will spend there …… and so perhaps much of where the hobby is at the moment is just a reflection of where it’s participants are up to in their involvement.

    If Craig’s point is that we can all make this hobby stronger, I think he is right.

    #130358
    deephorse
    Participant

    Well I’m doing my best to keep the small traders in business.  Over this weekend I have placed orders for £300+ of figures and vehicles to be collected at York next Sunday.  But I’m only spending this because someone is producing what I currently want.  My total spend for January must be £500+, but this is an unusual level of spending and probably won’t be repeated because it will give me the core requirements for my project.  After this it will be odds and sods to round out the collection, unless someone produces something new that fits in.

    Less enthusiasm, please. This is Britain.

    #130363
    warwell
    Participant

    I don’t think this analogy fits the situation facing the wargame hobby.

    Contrary to popular misconception strength is not achieved through diversity it is achieved by unity, as wargamers we should all be aware of what Alexander said “Divide and rule” which was later paraphrased by Julius Caesar to “Divide and conquer”.

    Given the plethora of tastes and interests of wargamers, any effort to “unify” the hobby would only alienate those who do not like the chosen scale/rules system, etc., driving them away and effectively shrinking the hobby. Diversity, however, provides a big tent that can accommodate more people.

    I don’t buy many miniatures, but when I do it is in smaller scales (3mm and 6mm) from niche producers. I suspect 3D printing will ultimately take over the industry.

    I do buy a lot of rules (I have an interest in rules design and like to see what others are doing). I don’t buy the big, expensive sets from the major manufacturers (never bought anything from GW or Warlord). I do like the Ospreys – the price is right – but I no longer buy print copies of anything. I get the Ospreys on my e-reader. I will usually print out a QRS for playing but not the entire book. I love Wargame Vault and buy quite a bit of PDF rules from them. I think it is a great venue for small companies to make their product available. I think that digital will be the way to go for publishing rules in the future. In fact, I will typically refuse to buy something if there is no digital version available.

    #130366
    Phil Dutré
    Participant

    The death of the wargaming hobby has been predicted multiple times during the past 5 decades or so.

    But the truth is the wargaming hobby has never been so large and diverse as it is today.

    Tiny Tin Men Blog: http://snv-ttm.blogspot.com/
    Wargaming Mechanics Blog: http://wargaming-mechanics.blogspot.com/

    #130399
    Mike
    Keymaster

    I wonder if the current trend of skirmish games isn’t helping here. Mike, you do ‘15mm desert fantasy skirmish’. If I buy enough to play a few games, am I likely to buy more to expand, or am I equally likely to go for ‘28mm jungle Mayan skirmish’ or whatever looks interesting at the time?

    Entirely possible, but also in reverse?
    Someone playing 28mm skirmish may try my 15mm skirmish?

    #130401
    hammurabi70
    Participant

    [1] I think it’s oversaturation of the industry

    [2] Frankly? I am not mocking anyone here, but this is now the THIRD time I have heard of the hobby’s upcoming demise.

    It has ALWAYS been bad for small producers, for a start

    [3] This end of the hobby sure is taking a while. I remember it being imminent back in the early 90s, when I first started going to conventions and overheard hushed conversations about the greying of the hobby and the horrors of GW stealing young gamers away from Napoleonics.

    I think the end of the world for this hobby has been feared for at least forty years.

    Out in the big world nine out of ten products fail to become an economic success.  30% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 50% during the first five years and 66% during the first 10.  FENRIS GAMES was founded in 1988 so it has done well to last until 2020.  However, if there is not a market for the product and there is no business model that sustains operations any company will fold.

    The fact that many small producers come and go is a fact of life.

    #130411

    The skirmish trend is probably bringing people BACK to 28mm. I know lots of people who abandoned WH40k several editions ago who are now playing Kill Zone. And even I am tempted to do Saga in 28mm. I will also be buying the Perry’s new 28mm War of the Triple Alliance figures.

    We get slapped around, but we have a good time!

    #130412

    Capitalism is designed to screw small producers. Hell  Marx pointed that out a long time ago. Small producers typically only do good in niches or on new frontiers and gaming probably has more of those than most industries.

    We get slapped around, but we have a good time!

    #130428
    craig cartmell
    Participant

    If Craig’s point is that we can all make this hobby stronger, I think he is right.

     

    It was, but it has gone a wandering as these things oft-times do 🙂

    Cheers,
    Craig

    The Ministry of Gentlemanly Warfare

    #130429
    craig cartmell
    Participant

    I wonder if the current trend of skirmish games isn’t helping here.

    I believe quite the opposite Roger.

    One of the big barriers to entry in wargaming has been the sheer cost of buying rules, terrain and figures. Big battle gaming is beautiful but it is often complex and time consuming. Whereas skirmish rules are usually quite simple to pick up, if not immediately master, and buying the necessary figures and terrain is a lot cheaper.

    I believe that the big growth we have seen in the hobby has come as a result of smaller ‘scale’ wargaming, and the diversity of opportunities for new people to play.

    A lot of people would no doubt love to field armies with hundreds of figures and spend all day doing it. However, they also appreciate games you can set up and play, in full, in a club evening. They also cannot afford it in terms of investment of time and money.

    Cheers,
    Craig

    The Ministry of Gentlemanly Warfare

    #130432
    Adrian Arnold
    Participant

    fir myself, I agree with Craig – I believe the rise in Skirmish gaming is attracting more new people to the hobby.

    I’ve also been reflecting on when I started – back in the late 80’s – It was pretty much all skirmish games with very ropey terrain because it was what we could afford. Even when I returned after a few year gap it was skirmish gaming at first – purely because it took so long and a fair amount of money to build up rank & file.

    Also look at the sheer number of new players that the recent glut of GW skirmish/board games are bringing in – some of those players are likely to move onto none GW games as well.

    The only.. well.. drawback… to skirmish gaming is that it can require more terrain than a mass battle – But terrain is also part of the many reasons we* are switching to primarily 6 and 15mm – Terrain is cheaper and we can play in smaller spaces easier.

     

     

    *The royal We – I’m lucky enough that my usual opponent is my Wife 🙂

     

    #130464

    People forget that WH40k started as a skirmish game with plastic figs. The beakie box was available in the U.S. long before the rules and even I bought a box to play down at my FLGS because they were just so cool, relatively cheap, and everyone was doing it. We made our own rules.

    We get slapped around, but we have a good time!

    #130470
    Thorsten Frank
    Participant

    Ich geb jetzt auch meinen Senf dazu!*
    I wonder if we should distinguish between skirmish and “real” wargames at all. Both contribute to the hobby and it´s rather irrelevant if 8 sharpshooters skirmish with a patrol of French cuirasseurs, 7 samurai defend a village against bandits or 5 space marines attack a space orc  post. Or if it´s about the 6th Army in Stalingrad.
    It´s about gaming, the mechanics are often similar  and there were always changes in currents to the hobby. Maybe a new TV show or movie is displaying the Napoleonic times in a cool way and people may start to play that again, same for ACW, maybe there are currently people playing normally WHFB thinking about doing some WWI project after watching 1917….
    It´s a thing of “culture” and those things change. And we talked about a lot about various currents here.
    More so GW “internationalized” wargaming in a way others simply couldn´t do. In it´s heyday there was every GW product published in several languages (including the GW-only White Dwarf). And the whole hobby isn´t as much as in previous times a thing of the UK and the USA – even I, living in  wargaming barrens, can easily find players of WH40K (which still doesn´t mean I want to play it)

    They also cannot afford it in terms of investment of time and money.

    This is very important IMHO!
    Money isn´t the great elephant in the room for the customer but for all those small companies – everything got more expensive, be it rents, raw materials, energy, insurances and and and while the income side for the producers often didn´t keep up with it.  First those things keeps customers thinking twice about on what they spend money on and I observe this with my own buying behaviour. And second it makes it often impossible for the producing side to keep the business running. And both sides together worsen the situation even more.
    However, I think time is the prime problem. In my best days I had various time intensive hobbies but they did never interfere really with my wargaming. Even taking care of my parents didn´t keep me away. But what managed to keep me off gaming was my job. First in small chunks working more in less time which had me to decide between different not spare time related activities, later more and more (in my case unpaid) overtime. And there I had to decide about sleeping or any hobby. I don´t know how that´s in other countries but I reguarly observe this here that people simply have to cut their spare time for more relevant things. But I don´t believe, with all my current knowledge, that it´s elsewhere any different. And this is a far worser fact that many may think.
    It´s the combination of all those various components many of you already mentioned with my two last points that are critical for any spare-time related activity.

    *Literally “adding my mustard to this (discussion)”- meaning: Since I have always enjoyed adding my two cents worth in oneway or another!

    "In strange grammar this one writes" - Master Yoda

    #130474
    Guy Farrish
    Participant

    I wonder if the current trend of skirmish games isn’t helping here.

    I believe quite the opposite Roger.

    I suspect Roger is spot on. You raised the issue of Fenris closing – and by extrapolation what we can do to help small manufacturers not follow them- answer: buy figures.

    Skirmish games sell c10 figs per side say? Big battles need hundreds of figures per side. Those figures all need designing, sculpting, and moulding – fixed costs before you cast one figure or a thousand. (and if you do the casting yourself – the cost of the machinery needs recouping from volume sales)

    Skirmish games may maintain interest in ‘the hobby’ but don’t sell figures en masse, which is what you need to recoup those outlays and make profit.

    I started with Charge! and Charles Grant rules (I’m not suggesting this is a good idea now) which used 48 figs +officers as battalions – that’s a lot of sales. If I’d been skirmish gaming I’d have maybe bought more armies but vastly fewer figures.

    So while it isn’t the only problem facing small manufacturers it is surely one.

     

    #130476

    Guy, they sell figures in mass if everyone in the club buys a set. And that seems to be what’s happening.

    We get slapped around, but we have a good time!

    #130487
    Mike
    Keymaster

    Guy, they sell figures in mass if everyone in the club buys a set. And that seems to be what’s happening.

    Is it?
    Or is it just what happens if you have big glossy rules to go with your figures and have a large online presence and sell 28mm/32mm figures?

    I am sure figures tied to specific big name rules such as Frostgrave, 40k, et al sell lots of figures.

    I am less sure about anything below 28mm and or with an ‘indy’ status.
    I spend an awful lot of time on various social media platforms and rarely see anything other than 28mm figures used for skirmish, and then mostly for big name games or RPG’s.
    Chatting with fellow producers of smaller than 25mm skirmish would suggest this too.

    Skirmish by its nature requires less figures to play.
    Yes that may mean more people buy into it, but as noted above, it is easy to move onto the next project when you only need 30 figures or so.
    So people may buy 30 skirmish figures as SKIRMISH NOW has just been released, but then leave that project for NEW HERO SKIRMISH when that comes out and never return to SKIRMISH NOW.
    People committed to big armies will I suspect not buy their total force in one go due to expense, but will buy units one at a time and thus return to the seller to buy more until their initial army list is done.

    Do historical games have a greater appeal than sci-fi or fantasy, and as they are often mass battle rather than skirmish is that another reason skirmish companies struggle?

    #130498
    George Chambers
    Participant

    This thread is really interesting and I’m really enjoying reading it.  From my experience of gaming I’d say that most of the games I do, and most of the games I see, are either true skirmish games with less than 10 figs a side or games at the “crunchy skirmish level” of up to maybe 60 figs a side and most of them aren’t historical.  That probably reflects the membership of my club, the Glasgow G3 and my own interests rather than a true picture but one thing I’ve noticed is that there is always some non-historical gaming going on in any of the Glasgow clubs I’ve attended and always some skirmish games.  Overall, I think non-historical games, particularly those which are skirmish sized are much more popular and widely played than big battle historical games although big battle gaming does go on in all clubs I’ve been in.

    While historical figure companies can sometimes sell more figures because their buyers are building large armies for big battle games I’m not sure they do much better than some companies which supply figures for skirmish games.  A lot of the guys I know who have big battle armies built them a while ago and aren’t working on new ones because of the time factor in building new big armies.

    What I think helps a company to be successful is to have product which appeals to as wide a variety of people as possible.  Crooked Dice will sell some figs to gamers playing their rules but also to people using them for other skirmish rules and I think they also sell a lot of figs to collectors who like collecting figures based on TV characters.

    Conversely, if you are a historical manufacturer whose figures also appeal to Fantasy gamers or skirmish gamers you will sell to more people.  I bought maybe 20 16th Century Spanish/Conquistadors from TAG recently to use as a Thud and Blunder warband as they fit well with my Mordheim figs but some people will also buy them to build big armies for Renaissance gaming.

    The other thing is to sell product at the correct price point, ideally at a price which will cover costs and also generate profit.  That’s why figures by a firm like Crooked Dice are about twice the price of figures by Perry Miniatures.  The pricing of the Crooked Dice figures is supposed to take into account the lower expected volume of sales of figures to skirmish gamers and collectors compared to gamers buying figures for big battle armies.

    I think a lot of producers don’t sell their product at a price which is profitable but that is largely due to the stinginess of wargamers.  Bryan Ansell has maintained for years that wargames figures were being sold too cheaply and that was why the price of Foundry figures was comparatively high for a long time.

    #130519
    craig cartmell
    Participant

    Is it? Or is it just what happens if you have big glossy rules to go with your figures and have a large online presence and sell 28mm/32mm figures?

    It is very difficult for us producers of smaller games and figures to compete with the big boys, simply because we do not have the marketing presence that they can deploy. Their scale of production also means that their figures are usually cheaper, and they not averse to giving their rules away for free.

    However, there are still creators and producers who spend a lot of time promoting their wares through forums, blogs, websites, Facebook groups etc., and building a loyal following. Annie Norman is the obvious example, but you could include the Too Fat Lardies amongst others.

    The key is get known by the big review websites, the key fora (like this one and Lead Adventure) and the physical and digital magazine editors. These are the influencers in our hobby. Provide content for the magazines, send copies of your rules or free figures to the reviewers, and good photos of well-painted miniatures and terrain in an actual game, catch people’s eye. Record games on YouTube, offer yourself up for podcasts.

    Also it is very important is to appear at shows and run games for the punters with your figures/rules/terrain, or engage friends to do this while you flog stuff from your trade stand. So many people these days take photos and videos for the blogs, and this is the modern equivalent of word-of-mouth.

    Every week, without fail, google your name and the name of your products. This leads you to blog articles/reviews, where you can leave positive comments, and fora you never knew existed.

    Even if you are a one man band, if you are not spending at least a third of your time doing this sort of personal marketing, then you will eventually just fade away or end up eking out an existence between bills.

    Even after seven years I am still learning this and it is an art, not a science.

    Cheers,
    Craig

    The Ministry of Gentlemanly Warfare

    #130521
    Adrian Arnold
    Participant

    Another thing regarding skirmish gaming I’ve had in my mind for quite a while now –

    For a decent skirmish game, you usually need a lot more scenery than a mass battle game – How many people start skirmish thinking they just need a few figures only to abandon it as they don’t have the space/time/will/whatever to make and store a decent amount of scenery?

    An example from my own supplies – I’ve a lot of the files from Printable Scenery for the various buildings and ruins. Printed out in 28mm I can get 1-2 buildings per storage draw. For games like Mordheim or Frostgrave you need a lot more than 1 or 2 buildings plus a base of trees or two.

    But then, we’ve also pretty much switched entirely to 15 & 6mm for a mix of cost, storage space and visual appeal for the larger games and speed of painting, cost, storage and play area for skirmish…. And not regretting that.

     

     

    #130522
    Thomaston
    Participant

    The difference between small companies and big is the critical mass of their customers, once the big companies gain enough people who are invested in their IP that just have to keep releasing new miniatures regularly. It’s easier to gain interest with in larger scale mnias because they can hold more details and look spiffy once pro painted. Add to that, minis made for their background and contain features/weapons that are exclusive to their rules, forcing players to buy their minis to maintain consistency. Smaller sompanies that make generic minis or to fit other people’s background are going to be at a disadvantage. Even Flames of War WWII miniatures has the advantage of each pack of 15mm infantry with everything for a full unit.

    Smaller companies without their own attractive IP or other selling points wouldn’t have enough loyal customers who keep coming back. I don’t know where Brigade Models and GZG stands in this, I think of them as big companies, they both have their own range, supported by background but their range are big and see regular new releases. They both have rules but I don’t think they are popular anymore, I don’t see many talks of Full Thrust anymore at least. Then there’s Baccus and Odzial Osmy. To me their selling point is they are the go to for respective their scale.

    The minimum small companies could do is consistency in sculpts/designs and new release schedule. At the very least customers will know they should visit every so often to see whats new. The Street Violence miniature range was pretty much finite when I got into it. They had a ruleset too but I knew their range wasn’t going to change and didn’t feel the need to revisit that often, as a result I browsed other sites and bought other things instead and eventually forgot about it.

    Tired is enough.
    R-rated narcissism

    #130524
    Mike
    Keymaster
    #130527
    Adrian Arnold
    Participant

    Just saw this around scales/sizes and popularity: https://www.karwansaraypublishers.com/wss_gws/gws-2019-digging-into-the-numbers-size-matters-to-whom/

    Interesting reading – I wonder though if they included a question asking what other scales people were aware of? Mind you, that could then lead into questioning peoples perceptions of different scale/sizes

    #130529
    Thomaston
    Participant

    It paint an optimistic picture for 6mm with increase in popularity since 2015 but it also said these were linked to the plane, ship and spaceship-size so 6mm manufacturers might not have sold more, but probably the big companies making games in that scale.

    No surprise that 28mm and 15mm are by far the most popular considering the popular games available.

    Tired is enough.
    R-rated narcissism

    #130564
    Mike
    Keymaster

    For a decent skirmish game, you usually need a lot more scenery than a mass battle game – How many people start skirmish thinking they just need a few figures only to abandon it as they don’t have the space/time/will/whatever to make and store a decent amount of scenery?

    That seems fair enough, I certainly have more skirmish scenery for one game than I ever had scenery for all my mass battle stuff.
    Buildings mostly, but also lots of little bits of scatter terrain to add atmosphere.

    Never did see the need for a small pile of vases when doing my mass battle stuff!

    #130657
    Blackhat
    Participant

    People are correct that the demise of the wargames hobby has been talked about for a long time along with the greyng of the hobby…

    What has happened is that technology has made it a lot easier to get into the industry.  Printing for rules is cheaper, PDF distribution is easy with the internet.

    For figure manufacturers it is easier to find a sculptor through the net, you can outsource your moulding and casting and you have a company…

    What has happened is that those of us that make a living from the industry have to contend with people producing figures and rules at a professional quality as a hobby where the figures are cheaper than the actual cost of producing and selling them because hobby producers don’t charge for their time…  It make it difficult to compete.

    But then, the wargames industry seems healthier in terms of companies and sales than the Toy Soldier world (which I now inhabit) where we have gone from 180+ companies in 1981 (as documented by Stuart Asquith) to probably less than 30…

    Mike

    Black Hat Miniatures -
    http://www.www.blackhat.co.uk/

    #130689

    There are several companies that seem to keep on going.  GW for example.  They are propelling our hobby, whether you like them or not.  I suspect that many of the older gamers remember the grand old days when games came in a spine stapled pamphlet, everything was black and white courier typed and there were few, if any, pictures in the book.  Today, everything is in full color (if the publisher knows what is best for their business!) and often times games come with all sorts of extra parts and gizmos required to play the game.

    We are spoiled for choice.  The market does seem saturated with games but not source material.  Scenario books would be the saturation I’d be happy with.  But instead we have a dizzying array of rule books on the market today.  Many are sold in PDF format which is very low risk to the seller.  Some, of course, are better than others.

    I think people are equating “the hobby is (ever) changing” with “the hobby is doomed.”  So long as people like games and crafts, the hobby of table top wargaming will exist.

     

    John

    "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

    --Abraham Lincoln

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