Monday, 28 February 2011

A few musings about Battlefront and Maelstrom

You may have already read the news that Battlefront, makers of Flames of War, have dropped Maelstrom games as a supplier. This news was followed up by statement from Maelstrom confirming what many people had already suspected, that this was a dispute about the level of discount offered by Maelstrom. This has raised some interesting question as to whether Battlefronts actions could be considered price fixing which is illegal in the UK.

I'm not going to comment on the legal question, there are plenty of amateur lawyers on the Internet already. But I did find the dispute interesting both because it has divided gamers and because it's not a clear cut argument at all.

Battleground are seen by many as the company who have "Games Workshopped" World War 2, by being a one stop shop for their customers, supplying rules, miniatures, dice, scenery and paints. This has lead to some treating them as a new 'Evil Empire'. That they are apparently trying to restrict sellers from discounting their products feels like a very Games Workshop move.

Of course plenty of gamers defend Games Workshop and Battlefront as simply being businesses that are justified in trying to maximise their profit margin by what ever means they can.

At the same time, there were plenty of gamers ready to condemn Maelstrom as a ruthless Internet retailer undercutting brick and mortar stores. An argument undermined by the discovery that Maelstrom operate their own brick and mortar store with a substantial gaming venue attached.

So have a dispute between one of the larger miniature manufacturers and a retailer that sits somewhere between brick and mortar store and a discount internet retailer. It has been argued that Maelstrom are being unprofessional by letting this all out in public, while ignoring Battlefronts questionable decision to announce the dropping of Maelstrom without talking to them first. Then we've had others arguing that other manufacturers of World War 2 models are some how exploiting Flames of Wars rule sets. From a purely selfish perspective, it's in the interests of gamers to be able to buy their models at the lowest possible price, but not if that harms the ability of the maufacturer to do business.

So there are no clear cut answers. If you view things from a purely business perspective, then this is simply a legal question with both sides doing what they can to increase their profits. If you take a more romantic view then it's not clear whether it's more appropriate to support the manufacturer or the seller. So, a far from clear cut case.

1 comment:

  1. Maelstrom Games brought me back to Flames of War after a two year absence. If it hadnt been for Maelstrom I would have sold up my FOW armies and not invested a further £500 or so on FOW goods.

    Since they dropped Maelstrom I havent bought any FOW products, will search for alternatives wherever possible and will keep my FOW purchases to the minimum in future - the odd pack of infantry.

    I don't see how it harms the manufacturer? Maybe Im being blinkered. As long as the manufactrer makes his margins and the same number of units are sold - job done. Discounts may actually lead to more units being sold as the perception of value and affordability is better.