Monday, 25 April 2011

Marketing matters

Since acquiring the Helldorado game system, Cipher Studios seems to have been a bit overloaded and haven't been releasing their Anima Tactics figures at the usual pace. Previously they had put out two or three figures a month, but in the last month this has slipped. The lack of figures and announcements of new figures has lead to much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Anima fan community.This was relieved somewhat by the recent announcement of two new figures on Cipher's blog and forums.

Personally I was glad of the break. I already have plenty of other models to paint and no shortage of Anima Tactics figures to game with. What I did find interesting was how little time it took before vocal members of the message board community started worrying that the game was and before long no-one will play it. The ironic twist was that similar complaints have been made about Cipher's handling of Helldorado, with delays to the release of English rulebook being accused of doing untold harm to the game (despite English rules still available here).

I kind of get that people are worried about investing in a game that isn't going to last. It can be a pain having a box full of models and no-one to play against. But the speed of reaction seems excessive. Anima Tactics has plenty of models for all factions even Black Sun, the most recently released. There's plenty to keep the game going without a constant schedule of releases. It seems that a few too many sudden deaths of different games have left wargamers a little jumpy to see the least. Though it may also be that wargamers are a little too trained to believe marketing.

For a time, during Warhammer 6th and 7th edition, Games Workshop tried to release all models for an army at same time as they released the army book, with maybe a couple of special characters left out. Given that their previous schedule had consisted of releasing models whenever they felt like it and that some units never appeared, this was a huge improvement. Fast forward a few years and the strategy changed, they would release some models with the army book and then wait to release more a few months later. This was spun as 'not waiting for a new army book before releasing new models', but it really meant not supplying all the models at the same time as the book.

What surprised me was level of enthusiasm for this plan from gamers.

"Hooray I don't have to wait for new army book for new models!" They cried.

"All they're doing is stagger releasing, not supplying anything new," I felt like yelling.

Plus, if all the models from the book are available, why does it matter if there aren't any more releases? You can still buy them six months later. It's as though people had thought that they couldn't buy a model more than a month old.

Privateer Press got much praise for the release of a cheap rule book for War Machine with rules for all models and factions. But then they followed it up with a new book, which cost more, and had more rules for all factions. Then again. And again. By time of the new edition, you needed five books for full rules for each faction. But again, several gamers seemed happy about this. "

"Yay, new releases, I don't have to wait ages for new models."

"But you still have the same number of models. And now you have to buy five rule books."

It wasn't so bad for players who had followed the game from the start, but it was pretty off-putting for new players or those who had lost track to be confronted by so many expansions. And before someone points out that under the new edition, Privateer Press have separate army books for each faction, they have admitted this is only a stop gap to get old models working with the new rules. The rules for every faction books have started up again.

I get that all gamers have an interest in their preferred game doing well. But it seems to have reached a stage where gamers confuse what is good for the game with what is good for them personally. Yes I want my games to do well, but I also want it to cost me as little as possible and to not have to spend out money every month on new models just to keep up. Also, new releases are not always a good thing, sometimes it can be nice to switch projects and not have a huge backlog of models and supplements to catch up with when you return to an old game.

So, in conclusion, I can live without new Anima Tactics figures for a month or so, don't care exactly when Games Workshop releases new models and would be more inclined to play War Machine if I didn't have to buy every supplement book to keep up.

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