Wednesday, 25 July 2012

It's just business

A little while back the games shop from which I bought most of my Anima Tactics miniatures decided to stop selling them. This was more than a little irritating for me because it had been this shop that had got me started on the game in the first place and, with only a very small number of exceptions, I had consistently bought every model for the first two then three factions from them. It doesn't help that Anima Tactics is not well stocked in the UK; it is sold in few game shops and is absent from most shows and conventions.

Although I was genuinely irritated, I had no illusions. The shop wasn't doing this to spite me and, by myself, I didn't represent enough sales to justify them keeping the range. Ultimately this was a business decision and that wasn't anything to be gained by taking it personally.

Generally, the wargames community is pretty realistic when it comes to the behaviour of wargames businesses, be it the companies that produce the rules and miniatures or the shops and websites that sell them. For the most part people expect businesses to behave like businesses. We expect price rises, unpopular games to be dropped, more popular ones to be promoted, new editions, etc. There will always be grumbling and a few decrying certain companies lack of ethics, but mostly we accept that decisions aren't personal.

Of course that doesn't mean that business decisions can't be bad or made for the wrong reasons. In fact it can be even more galling when a company appears to be doing something spectacularly stupid for business reasons, because ultimately no-one will win, not even the company.

So we expect businesses to behave like businesses. But there is an idea held within the wargames community that, in someway, we as hobbyists should be held to some kind of mythical higher standard. It's by no means a universal belief, but it seems to have some traction.

Let's take a look at an example. I have already had some fun with Battlefront's amazingly crass announcement that they would no longer allow miniatures from other companies to be used at their tournaments. The justification being that it was necessary to support their business. This was accepted by many as Battlefront blatantly trying it on. They want people to buy their models and they are willing to try anything to get some sales. You would expect this from the company.

But there were some hobbyists who defended this statement. As though it was a reasonable expectation by Battlefront and the players were doing something wrong. The implication being that Battlefront shouldn't have to introduce such a rule because players should really be doing it anyway. As though attending a Battlefront tournament with non-Battlefront models was impolite or even unethical.

Now it should be obvious that Battlefront's tournaments are blatantly marketing. They run to promote the sale of their miniatures. They are hardly unique in this, plenty of other games companies do it. And if for some reason this isn't working as marketing opportunity it makes sense for them to revise the rules in someway or reconsider running them. But the same consideration doesn't apply to the players. If they introduce a rule saying you can't use non-Battlefront models, then you can put up with it or walk away. But there is no reason to view it as an ethical issue.

Similarly, I have seen the argument put forward that because Battlefront produces a wider range of models than most companies producing 15mm scale WW2 figures, players should buy everything from them. The argument being that if you buy the cheaper alternatives from other manufacturers you are somehow cheating Battlefront. Similarly, I have seen it put forward that Battlefront will not survive as a company if players don't pay inflated prices for their more general troops. As though by buying from Forged in Battle, the Plastic Soldier Company or Zvezda you are some how cheating Battlefront of sales.

Logically, if Battlefront is a business, making decisions for Business reasons then we, as consumers, should be able to make purchasing decisions for similar reasons. If a company produces a model I want at a price I am willing to pay I will buy it, if another company produces a better priced or better quality model I will choose them. I don't have an obligation to "support" a company by buying models I don't want or don't need on the basis that they produce others that I do. Quite apart from anything else, it won't help in the long run because no company can survive based solely on customer indulgence. They need to have a competitive product.

I expect Wargames companies to appeal to customer loyalty and support. I don't have much respect for the argument but I can see it for what it is, a marketing ploy. What makes no sense to me is players acting contrary to the best interests, or asking others to do so, because a company asked them to.

1 comment:

  1. I commented on your July 17th post first, but I'll do so here to since it is more up to date :)

    I really can't see the problem with expecting a consumer of your product to be restricted to your product in your events. I am not saying if you want to play FOW you should only buy Battlefront. Buy what you want, play how you want, use what you want! I have no problem with proxies and cardboard chits LOL! I do understand the desire for a company to get maximum profit from it's product and running a large even you are paying for is sufficient reason to me for such a simple restriction.