Friday 30 August 2013

The Next Generation

Readers of this blog based in the UK may have been aware of a publication called CLiNT, if only because it could be found within glancing distance of the wargames magazines in most branches of WH Smith. It was an anthology comic, edited by Mark Millar creator of Kick-Ass, among other things, which attempted to see if there was space in the UK comic market for something other than kid's fair that relied on free gifts to generate sales and 2000AD. Apparently, the experiment was a failure, as CLiNT has published its last issue.

Judging by the mix of extreme violence, moodiness and a slightly odd focus on celebrities (not to mention the 'hilarious' joke title which looks a bit rude if you read it from a long way away), I suspect CLiNT's target audience may have been teenagers whose parents didn't know what they were reading. Not that there's anything much wrong with that. Rebelling against parental authority is an important part of being a teenager and better they do through reading a slightly unsuitable comic than through petty crime. But, it seems the target audience weren't all that interested.

Since at least the 1990s  the audience for comics has been ageing, as dedicated fans largely stick with the industry but are not supplemented by younger readers. It's a phenomenon not unique to the comics industry. Some time back I speculated that traditional wargaming might suffer in the face of a generation who had a less tactile and more virtual connection with their hobbies and interests. The wargaming industry could find itself in the same boat as the comic industry.

Oddly, this is one area where Games Workshop seem to have the right attitude. Whatever you might say against them (and I have said plenty), their focus on younger players, and refusal to rely on the loyalty of existing customers, has got to be the right approach. Whether this strategy can be maintained in the face of regular above inflation price rises, when the cost of living is rising and wages stagnating, is more questionable. So, points for intent, if not for execution

But what of the rest of the Industry. I have to admit, that the approach sometimes looks like naval gazing. Much of the marketing for wargame products is focused on wargame websites and magazines, while a significant portion of the industry is focused on producing material of interest to existing wargamers. There are times when it appears to be doing what the smoking industry claimed to be doing for years, trying to persuade existing customers to "switch brands."

On the other hand, I'm not sure what else they should be doing. My own introduction to wargaming came via the brother of a friend and, having discovered that Games Workshop existed and what it was, I tracked down White Dwarf. Today, I would probably have googled it, but the scenario would have been much the same. The industry has no trouble providing information for interested newbies, in fact its far better than when I started out, the problem is generating the interest in the first place. I wonder how many wargamers started out in much the same way I did, through friends or elder brothers (or sisters) and how dependent the industry is on word of mouth.

I'm afraid this isn't a post that provides a lot of answers, only asks a lot of questions. But if the wargaming industry is to survive long term it needs to continuously engage with a new generation of customers, and I worry that the company most keen to do so may be the least capable of doing so.

Monday 19 August 2013

Status Report

Hello out there. I'm sorry this blog has been somewhat neglected of late. I would like to offer some interesting and impressive excuse, but the honest truth is that I've been struggling for things to write about.

Part of the problem has been my 'one project at a time' philosophy. It served me pretty well in getting my Chaos Dwarfs up and running, but my latest project isn't actually wargame related, so the net result is that I haven't been doing a lot of painting, modelling or gaming. Following on from that, I haven't been thinking about it as much either. Usually, painting and gaming gets me thinking about things, which leads to blog post ideas. Or at very least some things I can photograph and show off.

But we may have turned the corner. My latest, non-wargaming project, is nearly at an end, which means back to painting and, hopefully, that will get the creative juices flowing again.