Saka Light Cavalry

Saka Light Cavalry

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Hands Off My Hobby - Chatter Behind The Bike Sheds

After my recent post including the bit about over priced dice and rules I thought I should tackle the problem about those rotter's who seem to be hell bent on making money out of my hobby, heel out of me!

One reason GW is so hated in the hobby is that they are rather good at making money out of it, not as good as they used to be for some reason cough FoW cough. Indeed it's been the height of fashion to rip in to them on behalf of the pimpled ranks. Lets ignore the fact that grown ups also play GW and some of them even seem half sane. Sure GW is the over priced champions of the world but when is all said and done most people who play their games don't get the money prised out of their pockets, it is choice when all is said and done.

Not sure which is supposed to be worse the fleecing the GW customer with prices that would make a loan shark blush or your small wargames hobby supplier done well. OK I do, it's GW but that's just to easy a target so lets move onto the ones we like.

Perry Twins hold an almost God like place in the eyes of a large part of the 28mm hobby, I have heard that once they were seen crossing the middle of a pond with not a bridge in sight but like many others questioned I did not see it myself. Indeed it's almost certain that all of us have one or more favoured supplier who may not quite fit the can't do no wrong certainly come close. For me I guess it's Leven Miniatures and Baccus as I have got to know the owners well enough to like them a great deal. Loki it's Warbases (I like these too) and indeed it's fine for Brigantes Studio to do very well for them selves too as Kev and Loki are great guys but again it's personal. But what about the bloody rest?

Given this is my hobby I am precious about it, passionate in fact. So what? so is just about every last one of us but too many forget or don't consider the fact that for all the companies big and small it has to be more than that for them, or indeed could be seen as LESS than that. It should be first and foremost their business. For some it's part time add on to their day job, in many a case in hope of it becoming a full time occupation. Some it's what literally pays the mortgage. 

Let me run that past you again, it pays the mortgage, well it does if they do well enough. If suddenly someone new comes on the block and carves into their market then they suffer and maybe things get tough. If this happens I have no doubt a great many will feel for them, plenty will even buy extra product just to try and do their bit.

OK so what happens if we get a sniff at the fact they are doing well, I mean really well? Nice new car, a better holiday than you have had in years? I am fairly confident MORE people would be pissed off than would be happy for them. I simply am not one of those. I guess you can blame it on my retail experience from running a very successful part of a multimillion £ business, well until it went pop but lets move on.

Can you imagine what it would be like say for instance Golf was ran with that kind of view? On the bright side crazy golf would suddenly seem not so crazy. But let me take you down the road of a few scenarios, after all wargamers like scenarios right?

Warbases. Not sure when they started to make an impact on the hobby but I discovered them three years ago, the MDF bases was new to me so I was rather smitten with the product I bought at I think Triples. But it was when I bought from them via their webpage I really fell for them. Service was top notch and oh so very fast and personal. Better still it has grown faster than I would have thought possible, it's a family business and it's amazing the ideas that have come from this company. It's possibly (looking from the outside) one of the fastest growing companies in the wargames hobby, certainly in it's field. But my friends what have they done with this business? Well given that they have bought at least one casting machine for a own grown metal range to compliment their other components and paid the cost of getting figures sculptured, even some resin pieces are made by or for them. Invested is what they have done. Not content with sitting back they have generated a large range of animals, many not available anywhere else. Investment = risk, now I don't know (or want to) how much they have had to invest or what business plan they have set up to recoup their investment (short/medium/long) or indeed how much deeper they plan to invest/expand. Good on them is what I say, though I do hope they at least get that holiday!

Baccus recently expanded and replaced their French Napoleonic's, that's not really in my eyes half as risk possible than Warbases as it's a fair bet even those who have enough French old style have been reaching into their pockets. However I am confident most will actually under estimate just how much cash Baccus will have sunk into this project. I guess it's years not months before Peter see's that range break even taking into account sales that would have gone on old style castings if he had just refreshed the moulds. But if you look at the ranges he has released over the past couple of years and these he is releasing now it's a major capital investment. His WWII tanks in 3d printing plus WWI/II metal figures are both fairly risky ventures that see's him having to invest profits for hoped for future gains and especially WWII into an area that already is reasonably well covered. Takes balls that!

I could go on but the point is these people and many others take financial risk to bring us the new toys and too many of them do it under tighter financial constraints that many a company in other fields would be prepared to do. 

However some companies fall into the it's a hobby to me field, never more so than the professional painter. Lets look at Brigantes Studio again. Andrew unashamedly states he paints for a living and does so at prices he can make a living. To some their price is too high, others may feel he is ripping them off due to his high prices. You see so many painting services are either earning extra, painting evenings and/or weekends or funding their hobby. They are not professional painting services, that does not mean they can't do a great job, many do, others don't. Kev and Andrew on the other hand have this as their income and yes if you go to their blog via the link above you will see they do a bloody fine job for a price that sure seems right to me given the level of work they have on the books.

It's not just the budget or part time painting services that undermine the full time hobby providers, too many figure suppliers out their do this part time, funded in part not from sales but full time wage, this gives a false impression of  value for money and leads to the idea that we somehow are paying over the odds sometimes. 

How about I close now with this one thought, if we were charged more for our figures, buildings and consumables (don't really count against wargameing budget anyway) maybe just maybe our lead mountains would be smaller and we ourselves a little happier with our lot?

28 comments:

  1. wow brave post Ian cant wait to see what everyone else as to say about this one.

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    1. Actually if I had gone back and read it again I would have been smarter changed one line to get across what I actually meant in one section apologies to all the full time painting services especially Loki and Kev as I was just talking about them before and did not do well at then separating them from the ones I was then talking about

      Ian

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  2. Interesting thoughts. Most competently painters are underpaid based on a fair hourly rate. .and I do believe it's a labour or love for most small companies , they won't get rich quick , but perhaps job satisfaction makes up for it.

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    1. I fully agree about the painter's very few can charge what they should.

      It's all well and good being a labour of love but it's got to be sustainable for the good of the hobby. Someone charging low prices for figures and being able to do so means that other companies are forced to charge below a reasonable price making it harder for all to work long term.

      It's ironic that a hobby that attracts the higher paid also has to many of the suppliers working on really low margins that mean they will not have the same standard of pay or even close to it. Loki's comment about charging below minimum wage for his work is a fine example the work he does is master class and we pay buttons for it in comparison to it's worth.

      Ian

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  3. My lead pile diminished following my deployment. Some I have given to my kids, the rest are slowly finding their way into my established armies. With four kids, I don't have the time nor money to splurge anymore.
    I'm also gearing up to retire after a couple more decades.
    I do have a couple of projects running along. One is ACW focusing on Miners Creek and the other is the Peninsular War. Both are plastic 28's. I want to dive into Dux, I love the Art and fireforge is making some nice kits. I could maybe shoehorn them into saga! I'm really just idle on the new stuff though. Skirmish is so much more value for my time and money.
    A lot of my SciFi forces have been built and painted into small fire teams just for skirmish and not the armies they were envisioned for.
    I've bought some new stuff. Zombies, Cowboys, and Supers are what my kids want to play. GW is awesome and the models are beautiful, but I can't afford them. I'm less inclined with Necromundia, Mordenheim, GorkaMorka, and BFG being canceled. Thankfully other companies make troops, ships, and Vic's I can add to those rules that cost less. I have even begun buying modest rulesets that let me use whatever and whoever I wish. Although, that is easy without tourney play and in my own home! ;)
    I am worried how Warlord has been snatching up independents and pulling them into one banner. I'm also leery of FOW when PSC makes neat stuff for less. Less is what I'm about. I've been building PDF and searching for the smaller companies selling inexpensive ( different than cheap) models.
    There are folks I like and will patron. Crossover miniatures and Rusti, Stoziels Structures and Carl....I have to find my Conquest AmerInds so Loki can whip me up a "squad" for FIW!
    I guess I'm more into finding companies that are passionate for the game and want my money more than the suits that want to squeeze the last penny outta me! Of the big companies out there; in my mind; GW, FOW, Warlord, and Privateer Press. PP is the only one with passion for gaming. Everyone else just wants my money...well if not mine, any one's will do!
    Carl and Rusti at least get excited when they see how I use their wares! Andrew will, I'm certain, do an outstanding job on Algonquin warriors and be chuffed to know they are about to kick both ranger and marine tail!

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    1. I agree with the take it or leave it for the providers you like but feel are expensive it is after all a buyers market.

      Take care out there and good luck on the lead pile reduction

      Ian

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  4. I hear similar complaints from my section of the OSR community on occasion. How dare you make money. You are a bad person. Screw that nonsense.

    And I love when someone says its a rip off. Stupid. It's only a rip off if they order a professionally painted mini and instead get a glop of blue. But if you know what you're getting ahead of time and you pay for it then it's a choice whether you want to pay it or not.

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    1. The Fantasy side especially the player aids/scenario and campaign settings done as a hobby vary greatly in quality dependant on who does them et. In your case I can use at least one thing from each issue of The Manor and so are great value

      Ian

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  5. I have to work full time to support my work for companies, mainly Solway and VBCW because Solway can not afford to pay me full time. I think that is true a number of companies including Warbases, as it is the day job that funds the hobby or the other job and i wish I could do the hobby thing full time and live too but thats life.

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    1. Sometimes making the transition to full time is a mistake few can keep it as a hobby whilst also doing it as a day job, the passion gets sucked out of it.

      ian

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  6. When I was in Hong Kong back in '75 I naturally enough sought out appropriate souvenirs. Painted eggs mounted in little display cases were quite the thing so I bought a few. Just before we sailed, I came across a set I hadn't seen before and it was excellent quality, better than all the others I'd seen, so I bought it. Back onboard I confessed that I thought I'd probably paid over the odds for the set, but my Chief said "If you really like it and you're happy with the quality, then you've not been ripped off." That's the punter's lesson.
    The wargames businessman's lesson is more harsh. If you think you can make a living from the hobby one way or another, be it full time or as another income stream, then you'd better be bloody sure you've got your facts right and that you'll got the wherewithal to make it work. Nobody owes you a living and nobody is going to gift you one. If you fall on hard times nobody on the planet has enough friends to maintain sales, but, if you're lucky and you've not run it into the ground, there's usually an opportunist who'll buy the concern off you - often out from under your feet at a killer price.
    I don't have an axe to grind because this is a hobby to me, but it's a capitalist environment governed by market forces, possibly more than even the real world. Wargamers are notoriously fickle and easily the most 'fashion conscious' hobbyists I've come across. It's the suppliers (of whatever goods or service) who are most astute who will survive and not those who are just nice guys. O.K., I'll stick my head above the parapet: Empress Miniatures and Warlord Games (to name but two) are in it to make money and they don't seem too perturbed about it (mind you, neither am I).

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    1. And neither should they. You put in the capital and risk it, your entitled to get return. Or put it another way if these guys don't put in the investment and take the risk we would not have had the choices we now have.

      OK some have gone further than others with Warlord buying up others and so protecting their position in the market. It becomes a worry when they buy to remove, so your favoured figure range becomes defunct when a company has no desire to re-release the range as it conflicted with a range that company produces.

      Ian

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  7. With reference to your last paragraph, since I decided to focus back on LOTR/Hobbit, I've been selling off loads of figures I will never get round too, and using the liberated funds to buy LOTR - since they are more expensive, I get less, so my Lead mountain is shrinking! Thats good right? ;-)

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    1. It's a good plan that corrects some of that buy buy buy then really think about it plans we tend to work to.

      The fact that we have growing mountains shows we have commitment issues :-)

      ian

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  8. To me it's what I can afford, if I could afford to have my minis painted I would but with a change of jobs and finances I have less to spend and so things don't get bought. I sell stuff now to fund buying something but it's my love and it keeps me sane...ish.

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    1. Good point, be interested in knowing if you get more pleasure from your purchasing than you used to when you did more

      Ian

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  9. The vast majority of people don't have any problem with companies making lots of money provided they respect their customers and listen to their needs/wants. That's smart business and everyone wins. Where GW is falling down is they are forgetting that and pandering to their shareholders desires for a quick buck.

    When you charge top dollar and then deliberately change your rules on an increasingly frequent basis to enforce further purchases so people can continue to play with their existing investment, that's where you start losing customers and respect...

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    1. GW have been going down this route so long and I don't see how they will get out of it. However it's so very difficult to downsize and accept you have probably had the best you will ever be and fall back to being a successful but smaller company. Eventually I expect them to implode and disappear. Only then will we see just how much they were doing for the hobby, that or how much it held us back.

      Ian

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  10. I have done very few commissioned painting jobs as gamers are not prepared to pay anything near reasonable for my time. I don't understand when really good painting is cheap.
    Moaning about GW (or any other company) prices is a waste of time really. You will either want it and pay for it or...
    want it and not buy it because you don't have the money...or..
    walk away as it that particular game is too expensive for you.
    Many an ex-GW players have become like bitter divorcees who carry baggage and just can't give it up.
    I enjoy my hobby and it's not a business for me. It's a business for those that I buy it from. I respect that.
    Cheers and an interesting post.

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    1. I wonder how much ex GW players are like that because they feel they were fooled or mistaken by their time spending on GW. I go back to the £ per play view. If you have spent£1000 and have had 1000 hours of fun painting and playing with your collection that's £1 an hour, not a bad rate eh? Add to the fact that in almost every case the cost of buying the figures against selling them when painted leaves you with a profit then how can you go wrong (if you WOULD sell them that is)

      Ian

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  11. "It's not just painting services that undermine the full time hobby providers" - I have to totally disagree with this Ian, as you know I paint to earn a wage to support my family in the same way you go to pilot a desk that does not undermine the hobby. I support the hobby industry by assisting those that can not or do not have the time and skills to paint figures. I can also assure you that I dont even earn the National minimum wage per hour so its a job born out of love for what I do and the hobby, I enjoy it and therefore am happy to earn my little bit to keep the head above water. I have to have other sources of income to supplement the painting as it will never earn me a large amount, I have a part time role assisting Warbases at shows and am also sculpting to supplement a meagre income but I am happy with my lot and would not change it

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    1. Andrew I will answer this straight away on reading as you misunderstood what I meant or I have written it poorly.

      What I mean is the people who do it as a side business do it at a lower than sustainable price for the Pro's like you who do it full time.

      My point being that we should pay more than we tend to do and often when we don't and go with the low price option it sometimes ends with poor quality finish, late delivery or worse still failure to supply.

      Full time painting services like yours in no way undermine the hobby, indeed you have been enhancing their products such as the recent post on the Fantasy figures and of course the Warbase Wednesday posts and work.

      Sorry if I caused upset as my point was just the opposite to what I led you to think

      Ian

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  12. I've always said that generally there is no such thing as "overpriced" in the hobby. What I mean by this is just because I won't pay x amount for something does not mean its overpriced, just that I won't part with my cash for it.

    Hasslefree is the example for me, there stuff is, to me, very expensive, but there casting is and sculpting is very very high quality. I rarely buy hasslefree figures due to the price, does this make them "overpriced" no just more than I'm prepared to pay. At the end of the day the people that run Hasslefree and other miniatures companies are not huge compaines with lots of money to chuck about and are, by and large, people like you and I.

    My problem with GW is that it is quite frankly overpriced, by a massive margin. You only have to look at their shareholders reports over the last 5 to 10 years to see that prices have gone up just to keep showing profit returns.

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    1. Overpriced does not worry me, a fool and their money and all. However under priced effects other providers and carried to extreme would force more realisticly priced companies to cut back on future development. Tough luck for them unless of course the excess of cheap providers go the way of the wall as they priced too low and the other providers are also damaged beyond repair.

      Ian

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  13. "if we were charged more for our figures, buildings and consumables (don't really count against wargameing budget anyway) maybe just maybe our lead mountains would be smaller and we ourselves a little happier with our lot?" So are you unhappy with your lot?? :o) Wargaming is simple, buy what you can afford, make what you can't afford, sell what you don't need... seemples

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    1. No I am not but now I can afford more I am less inclined to be make considered choices and I do need to address that.

      Would I be happier if my lead pile was smaller? Yes and I have started to work on that to bring it around, stuff of another post.

      Oh I have very little that I don't want, so not ready to sell LOL

      Ian

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  14. Interesting blog post. I'm a big believer that free markets deliver more efficient results. I think this principal holds especially true for the miniatures market which is the very definition of a discretionary good (contrary to my statements to my wife, one doesn't have to buy minis, hobby supplies and painting services - I hope she doesn't see this).

    There are several trends that are impacting the structure of our hobby
    (1) The internet is reducing the barriers to entry by providing almost instant access to global markets, allowing consumers to become much more educated on what their choices are, and now via crowd funding adding fairly efficient access to start up capital.
    (2) Technology with further increase the above trend by reducing manufacturing costs as the ability to prototype and produce via cad files and 3d printing will continue to both improve and decline in unit costs. While there is still capital required to enter the market, the amount relative to revenue will decline
    (3) Local retailers are under siege by the above trends - their primary value add is access to customers for a product's producer - the value add of that role is declining as the internet allows manufactures to directly sell to customers and generate twice the margin than selling through a retail store (the retailer needs to take a cut)

    What's the point of my ramblings?
    (1) Larger entities that have a retail store distribution model for distribution (GW for example) will struggle to grow the top line given more informed consumers and competition from lower cost / lower capitalized competition (Mantic). There only viable route is to improve margin via price rises and reducing trade sales in the hope that the % increase in margin is greater than the % sales loss due to price/demand elasticity.
    (2) We'll continue to see an accelerating increase in new entrants who can now afford to "give it a try". Some will succeed, most will not, but all will nibble at the margins of more established lines (PSC's impact on Battlefront). From a consumer viewpoint of choices will continue to increase, but so will the risks. Look at Kevins and Andrews painting venture - they have a superb product and now have an instant global market to sell their services. I think their prices are very fair because I have a higher degree of confidence that their services will be delivered as promised vs a lower cost provider in a far away region who I don't know,
    (3) More established companies will see more opportunities in purchasing smaller, marginally capitalized start ups who may have stumbled on a good idea vs taking the development risk in-house to come out with a new "killer game". I think we'll see more acquisition activity in this market rather than less - it's just more economically efficient. They also be able to add value to older lines through their more efficient direct distribution network (which is what Warlord is doing)

    As a professional investor (yes, I'm one of those nasty finance guys) I know that outsized opportunities are created when markets are in flux but one has to tolerate the increased risk. The same holds for consumers - I think we'll continue to see an increase in choice but need to be willing to give new ventures a chance - which is never a bad thing.

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  15. Excellent reply. I believe that the hobby is at it's strongest right now, we have so many new and exciting products and rules that you can start something every month and still miss many another period/theme. I am not a fan of all the alternative history idea's and I think they actually are driving up the figure and rule expenditure average cost and when that bobble pops we will have ourselves a decline for a few years. I think it's a mix of period boredom and need for a quick from concept to game fix that is so far removed from the typical army based game. Not than many period themed projects have come about with Saga obviously being a good example of a historical version. I would say we have more alternative to historical rule sets available here and npw

    Ian

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