Thursday, February 14, 2013

What Are They Smoking In New Zealand?

by SandWyrm


Well, I've been waiting to see what Battlefront would do to combat their Plastic Soldier Company competition, and now we know. They're not going to do a damn thing.

They just released this new box set of 21 T-34's with the old metal parts replaced by plastic ones. It also (gasp!) includes both turrets. So that you don't have to buy the same tank twice to field either version.


What's it cost? $280.00 US

What do 21 T-34's (with both turrets) cost direct from the Plastic Soldier Company? $91.46 US (based on todays's dollar-pound exchange rate)

Or almost exactly 1/3 as much. Less if I buy it locally at the shop, or through the WarStore.


Now Battlefront, I know that you see this new box set as an excellent deal. After all, by including the extra turrets, you've saved us the need to buy a 2nd $280.00 box set to have the same gun options. Cool. I appreciate what this must mean to your bottom line. At least in theory.

And I know that these tanks come with individualized details. Well, it's probably just 3-4 individual sculpts, but still. You've made some effort to add variety. I get that too.

But... well... I don't know how to put this nicely. But... I mean... your product costs THREE FRIGGIN' TIMES what your competition is charging. THREE TIMES! Even Apple doesn't charge that kind of premium on their products over the competition.

I like you Battlefront, you know I do. But you really need to wake up and realize that this set will do NOTHING to stem the bleeding of your tank sales. The 'value' you're adding by individualizing the sculpts is worth MAYBE a 20% premium over PSC's prices. Because most people JUST DON'T CARE ABOUT THEM.

And... I'll be honest here... I think that even then I'd still buy my tanks from PSC. Because I HATE resin. I'm tired of the warping in the castings, and the toxic dust that comes from trimming them. I'm really not that keen on your commander models either. Or the muddy 'details' on your tanks that are hard to make out. Or the many ways in which the model must be deliberately distorted to make the resin casting process work smoothly.

You really, really, need to move to an all-digital workflow Battlefront. You need to bite the bullet, learn to sculpt on a computer, and move ALL of your lines to plastic. I know you're used to the old ways. Maybe you have even convinced yourselves that hand-sculpted minis are 'better' in some way. But that's a delusion that you can't afford. Digital is here, it's quality is superior, and it's reduction in tooling costs is the only way that you're going to be able to compete with what PSC (and the companies that will follow it) are doing.

And when 3D printing really hits? Bulk-produced plastic minis will be your ONLY option. 

20 comments:

  1. Do you find the "razorblade" model morally objectionable?

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  2. I ask, given the vocal support for BattleFront giving away rules updates (in stark contrast to the recent GW plan to sell us a flyer FAQ as a book).

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    1. No, I don't think that the razorblade model is morally objectionable. But to try and price your blades at 3x what the competition is charging for almost the same thing is pretty stupid. I've watched PSC products take over in the armies of local Flames players. Most that try PSC find that they like PSC tanks more than BF ones. It's not just a cost thing.

      I think that, in Battlefront's corporate mind, their primary competition is Games Workshop. They're obsessed with not being GW, in the same way that Steve Jobs was obsessed with not being IBM back in the 80's. But, like Jobs, they're so obsessed with their obvious current competition, that they're blind to the future competitors that are rising around them.

      Which in Jobs' case was Microsoft and it's open, standardized software platform (unthinkable at the time). While for Battlefront it's the new digital sculpting, tooling, and 3D printing technologies that are going to gut both them AND Games Workshop in the next 2-5 years as miniature manufacturing decentralizes into boutique shops and home hobbiests. Both GW and BF's business models aren't ready for it. Although GW has at least moved some of their production to digital, Battlefront has hardly done anything at all to prepare. They're fiddling with plastics, but it's the hand-sculpted, hand-tooled plastics technology of 20 years ago.

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  3. lool even premium razorblades aren't marked up that badly!

    "Free" rules do buy some limited good will but BF just isn't offering enough extra value to justify the extra cost. They should offer prepainted models.

    Since they have an army of painters for battlefield in a box now it'd be pretty easy. At least for vehicles. 3 rounds of drybrushing on the hull, one for mud and then some decals and job's a goodun.

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    1. I routinely buy Battlefront & PSC models, not to mention terrain, at the local shops at 20%+ more than I could buy them for online. I do it because the stores provide a place for us to play. So if Battlefront were more expensive by only 20% or so, I'd feel some loyalty pressure to purchase them over PSC. But at 300% of PSC's prices, no way!

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  4. BF's tank prices have always been in wacky-land. Yeah, all their prices tend towards the higher end of the higher end of the 15mm market, but 50-ish bucks for a 130 man Infantry Company strikes me as completely reasonable. 13 bucks for one 15mm tank, pass. Varity is a great thing, but when I'm building an army the details on individual figures don’t matter much to me, in fact lots of little details can really slow my painting down.

    Part of the problem that BF has is that, unlike with GW games, FoW players don’t have any social stigma about using another company’s figures. So, BF needs to think much more competitively than they do. I like their infantry, but I don’t see myself ever buying BF vehicles.

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    Replies
    1. Their infantry is reasonably priced. But they kill you on transports. That 5-point upgrade for a platoon often means $50+ in resin vehicles.

      Even so, I dislike the proportions of their infantry. The new Open Fire plastics are better sculpted, but they still can't hold a candle to what PSC is putting out.

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  5. The problem with a WW2 miniatures game is that theres no IP on model designs. You can't charge a premium like GW when there's other companies offering the same tank for less. WW2 models in any scale is a highly competitive market.

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    Replies
    1. Problem? What problem? I wish GW had the same sort of competition that Battlefront does.

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  6. Well said Sir, I agree whole heartedly to everything you've said. Unfortunately (I imagine like you) I've seen this coming and it's becoming worse, the prices on models and blisters has risen very sharply over the last 2-3 years, well beyond that of inflation. I've said to a lot of my fellow players that "BF are the new GW", I've been saying it for some time but only now do people start to realise it. They've moved printing to China and Malaysia and they've belatedly begun moved into plastics to no real discernible price changes? I know the initial outlay to move into plastics is an expensive one but that's not a price that should be paid for by the humble gamer, certainly not when PSC do things almost as good for a fraction of the cost.

    Not knocking the game, I still play it and I still buy BF products but they're making it VERY difficult to keep GIVING THEM MY MONEY.

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    1. Battlefront wants to be a 'better' GW. Unfortunately, I don't believe that the classic GW business model is going to survive to the end of this decade.

      The paths that GW and BF follow, if they want to survive, are going to diverge.

      GW needs to leverage it's manufacturing and distribution muscle, not to mention it's retail presence, to set itself up as the place to go for customized, 3D printed, full-color, ready-to-play miniatures. Come into a store, sit down at the kiosk (or bring your iPad), and make the best Space Marine hero that you can. While it prints, let's look at some low-cost plastic Space Marines to go with him. "Will that be pre-painted plastic, or unpainted hobby-classic?"

      In Battlefront's case, they need to start up a licensing program that would allow 3rd-Party manufacturers (like PSC) to market their stuff under the Flames of War label. Because as time goes on, they're going to get squeezed by the boutique plastics guys that can pump out the most popular models cheaply, and the garage guys with 3D printers that can put out the low-volume stuff. Like some specific North Africa unit with distinctive uniforms. Or the 15 tanks in theater X with the odd mufflers and an extra handle on the top. It's better in that case to do a Harley Davidson and make sure that you get a dollar or two out of anything they sell.

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    2. I completely agree with what you're suggesting. The thing is, it seems the way you and I look and the situation GW and BF (particularly GW) do is essentially opposite. Fifteen years ago GW made some of the best figures on the market, now there are a bunch of companies out there that can match or beat GW on quality and price. What GW has (besides its wealth) is it's games. So, to me, the logical move is away from super detailed, super expensive collector's miniatures and towards functional, inexpensive playing pieces. That means more people playing the game and more money for GW. But, GW seems to think that Forgeworld is the right business model for the company as a whole.

      Similar situation with BF, their biggest asset is FoW. Most of the people buying 15mm tanks from PSC are buying them to play FoW, which means BF is selling rule books if nothing else. So, yeah, taking a dollar for every kit PSC sells in exchange for letting PSC throw FoW bases into their boxes and slap a FoW sticker on the front makes a lot of sense.

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    3. Heh... 25 years ago, GW also made the best, most accessible game rules on the market. People forget that. It's what led to their initial successes.

      We are seriously to the point now where Fantasy Flight is charging less for pre-assembled miniatures with basic no-frills coloring than GW is for unpainted, unassembled plastic. Once full-color pre-paints and unpainted 3D prints reach parity with GW prices, all bets are off; and it will only get worse from there.

      Yes, the answer is to compete on both price, with 2-piece snap-together minis. AND on quality with superior-quality pre-paints. With good rules tying them all together. But GW is moving in none of these directions. They simply ignore anything that doesn't fit their preconceptions about what gaming is, or can be. Or who their customers really are compared to who they'd like them to be.

      In Battlefront's case, they already have good rules that can be leveraged into useful relationships with 3rd party model makers. But they're still stuck in an outdated view of what a successful gaming company looks like. They should be taking their cues from Fantasy Flight, and not GW. But old habits die hard, and it's not like this industry has a lot of new blood in it.

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  7. Fantasy flight is probably doing the smartest thing in miniatures right not. X-Wing miniatures and Dust are priced and scaled just right. They just need to shorten their development times and work on resolving their manufacturing delays.

    CMON's is also doing things smart by leveraging Kickstarter to fund and develop their games.

    Board and non-CCG card games are booming right now too. I can spend $40 on the DC Deckbuilding games and have hours of fun, or I can spend $500 dollars on a 40K or FoW army and have rules arguments and get depressed because my army isn't the flavor of the month. And then have to spend $250 more because the units I bought turned out to be crap and I need to buy new ones.

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    1. I have to seriously disagree about the pricing on X-wing. 15 dollars for ship not much bigger than a quarter is not well priced. 40 dollars for 3 ships in the starter box is also not a deal.

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    2. Prices for Flames of War armies (if you don't buy your tanks/infantry from Battlefront) run half or less of a 40K force. With much less "Oops I bought the cool-looking models, not the effective ones." Not zero, but far less. And there's almost always a different force org where those models could be used effectively. So your real problem becomes one of "Gosh! I need to stop buying models for force orgs I never play!"

      Still, most guys I see at the shop that aren't playing 40K right now are playing card and boardgames instead. Not a different tabletop wargame.

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    3. @eriochrome.

      The quality on the miniatures is superb. The best pre-paints you can buy. They are equivalent in size and detail to many 28mm figures. You also get a ton of fiddly bits in the package. And enough upgrades and pilot cards to add real verity. You also don't need that many ships. Only two or three past the starter. You can play the game competitively for like 90 bucks and be able to field a dozen viable builds at the same time. How many other miniature games can say that? What's hurting the game is that wave two has been delayed for 4 months.

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    4. Got to agree with Darr on this one. $15 is not too much to pay for a quality pre-painted mini. It puts GW's finecrap prices to shame. As Battlefield in a Box and Pegasus Hobbies are already doing in the wargame terrain space. Where you can buy ready-to-play products for the same or only slightly more than GW's unassembled bare plastic.

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  8. It is hard for me to look at X-wing and think of it as a hobby game, though. $15 is a lot since in the end, I no longer care if the minis are all that detailed. In a way they might as well be D&D Minis. I can't see buying enough for squadron vs. squadron play since it is a lot of repetitive high-end purchases.

    As for Battlefront, yeah, they priced themselves out of my FLGS. I know there is margin in premium pricing and companies feel like the minis-hobby is limited. But the reality is there is no viable entry into this type of gaming anymore. The last batch of kids who came in are looking at colleges now and all the others are in the card room at this point. Somehow Wizards manages $4.99/pack for Magic is is still doing well, but the trading market is huge.

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    1. No, X-Wing is not a hobby game, though I have seen some models that were re-painted. Rather it's just a game. You buy the pieces, play, and everyone seems to have fun.

      I dunno about there not being viable entries into wargaming. Flames is still pretty cheap if you know what to buy. Such as the $70 Open Fire set. Or you could buy 5 PSC Tigers, download the free Tunisian Tigers PDF, and be playing for a bit less than $30 + rulebook.

      Warmachine also has $50 starter sets for all of it's factions, no? It's just GW that has nothing, apart from the Dark Vengeance set.

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