Saturday, July 14, 2012

Battlefront's John Paul Speaks Up

by SandWyrm

I still don't agree with the new Battlefront-only model policy for their official FoW tournaments. After all, their openness in allowing other models to be used was a big reason I took the plunge into playing the game in the first place, and I don't think that it will accomplish anything but pissing off their adoring fans. But well... Battlefront still is not GW, and John Paul has proved it by commenting directly in their forums about the issue. It's thoughtful and worth a read.

Here's what he's written:

If I was a child and wanted to hold my breath I would not be letting people run around on our forum spouting such utter nonsense but deleting their posts and banning their accounts but that would be childish and serve no real purpose as I prefer to read what is said and then comment when I feel the need.

If Flames Of War is not creating our own IP I dont know what is and I know that Pete, Phil, Wayne, Evan and the guys would disagree as they have spent the last ten years of their lives dedicated to creating a hobby that is the heart of our business and completely unique. FOW is what drives the WWII 15mm gaming community and has done for many years and despite other manufacturers of models it was never any more than just another historical scale before FOW came along. If supporting your hobby involves you changing sides every time a business decision upsets you I would ask anybody who enjoyed their free copy of 3rd edition to speak up and say that we behaved like GW. Stand up and tell me that we are like any other company and I will give you five exmaples where we have proven time and again we are not. We are simply making a choice for our own events and even if you disagree you should respect us for the right to do so as just like giving away the rules free to over 50,000 people this year the same people made that choice so we cant be as bad as some of you would make out.

The problem is that the vocal few with more opinion than understanding would make it sound like this effects the entire hobby. You are wrong. Competitive gaming is a part of our hobby and we support it becasue we want to help that part grow but 90+% of all gamers are casual players who play in stores and at friends houses and never particpate in a tournament. These are the core of our business and despite some posters in this thread claiming to "know" this is a small issue effecting a gorup of players who however vocal are not the only gamers in the hobby.

Despite it being unwise to comment on this thread it is hard to read personal attacks on yourself and your team without feeling a little hurt and whilst I should not defend our choice more as it will just give some of you more fuel to bleat I stand by what I say. Try and look at the big picture, remember who we are, what we have done and how FOW got here and then just decide if that is your hobby or not as you shoud want to support your hobby and if this or any other decison we make has you changing your mind then we wish you all the best and thank you for your business but we will still be here doing our best and behaving the way we always have.

Here's what I wish to say in response:

John Paul, PLEASE stop calling it the FoW-Hobby. Because it's not. The hobby is 'wargaming', and you are but one company, selling one game, within it. DO NOT slip into the same frame of mind as GW and start thinking that your company IS the hobby. Because you are not. I think it's this slip into GW-speak in your announcement last night, more than anything else, which is shaping players' attitudes towards this change. That you slip into similar language today in this post is even more disturbing.

As for the decision itself, I'm sure that it was carefully considered using criteria that I'm not privy to. That's fine. It's your call, and I'm not going to rage-quit over it. I would have preferred that you simply raise your tournament fees to cover whatever shortfall you're experiencing (if that's really the issue). But I'm not running your business, and you're not a public company. So it is what it is. I do appreciate the free rulebook and the other awesome things that your company does on a regular basis. Make no mistake about that.

But this policy represents a disturbing change in Battlefront's attitude towards it's customers, and I honestly don't think that I would have started playing your company's game if this policy had been in effect 8 months ago when I began playing Flames Of War and buying your models. Three other players started the game with me and I don't think that they would have started the game under that policy either. Your openness to us using other models in your events was what finally got us to buy in.

As it is, I'll have to refrain from attending your national tournaments, as I do not intend to limit my purchases to only BF-minis. As I've said elsewhere, I do not think that most BF minis represent either an advantage in quality or value over those of The Plastic Soldier Company and other BF competitors who sell competing options. If you can improve your products' value, durability, and quality, then I will gladly choose them on their merits, even at a slight markup. But until then I will only buy models from BF that your competitors do not sell better models for. My 5000-point collection is only about 75% BF, but that's 75% that you wouldn't have at all if I'd never started playing. Think about that please.


  1. To be honest mate, these posts are starting to sound like your previous WH40K/GW posts. The internet provides anyone the platform to put out their thoughts, but you have to wonder if people are listenting, and if they are, when they are switching off to your message.

    I think Battlefront as a Company have given all the advice on this matter they needed to in their initial statement, and I think Johns latest post qualifies that further and highlights a pertinent point:

    "Competitive gaming is a part of our hobby and we support it becasue we want to help that part grow but 90+% of all gamers are casual players who play in stores and at friends houses and never particpate in a tournament."

    As an non US gamer, who follows a wide variety of blogs from across the globe, it is predominantly the US gamer who vocalises discontent with moves like this by Battlefront/GW or other game companies. What is apparent to me however, is that the vocal few are outweighed by the silent majority who just get on with a hobby activity they enjoy. John's statement re player base makes it clear that these decisions do not impact their broader customer base, and that those like you generally do not carry the weight needed (ie in make up of a market) to sway a decision.

    All gaeme companies seem to make the same statements to support their actions - tournament players do not dominate their player base, and therefore, are not material to their broader decision making. This is something US gamers (particularly those vocal few that seem to comment on these matters on a recurring basis) fail to recognise. Irrespective how you feel about the matter, I dont think they mind that you won't buy more product or attend their events now that they changed their tournament organisation rules. The silent majority continue to support them, and so long as their product is good enough for that market, they will continue as per normal.

    Official tournaments are a way for these companies to give back/or directly engage with their customers - the rules they set around that are their own to make.

    1. To be honest RP, I'm getting tired of the relatively few, but noisy, readers who are wont to jump all over me anytime I write something that's not unequivocally adoring about a corporation that seeks to sell me their gaming products for money. Because I don't know how you can look at what I wrote here and see anything other than an honest expression of frustration by an adoring fan.

      Mostly, I love Battlefront. I'll continue to play their game and buy their products. But I am not anyone's cultist. I'm not going to delude myself into thinking they can do no wrong. Nor am I going to remain silent when they do something that I honestly don't like. It's what gives credibility to all of those posts where I extoll their very real virtues. It also shows that I don't just save my honest opinions and frustrations for GW.

      Am I going to make much more of this particular issue? No. It's annoying, but this policy doesn't stop my from doing anything that I'm doing now. It's impact on me is simply to remove my ability/desire to play at major events run by BF.

      But I had been looking forward to going to these events next year, particularly the ones at Adepticon. So it's a disappointment to be told I'm not welcome because I actually believed (and applauded) BF when it said that it would never limit players to only using BF models at their events. So I think I have a right to be annoyed by that change, because conforming to this new policy would cost me a not-small amount of money and a not-small amount of painting time in order be able to play the exact same army I that I already have at a national event.

      If that all sounds too negative to you and ruffles your happy-feathers. So be it.

      Nobody is paying me to write here, nor am I receiving free samples or gifts from companies in the wargaming business. We also have no advertising of any kind. So maybe you should go find someone else to read who's more beholden to the interests of the companies that you don't want to see criticized.

    2. I disagree. I think both articles were balanced by trying to see BF's side and offering a counterpoint.

      I hear this alot, that the vast majority of gamers are casual players. I really don't think it's that binary, but let's assume it is. They make an unpopular decision that, according to them, doesn't effect the larger part of their consumer base.

      Firstly, we have the assumption that casual gamers outnumber tournament players 9 to one (but it's implied that it's even more than that).
      Secondly, it is a fact that Americans are, in general, more likely to have a competitive mindset.
      Thirdly, it is also assumed that the competitive gamers are more vocal, spouting their 'nonsense' all over the internet.
      And lastly, the US are an important market for wargaming companies (or any company for that matter.

      Considering the above, I cannot fathom why a company would want to piss off such a vocal part of it's consumer base for that little gain. Surely, if the people affected by this decision are so small in number there can't be that much money to made there.

      Perhaps they are expecting a short term influx of money with competative players scrambling to get their army tournament ready? The fact of the matter is that they will lose customers over this. It could even be that they make more money out of this than they lose on the short term.

      But short term gains should not take precedence over long term growth. That is very unhealthy.

      All the awesome things you did in the past are just that, awesome. But you can't milk that cow forever. It's the things you are doing now that matter.

      And as an aside, I really want to stress something that SandWyrm already said. FoW is not the hobby.. GW is not the hobby.. You are never 'the best and unfallible', that's just marketing-speak for the consumers. The moment you actually start to believe it yourself, is the end of progress and creativity.

  2. I think that every time you do not like something about a game or company, you should pitch a giant fit and move to another system.

    1. Don't be childish V.

      No company is perfect and you can't have everything the way you'd like. So you have to appreciate what is good and avoid the things they do that are bad.

      I've stayed with GW for years through all sorts of annoyances that were worse than this one. 6th is more annoying than usual, but I still haven't sold off my other armies or quit 40K completely. Because I do expect to continue playing the game at some point in the future.

      So why would I quit FoW over this? This is minor compared to the Finecast fiasco, and my reaction is the same. I just won't buy into the thing (BF-run tournaments in this case) that I object to.

  3. The only reason Battlefront did this is because PSC is crushing them in tank sales.
    What other possible reason could they have?
    Places like the War Store can't even keep PSC product in stock

    5 Battlefront Panzer IV's (H variant)- $52.50
    5 Plastic Soldier Company IV's (that makes multiple variants)- $23.99
    (War Store prices

    Since Battlefront minis cost more than double when it comes to tanks, and quite frankly they're not that good, why would I buy them?
    Rather than even ATTEMPT competing, Battlefront went and got all corporate on us. The petulant tone in John Paul's statement is plainly evident.
    I'm not even really mad about this- I have zero interest in ever attending nationals. I never even signed up for rankings HQ, since I think the current FoW tournament system is completely fail.
    Like yourself, that's how I protest things- by not partaking, not contributing (and maybe I get on the 'net and riff about it, too...).

    I'll be voting with my wallet on this one. No Battlefront purchases.

    1. Well said...

      While I don't play FoW it is really about customer relations. You treat the customer badly they won't shop at your store, you price them out of your product the customer will go someplace else, etcetera.

      I look at the situation from a loyalty and allegiance stand point...

      The producers of Fow and the customers are allegiant (the big picture overall) to the game but their loyalties lie separate... the company in it's princples related to the product and the customer in their loyalties to their own principles.

      Companies want 'loyal' customers who will choose their product regardless of the price or situation. However in development of 'loyalty' customer the principles of capitalism / business will eventually trump that of loyalty to the customer. FoW is showing that to us now.

      Interesting times in that particular corner...


  4. What I notice is that he seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth. On the one hand competitive gamers are a small minority and since this decision only effects them it isn't a big deal. On the other hand making competitive players go all BF is supposed go a long way in covering the purported quarter of a million dollars BF spend in tournament support.

    Obviously BF wants to make more money; however, a basic premise of Capitalism is that he who provides the best product at the lowest price gets the sales. Rather than embracing that principle and actually competing in the marketplace the impulse for a lot of companies seems to be to do what GW did and create the illusion of a monopoly. BF could improve their quality control and rationalize their higher prices as being tied to their higher quality; or they could bring their prices closer to that of their competitors and use their superior market position to sell more units.

    Making the argument about money and 'supporting the hobby' was a mistake. It's not a customer's job to subsidize a business's activities. Now if BF had said "tournaments are media pieces and when people are looking at high profile FoW games we want them to see BF miniatures; otherwise we're giving free advertising to the competition" it would have it least made sense from a marketing standpoint.

    The biggest problem I see with policies like this is that it balkanizes our already small hobby because people start to think that you can only use certain models for certain games. I'm run into plenty of people who genuinely believe that you can only use official Game Workshop(tm) brand models in games of WHFB or 40K. I would hate to see the attitude start to inflect FoW.

  5. What is it about gaming companies that makes them seem to equate small market share with small influence?

    I would think that a small, vocal minority that takes their gaming seriously would have a disproportionate effect on numbers. You don't hear about FOW from the quiet casual gamers, you read about it from those vocal players. You see them playing games at your local hobby store or posting pictures on the internet.

    Pissing those types of people off by as simply telling the less then 10% of your business to buy your product or get out is not going to only effect those people. You are basically telling them that you don't value their interest in the hobby and that they should take all their friends and get out, oh and be sure to post as much diatribes against us as you want because your a small percentage and can't effect them anyway.

    1. I think that is a very good point Alex.

      It's easy to dismiss the competitive types as whiny babies sometimes. But it's the passionate folks that will pull new players in to your game. Or pull them out again if you alienate them.

      But that's not an interaction that can be easily broken down into a spreadsheet. So unless you have experience with building and participating in online communities, you won't understand the dynamics involved. The competitive, passionate, ones are the social hubs around which the more casual players tend to congregate.

  6. This is rediculous. I cannot believe that the people at battlefront are mimicing GW now.

    Thank you so much for posting this. I did not know about it. I have spent about $700 or so on Flames of War, with almost all of it being in non-battlefront models. I did that to join the hobby and play in tournaments. I was just about to buy another FOW army in a few days too.

    Thanks for the information. This really helps. I think I just wasted about $60 on a useless Nova ticket now.

    1. as one of our local vet players from Able Companie pointed out:
      most tournaments aren't run by BattleFront.

      get ahold of the TO for the NOVA FoW tourney and ask him. Since NOVA is an independent event, I doubt they will have the same stringent requirements as BF has on their company run tourneys.

      The company run tourneys are mainly the Nationals events.

      For instance, the FoW tourneys at GenCon Indy are run by: Able Companie. I don't think Able Companie is going to require all BF. I think a lot of the guys in Able Companie have similar goals as SandWyrm and I... grow the Miniature Wargaming hobby.

      Overall, OUR reaction might be a bit big. This ruling won't affect much what I do, and won't sour my enthusiasm for FoW (much).

      To me, it's much more like getting a new car, and noticing that one inch scratch in the paint on the door.
      Overall, it doesn't really affect the car's performance. Most people also will not even notice it....

      but it can drive me batshit crazy. if I let it.

      We all now know, if we'd like to play at Nats, it's gotta be all BF.

      Which I can kind of understand. I'd be upset too if I produced a great game, and made models for said game, and held big, expensive events for my game..
      and people brought offshored 'knockoff' versions of my game to play at my event.

      It's kind of like showing up at a Ford car show with a Chinese Ford imitation.

  7. I just realized that. So it is only the BF run tourneys huh? That changes things. Thanks man!

    1. Silly me I think I freaked out over nothing. So since it is just the big tournaments, anyone who feels that is unfair can just skip them.

    2. Yeah. I mean, it's a dumb move, but let's not over-sell the effect on most players.

  8. Problem resolved. BF has backed down a bit and gone with a 50% ratio requirement for BF/Non-BF miniatures. Go Battlefront!

    1. Problem resolved? Since the REAL problem was the attitudes that led to the previous stipulation, then, no, I don't think so. Problem papered over.

    2. Papering over is better than what the competition routinely does. It's akin to GW reducing the price of finecast to their old metal prices after an uproar.

      I'll take what I can get.

  9. Honestly, I've never cared about hard efforts to sell your own product, and to prevent money that should go to you instead going to third parties. There's 0 benefit to FOW, to see people who play their game spending their money elsewhere to do so.

    If they are putting out good rules, and doing their due dilligence on being an excellent company in terms of product consistency and quality, there's not much more to it.

    1. I agree with that, in principle. I just think the way they went about it was mishandled, and this whole 'silent majority' thing is questionable at best.

    2. Why 'should' my money go to BF, GW, or anyone else whose product (rules in GW's case, miniatures in BF's) isn't up to scratch? BF's books are worth their premium. Their miniatures are not.


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