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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
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"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Battlefront and Brand Loyalty

Hey folks, SinSynn here.

Battlefront's recent decision to change their long standing policy regarding 3rd party models being used at official events created quite a stir, not just in the Flames of War community, but all over the Hobby Blog-O-Sphere as well. Even gamers that don't play FoW understood that this was a big thing. Battlefront is popular, well liked, and respected by hobbyists pretty much everywhere.
They've developed a reputation for being 'good guys,' and deservedly so.

Many mini-gaming companies have drawn attention to themselves over the last couple of years based on a single, simple premise: They are not Games Workshop.
Literally dozens of new miniatures games have appeared, and many older ones resurfaced in recent times (I'm sure you've noticed). Many people that play these games seek to garner favor by telling us that, well...these companies are not GW. Rather than attempting to convince us to invest in their products based upon the actual merit of the games they produce.

*Not really a legitimate marketing technique*

Battlefront, meanwhile, seems to consistently take the high road while growing and promoting Flames of War.
Nowadays, anyone not playing a GW game has come to take things like official forums, timely FAQ's and frequent updates for granted. These are all good things, of course, but they don't deserve to be the focus of our discussion when we're deciding what games we want to play- the games themselves should be.
Battlefront does forums, FAQ's and updates, but they've also built their community in a way that no other company has- events.
I say 'events,' and not 'tournaments,' because FoW events come in many shapes and flavors. One event might be a Late War tankfest, while another might be an Early War infantry jam, using the Raiding Aces campaign pack.There's plenty of standard tourneys, ranging in size from small, local events right on up to the massive Nationals. Battlefront lends a hand by supporting and sponsoring many of them.

This is in stark contrast to all of Games Workshop's policies, to say the least. GW has little to no involvement with their community at this point. This isn't a knock against GW, it's just the way it is.
Nor am I trying to belittle the efforts of all the up and coming game companies, like Corvus Belli (Infinity), GCT Studios (Bushido), and Spartan Games (Dystopian Wars and others). These are all fine companies who make good games.
However, Games Workshop and Battlefront find themselves confronted with a problem that no one else really does- 3rd party manufacturers. Games Workshop sought to deal with this problem through various legal means, while Battlefront doesn't really have that option- there are many rulesets available for use with 15mm WWII miniatures, and there's no IP infringement, really.
Still, we all know the deal, right?

*Rest assured- if you're successful, someone will*

Battlefront's announcement banning 3rd party models at their events produced such an uproar on their forums and elsewhere that they backed down and opted for a 'fifty percent' ratio. While many hailed this decision as another example of Battlefront responding to their customer base, it failed to address the primary issue:
The 3rd party companies in question (primarily the Plastic Soldier Company) are making a better product for less.

Furthermore, one thing immediately becomes clear- brand loyalty gets dropped like a hot potato when gamers are given a better, less expensive option. Battlefront's ruling does not foster brand loyalty, it seeks to enforce it.
Again, ouch.

As hobbyists, we can choose what brand of glue or paints we use. Models? Not so much. Once we choose a game, we're pretty much locked in, and we pretty much accept it. Waddayagonnado, amirite? Unfortunately, this leaves us, the consumers (for that's what we are, after all), open to all sorts of corporate shenanigans. Y'know, like yearly price increases and whatnot.
So, this begs the question- why brand loyalty?

Battlefront may not be Games Workshop, in terms of their connection to the community they've created. Nevertheless, their models are expensive compared to the competition. So what's a price conscious hobbyist to do? We're an enthusiastic bunch when it comes to the games we play, the games we love. We feel compelled to support the companies that make them. On the other hand, we're not above a good deal, are we?
Brand loyalty only goes so far, after all. Battlefront knows this, and that's why they changed the rules.

Until next time, folks- Exit with catchphrase!


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