It’s been an interesting few days in the world of wargaming. The launch of Studio Sparta and the release of Firestorm: Invasion was very exciting news but also very interesting in terms of the wargaming landscape with how this news impacts on the growth of Dropzone Commander by Hawk Wargames. Allow me to paint you a word picture.
Dave Lewis use to work for Spartan Games. He left and founded Hawk Wargames and developed Dropzone Commander. Dropzone Commander is released to an eager world and Hawk Wargames promptly runs out of stock because, from what I’ve been told, only produced enough models to sort out those who ordered direct, not via retailers.
At present the average wait for UK retailers is around 4 weeks. My sources tell me that some international stockists are only just getting their original orders. Another source tells me that once overseas retailers had placed their orders they were forbidden from changing them other than to reduce the number of rulebooks they wanted or increase the overall order. Not to reduce or to cancel. This also comes with a very damning piece of news – and this is a verified source which shall remain anonymous – retailers are only allowed to undercut Hawk Wargames by 10%. Anything more and they won’t be allowed to sell the products.
So supply problems and price-fixing. It doesn’t paint the rosiest of pictures. I’m of the opinion that retailers should be allowed to charge what they like for a product as they have already invested capital to buy it. If you over charge no one buys it and you’re a retard if you do. Under charge and you will shift volume at the cost of margin. However, more at less margin still beats less at a slightly higher margin. Basic economics.
Price fixing benefits no one as the cost price stays the same. Yes retailers, in theory, maintain higher margins which is good for profits but when you go out at the same price as everyone else then you make it harder for the customer to spend their money because they’re looking for that USP (unique selling point) – usually a price, a promotion or something that sets one retailer apart from another.
Now, in a high street it’s not such a scrum as if you only have one independent retailer locally (I have…zero locally) then that’s where you go to buy your toys. Go online, however, and you have dozens to choose from, eCommerce is an incredibly tough market because just about anyone can get a website built. But because they’re all selling out at the same price and are all having the same supply problems there’s no competition. As a customer I ask myself; if no one’s got stock nor can do me a deal then what’s the rush?
Then there’s the price of the models themselves. Having spoken to Dave I understand that the resin he uses is expensive because of its detail and durability. He’s quality assurance is second to none. He’s also not dealing in the volumes that other companies do, at the moment. But I also know the margins. But anyway, the point is this; a starter deal is £68. Plus rules. Plus faction cards.
This week, as I mentioned, saw the unveiling of Firestorm Invasion by Studio Sparta. A 10mm sci-fi wargame with lots of lovely tanks and exosuits and even fast movers. I wouldn’t say that the models are as detailed as the Dropzone Commander range but they’re detailed enough that you can paint them, they’ll look good and you can actually play a fecking game.
It’s also set in an established IP which is on top of looking awesome and the starter army is a stonking £23 cheaper and includes rules and faction cards and dice. It’s tough not to have your head turned when you can confidently order from Spartan and know you’ll get your new toys in the same month you paid for them.
It’s a risky time for Hawk. Although launch was a success, the supply troubles that have dogged it ever since is burning good will quicker than it can cast models. And no matter how many times we’re told they’re working at full capacity it doesn’t change the fact that customers are waiting for an expensive product with something similar dangling in front of their noses for an initial investment £44 less than Dropzone Commander.
I really like Dropzone Commander and it’s a game I want to collect. But, in light of the seemingly endless problems, coupled with a pricing strategy that smacks of an arrogance belonging to a far larger organisation I can see a lot of customers being put off. And with cheaper alternatives like Invasion and the utterly fantastic Gruntz (which, granted is 15mm) they’d be forgiven for going elsewhere.
It’s going to be interesting to see what happens next but if I’m honest I think I’m going to have to get my hands on Invasion before I get my PHR army for Dropzone Commander. Especially since seeing this ace post from Pins of War.