The Hawk and The Spartan

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.

7 thoughts on “The Hawk and The Spartan

  1. Is the 10% rule really that bad? One of the effects of that must be to ensure that high street stores can compete with purely online outfits when selling the same product. Your high street stores probably won’t stock a new range if they know they will be immediately undercut by 25% online, and Hawk Wargames needs product on shelves for the game to succeed. I don’t know all the ins and out of the situation, and while the production delays are regrettable, should we read so much into the 10% rule?
    I bought into DzC partly because I wanted to reward a new company who had put out a remarkable product, and while it is interesting that Spartan Games have their own 10mm SF line out at this time, I would like to give Hawk Wargames a chance to show what they can do.

    1. It is because retailers should be allowed to be competitive. Free trade. Bricks and mortar hobby stores don’t suffer as badly as people assume. Hobby stores don’t have significant local competition and people will still shop because they enjoy the personal service, and will happily pay slightly more for that. The online space is saturated with stockists and they’re trying to compete with one another, keep to a lowest cost to operate and turn a profit. Eliminating competition harms retailers because they can’t distinguish themselves from one another. Instead they’re forced to do things like offer free shipping which badly cuts into that profit – as it’s one of the most expensive overheads when running an online business other than the site itself – and hurts customer because they can’t make savings at a time when people are strapped for cash.

      But more to the point it’s about keeping as many sales direct with Hawk as possible. 10% is hardly worth going elsewhere for and they’re in a much stronger position to do a 15% off day or offer free shipping. Not only will they have the margin to absorb the costs because they’re cost per unit is lower, but independents are not allowed to match or beat it otherwise they lose the range. It’s price fixing, plain and simple.

      Dropzone Commander is a great game, and I’ve advocated so many times but I cannot abide the business practice.

    2. The 10% rule is bad because Hawk Wargames sells Large and Mega army deals exclusively.
      To mimic those deals would exceed the 10% discount an independent retailer can make.

      Now a 10% discounted Starter deal accumulates to about a 20% discount overall, varying from army to army. However that is for a limited range of models, Large army deals average about 16% discount and Mega army deals over 20%.

      Thus the core trade is locked in with Hawk Wargames. I wonder if this is even legal, its certainly unfair.

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