Friday, 13 July 2012

Silly Season

Once the UK goes on its summer holidays the country enters the silly season for news. However, the silly season usually starts in August so I was surprised when two press releases heralded its early arrival in the wargaming world:
  1. Battlefront announced that they were to ban non-Battlefront models from competitions that they organise and sponsor.
  2. Slitherine announced their intention to release version 2.0 of Field of Glory as an app for iPad, PC and Mac.
Given that I am enjoying the Northern League's Field of Glory competition and have been thinking about trying FOW these announcements were a double blow.

The common factor is the lack of consumer consideration and the marketing speak used in both announcements. As examples of the latter Battlefront used the deliciously concocted phrase "the FOW Hobby" whilst Slitherine were quoted as "proud to again be leading the charge and continuing the Wargames Revolution".

Of the two, the Battlefront announcement has spawned the widest range of comments on their own forum and independent websites, blogs and fora like WWPD. With such a large customer base the comments range from thinly disguised adulation from the "fan boys", through indifference to outright angry and outrage.

What's been more interesting is the guesses people have made as to what's behind the move. They range from loss of market share to the Plastic Soldier Company, to a need to recover the costs of sponsored tournaments through sales of models. The main damage seems to be fuelled by the u-turn from Battlefronts previous policy of openness. At the very least, it looks like a major PR disaster given that some 90% of Battlefront customers don't attend sponsored tournaments.

The Slitherine move has seen less comment, probably reflecting the much smaller customer base, although this one affects my wargaming far more than the Battlefront announcement. The Slitherine forum has a few pages of comments and the thread on TMP has only attracted 22 comments as of this morning.

As a press release the Slitherine announcement lacked a lot of vital detail such as a firm launch date or any indication of pricing for the new rules or the subsequent updates that will be "publish[ed] … at predetermined times to suit the hobby". It has been followed up by posting a (badly formatted) list of changes on the main FOG site.

Most importantly, it appears that the collaboration with Osprey has ended and FOG v2.0 will not be appearing in print. As many people have pointed out, this will not be universally well received as many people don't have a suitable laptop or iPad. I certainly won't be buying any (way too expensive) Apple hardware and my laptop runs Ubuntu!

From a practical viewpoint, I've enough stuff to take to games without an expensive iPad. I might run to a smaller Kindle or similar (no plans mentioned) but not a full blown iPad. Plus I don't want to buy version 2.0 without knowing how much the add-ons and updates will cost.

I'd like to play version 2.0 as the changes look interesting but not if it means being tied into expensive hardware and software and facing the prospect of additional future expense due to regular paid-for updates. Imagine turning up for a game and you've only got version 2.0 and your opponent has version 2.0.3 which was only released last week!

Of course Slitherine can put all of this right by offering a printed edition, a truly portable ebook and low cost updates. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

So in one day the future of my current game of choice changes in such a way that may prevent me from playing next year and one of the options I've been considering has got it's knickers in a twist.
Silly season indeed!

7 comments :

  1. List item 2 - Filed of glory should read Field of Glory

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  2. knew this would happen someday. That's why I dropped FOW a couple of years ago, and also why, though I enjoy FOG, I mainly play a French Ancients ruleset (which is being translated at the moment) called art de la guerre.

    I'm also looking at Hail Caesar, and maybe impetus

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  3. Battlefront have issued a retraction of their "Battlefront only" policy:

    "We did not see this change as a big problem as we were simply formalising something we already thought was existing practise, albeit informally.

    In the interests of compromise and fairness to everybody’s opinion we will change the word “all” to “majority” (meaning over half) in the tournament rules for the 2013 season.

    Although we were not clear enough about this last week we did not consider die cast planes, scratch built models or objectives (assuming they are the right size), terrain or models we do not currently make to be covered by this."

    Press release - http://bit.ly/Q1pFpQ

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  4. Very interesting announcement around FOG. You will become very "mystified" without the latest rules. Perhaps it was better to "befuddled" and have a hard copy of the rules?

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  5. The thought had entered my mind, but it left soon after.

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  6. Latest from Slitherine:
    "However, we have also listened to what you have said and we are now investigating as quickly as we can a method of providing access to a “paper” version as well. We are committed to finding a solution to this and there are various alternatives that we are looking into to assess cost and time scales. We will advise further on this when we have the various responses to hand, but it is likely this will follow the release of the original platforms." -
    full announcement

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