Tuesday, April 24, 2018

When does too much become too much?

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So this came up again while talking to people at Huzzah Hobbies about Warmachine/Hordes: When is too many releases too many releases?

We keep seeing release after release coming from PP including more "limited release mini-factions". We have a Rat Catchers release event today from Steamforged Games which is a mini-faction that works with other factions. They have a hoard of other mini factions (minor guilds like Falconers Guild... seriously... do Falconers need to organize?) on the release schedule.

There is a point where demand stops and supersaturation begins.

Lets begin by looking at Privateer Press. We have 9 main factions in Warmachine/Hordes. 2 semi-factions with Mercs and Minions. 3 limited factions with Crucible Guard being tossed in. In all that is 14 factions to manage. Say, I play one of the major factions: Cygnar (#Cygnarprivilege). I would expect some new things for my faction, reasonably, every 3 or 4 months. Say one model/unit. For every faction player to have that reasonable expectation you would have to make/test/and produce 11 models/units every quarter to half a year (because limited releases get NOTHING! Good day, sir!). Now, without "removing" models from the game, you would have to make sure each of those models interact nicely with all the other models and nothing overlaps or replaces the function of another unit. While that is happening, you have to sculpt and model the models. Send that over to China to be produced, design the cards, paint the models, photograph the models, and package them. Then ship that over from china into distribution. That is a LONG process but do that 11 times every half year.

But then you hit a mark... I don't know where but it is there... where there is just too many models out. The floor space in a store needs so large a footprint that they can't stock everything. Think about this, lets just say it is Year of the Solos! 11 solos come out in 6 months. That means there is 11 blisters on the shelves. 22 models in one year. Next year 44 models. Next year 66 models. in 4 years time you have 88 models on the shelves. Doesn't sound too bad. In my faction that just means there is 4 models I have to pick up.

But, we want more, right?! Not really. We want more that is of substance. Releasing tons of crap fast is still just crap on crap. I would rather have waited a year to get a new unit that is good than have a bag of crap every month.

Adding more factions isn't the answer also. Adding more factions means you have to sacrifice the quality of the current factions or let the new factions fall away (looking at you Cephalyx. Your third caster is coming... we swear /winky eye).

So, what am I getting at?
1. There is a fine line between releasing enough over time to keep customers happy but at the same time not flooding them with too much.
2. Sometimes you need to remove a faction or kill off some models.
3. Putting out MORE doesn't mean that people become happy.

What do you think? What is a good medium of factions to models? Should companies kill off some older factions to make way for newer ones?


1 comment:

  1. It is interesting that you bring this up. PP recently (as of April 8th) has answered this question. They have moved a significant portion of their miniatures catalog to direct order only (499 skews, about a 3rd or a bit more of everything available for Warmachine and Hordes). The stuff moved to direct order is mostly less popular units for less played theme forces and the models you tend to only buy once (warcasters, warlocks, character models, and big stuff like BE and Colossal/Gargantuans), but this is not universally true. It also sometimes includes models the PP until recent defined as Core models like both sculpts of the Cygnar Journeyman solo or plastic non-multi kit light warjacks and warbeasts.

    Some factions were more hit then others. All the minor factions (except Grymkin as it is still less then a year old), Farrow in minions, and Cephalyx, Pirates, and Rhulic in Mercs where almost entire put into direct order only distribution. Some major factions were hit too, most notably Skorne with just 20 Skews being left in general distribution. Also Trollbloods, Cryx, and Menoth were all reduced to about half their previously general distribution skew lists.

    So how is this change going to effect the average consumer. GW did this in the early 2000s and it eventual lead to them discontinuing some models/units in their games. PP has sworn to never do this but it may be time for it. You don't have to worry about it right away though. Everything is still available in their line and distributors that carried the full PP line still have stock still, but pretty soon, say mid to late summer, that will change. Then retailers are going to have to turn to PP to stock these items, and that is when the other shoe is going to drop.

    The other part of the move to direct order that is less obvious is that PP has set a new discount for retailers to order directly from them, 35%. Most stores have around a 45 to 50% discount deal with distributors like Alliance or ACD for purchasing product for their stores. PP setting the discount rate at 35% means that most retailers will no longer be willing to stock the skews in their shops that PP has moved to Direct Order, and in most cases they will be special order only.

    What does that mean to us. First the PP sections in stores will shrink considerably. 499 Boxes or Blisters being removed from the PP section is going to have a big impact. Pretty much only the newest stuff (1 to 2 years since release) and most of the models for the 2 or 3 most popular or recently updated theme forces in each faction will be available in store. Also online retailers that normally discount models won't be able to stock these skews anymore as there is no way they will be able to make enough profits off them. I would guess by September a lot of online only shops will be out of these products.

    Is the change a good thing? Not sure. There has definitely been bloat in PP lines for a while now, and this is just the latest attempt for PP to mitigate it. Mk3 has seen a lot of change on how things are done, how the games is organized and played, and how new and revised rules and models are introduced. Themes, the CID process where armies get new stuff roughly once every 2 years, PP shifting 99% of new manufacturing in house and switching most new models to Resin and Metal only so they can try to control the quality better, etc have all contributed to it.

    While I will agree that the game is now less exciting them in previous additions (thanks to knowing what changes and new models are coming 4 to 6 months out because of CID and then having to wait months for them), and at times frustrating (when building lists especially, as their are less options for mix and matching different kinds of troops in your army then before), I think the game is probably the most balanced and fun it has ever been. If there is a problem, it is fixed in a relatively timely manner and then distributed for free. It will be interesting to see how things change over the next few months but I am at least optimistic.


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