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Made in us
Dakka Veteran





Anyone who has been around long enough knows that games come and go. Some just barely get a foothold and then die off. Others fade into the sunset after having run their course. However, yet others can be very popular and then suddenly implode. It is these rapid declines that are still somewhat of a mystery to me. I am thinking of the decline of games such as Warmachine, X Wing, Malifaux, Flames of War, and Mage Knight.

It seems unlikely that local factors cause the decline, as the games are popular in many countries. There are usually more global factors that could contribute to such decline. Things that are commonly blamed are a broken game system, poor new edition, the new hot game stealing the spotlight, ending support for 'ringleaders', changing the scale of the miniatures, kickstarters, etc. I find it difficult to believe that some of these factors could cause such a large shift. For example, what miniature game is balanced? They are all basically broken and we still play them. Most of us have had armies that have gone from tournament viable to trash. But has it killed the game in a short period of time? No. Infinity changed its scale and even killed off parts of a faction and did not implode.

Miniature gaming is somewhat different than other industries, in that fans invest heavily in the miniatures and in the fluff, making the sudden abandonment of a game less likely. Nobody wants hundreds of dollars in books and minis to become worthless. I get the feeling that there is more to these declines than simply the obvious factors named above. Maybe it involves their success, and thus the prevalence of newbs. Maybe it involves some dynamic between tournament gamers and hobbyists. Another factor could be a lack of diversity in fan base. For example it is notable that x wing and mage knight do not necessarily involve hobbying. Flames of War does not involve fluff that is newly created. Warmachine is known as a tournament game. They all lack a breadth of fans.

What are your thoughts?











   
Made in gb
Jealous that Horus is Warmaster




Sheep Loveland

I can attest to two of those games from being in close proximity to others who play them regularly, which are x-wing and flames of war.

In x-wings case it was bloat from all the cards and unique units/rules that in most players eyes made a mockery of balance and established fluff. Wedge was never flown because other pilots were used due to snowflake rules that were flat out better than wedge - the FETHING leader of Gold attack Wing! People in my group would play casual lists but it meant buying ships you didn't want or characters you had no use for. Add in the fact only scum and rebel ships could take astro droids, that meant imperial shops were completely out arched most times and you have a recipe for stale games.

In flames of war case, everyone in my group though the newest edition of the rules were really shonky and as such just drifted away. Doesn't help that 40k has had a massive resurgence in the area and with 8th being easier to learn and play we've got people who last played in 3rd coming back, which also knocks FoW down the peg of games I want to play but lack time to.

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Made in gb
Most Glorious Grey Seer






I suspect it’s at least partially a matter of over specialisation.

Consider. 40k and Warhammer are the Grandparents of modern wargaming. And they cast their net very wide.

And within the GW range, there’s various takes on those. Epic, main game, Kill Team etc. No matter your preference on scale or budget, chances are GW has something to offer.

X-Wing? It’s a good game, a very good game. But. How they chose to market it isn’t to my taste (stuff buying new ships I won’t use just to get a card I will use). It’s scale is also so precise, it has a very definite ceiling, beyond which the mechanics just don’t work that well.

And that’s a common thing among many new games. By necessity, they have to start small. No point in designing a 40k scaled game if it’s going to take you years to release enough stuff that armies are suitably varied between each other (not accounting for Netlisting etc).

Any time you seek to occupy a particular niche, there comes an element of limitation.

Now I understand PP is experiencing a bit of a doldrum at the moment. But that doesn’t mean their games are defunct, just struggling. GW went through the same thing and came out ok.

But stuff like X-Wing? Whilst I think the game itself is bloody good, it’s too limited to show proper staying power. From god awful EU goo like the K-Wing (does not look Star Wars, at all) to the X-Wing itself being a bit lack lustre (can’t speak for 2nd Ed, I’ve long since packed up. Feel free to correct and educate me, folks!). If I can assemble a force for under £100, where’s the incentive for me and mine to continue spending?

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Made in gb
Longtime Dakkanaut




UK

A few thoughts:

1) Attention and update speed. Most people might play one faction at a time, even if over the time of their gaming they use more than one army. As a result as a game matures it becomes increasingly difficult to add more and more models and units to a faction without bloating the faction. Ergo the new things end being outright better or worse than other units in the line up. Or they are very specialist units that, in open standard play, are just too specialist for most people to make use of them.
So people start to lose interest because either their old models are being defunct or the new are just not interesting or the company is paying more attention to newer smaller factions and ignoring the older ones.

2) Rules - a lot of games change over time. Warmachine is a fantastic example whereby the early game was very small skirmish based and the newer game is much bigger armies. Warhammer did the same and many companies do it. Basically its VERY hard to start off a company with a big full army approach - kickstarter has made it more possible but not exceptionally so. So a lot of games start as "that small skirmish you only need 5 models for" and then gradually get bigger and bigger as they get a popular user base who own dozens of models and want to play with them.
Evolution of the game can mean that the original attracting feature can vanish and many might get disillusioned with that and drop the game when a minor hiccup comes along and unsettles things.

3) Bad marketing choices. Sometimes a company makes mistakes. They don't do proper research, they bungle a release (esp of rules); their growth requires them to up their prices to a higher value that pushes out a majority of their original player base etc.. Ergo something happens that is nothing to do with the lore or models but everything to do with the company and sale of models.

4) Something else comes along. Take the big recent rise of 40K and AoS and how its pulled a lot of people back and away from other games. Because of how long wargames take to play and setup, many people might only get one or two games a week so that puts a strict limit on how much they can viably play in any one setting. Add into that the need for opponents and you can fast see that if something new and shiny comes along it can sweep out the feet from other games

5) Local player scene. Warmachine is agreat example here, the Pressganger system worked great for encouraging play because there was always at least one person in each local club who had a vested interest in promoting the game and organising things. Once that shut down it helped knock out many of the local scenes as the basic organising of matches and events dried up and people drifted away.

6) Attention. Spartan Games is the best example here, they had multiple games but could only ever focus attention on one at a time which left their other games ignored for long periods. Coupled to that their marketing would often hint or show things months if not years off being released (if ever). This

7) Communication and marketing - Spartan games and Warhammer (old kirby no-community website era). Bad marketing can kill you. In SG's case it was hinting and showing previews on things that were years away or only concepts that never appeared; coupled to hinting at big releases, missing deadlines and then never communicating until pressured and then often moving onto something else. It frustrated fans no end and sunk popularity on many of their lines.
Warhammer had different issues which was more linked to a lack of social media and onlin interaction and a general sense of a big divide between the store managers interaction and the focus and attention of the upper management of the company (the latter being focused on the shareholders only it seemed to many). Again this harmed their marketing and impact.
In their defence GW is generally very good at only showing what IS coming and not showing things so far in advance that it builds up frustraition at the time it takes to come out (though their fans do dream of wanting many many many things all the same

7) Combo - often its not one thing; rarely is it one thing. Most times its several things that, each on their own isn't too bad, but which all happen at around the same time and all build up and pile on one atop the other. Essentially causing a snowball effect. Plus once it starts and if people see a lot of other people leaving that can dissuade others joining in - esp if some are those who once were big supporters and promoters of the game.

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Dakka Veteran





First, I should make clear, that I did not mean to imply that any of the games that I mentioned in the OP are dead. That is far from the case. There are new releases for Warmachine, Flames of War, etc. all the time. They also have a dedicated set of players.

This being said, those games did suffer a sudden and dramatic decline in players, hence my post.

I appreciate the detailed responses. It gives me things to think about.

It may be that numerous factors combine to form the dramatic drop offs, which if one or two factors alone would not have the same effect.

For the sake of argument, I do find the case of x wing kind of curious. It was super hot when it started. It spawned Star Trek and DnD versions. However, many of the flaws that people claim for its downturn, were present from the start or from very early on. The A wing was an early ship. It was never really any good. People did not drop off in large numbers. People bought special repaints to get cards. Again people did not flee the game. (I do not recall in enough detail specific ships being needed for certain cards, but I am reasonably sure that was the way it was very early on. Maybe the y wing. I just forget.) Maybe the game just got too stale. Maybe it was taken up by the kiddos and drove off some vets.
   
Made in us
Dakka Veteran




Central California

All of the above, plus:
The basic pitfall of all wargaming is the massive time commitment to the game. It is why the hobby side of even 40k seems to be dropping off (my group of four goes to our local FLGS and we have 3 of the 6 painted armies of the dozen plus there, and this seems common). Even a 3-4 hour time commitment has become a burden on younger generations. Competing with short (30 minute) games grows harder and harder (and let's not talk about the phone or computer).
That said...
In my opinion some games self-destruct themselves with their own target audience. Anytime you are marketing to younger people (say age 12-16) your market is fluid and likely to change drastically in a short bit of time. Pulling in young fans from the Flavor of the Month movie (or even a franchise) has a high risk of losing those fans within a short period of time. LoTR, Star Wars, etc pulls in the "that's cool!" crowd, who then move on, change interest, lose interest, etc. If you cannot retain enough of them for long term purchasing power (and this is the game mechanics/miniature production side) you will have to release enough new COOL!! material to continually turn over the crowd you draw in. This is extremely hard to do. Can spike sales when the latest franchise movie is released hold you through the lean times? Sometimes...
I am NOT saying this is a foolish marketing theory in any way, you can make a killing on Flavor of the Month Merchandise. For long term success, it can be volatile.
Wargaming is a long-term hobby, and only a small percentage of individuals commit and find it a more enjoyable way to spend their time than the million other things in this world (especially if you are at the age where fitting in with your peers is far more important).
My group has a core of 3-4 players who are ALWAYS around to play, 1-2 players who occasionally play when available but do not make time to, and then generally a rotating player or two who see a game, think it looks interesting, and drift as soon as the time commitment becomes obvious. I would really like to see the statistics on retention from FLGS' for a game like X-wing over a six month period after a movie release say.

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Regular Dakkanaut




Traction is a thing.... the man cave has a number of excellent games sitting on the shelf (looking at you, Star Ship Troopers and others). But unless a group get hooked at the same time, that's where they sit bar an occasional outing. For some I ended up buying two forces, but never really persuading others to invest. On the other hand, I used to travel a lot. With a case of 40K in the boot, it wasn't that hard to find a game in many places.

Investment is my next key - and perception of investment. I've spent mumble mumble on GW over the last 20 years. I HAVE drawn a line with the indexes, but the odd purchase since has been a drop in a big GW pond. Going to 2nd edition X wing would have cost me more than my total 1st edition spend, so I didn't.

I have a decent collection of skirmish forces for FoW, supplemented by Zvesta. I play small games with a group of friends - we don't NEED to upgrade, as it's a closed group, and when we want a change we play Tanks! or one of the other myriad WW2 games.

For several small games (or small in my circle), there's no benefit to upgrading, so, again, no traction...

YMMV

   
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[DCM]
Potent Grey Knight Librarian





Fort Worth, TX

A successful game is like a steam engine. The only way to keep it moving is to keep adding fuel to the fire to keep it running. The problem is, you need lots of different fuels to do it. Steady stream of new models/rules/etc to keep sales going. Events, splash releases, and big news to get people's attention. Good rules so people actually enjoy playing the game. Good models so people actually enjoy the look of the game. Good story/background so people actually enjoy thinking about the game and their models.

And you can still have all of that and still fail. Why? Because that fire in the steam engine also needs one last fuel that the maker of the game cannot provide: the public's interest. You can have the best skirmish game ever in the history of skirmish games, but if the market currently has a glut of skirmish games, many people won't even give your new game a second look. You can have the best ever steampunk setting based on a wildly popular novel or video game series, but if you're just one more steampunk game in a sea of them, you'll barely make a wave.

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Longtime Dakkanaut




Games get stale, there are only so many "new" units you can add before they all start looking the same.

Star Fleet Battles had this, by the time they were issuing modular war destroyers to everyone and books of "conjectural" ships (and factions) it all became a bit cookie cutter when its a very sound game as it was.

Flames of War is a case of "gun-foot-aim-fire" from Battlefront who were trying to bring in new players at the cost of the established player base and took what was a pretty good game and basically threw out the good bits in the name of "simplicity" - they would have done a lot better calling FoW v4 as "Team Patton" (as its basically the Team Yankee spin off) and releasing it as a separate game. V3 was more or less finished if they had re-done the mid war books alongside the new "Team Patton" ones - established players have a complete game, new players have a new game, people are happy.

Battlefront ended up nuking their own forums such was the response.

X-Wing has fallen to bloat, hopefully the reboot will help.

Other games are also being hammered by 40k actually being half decent for once.


Any good game can get stale with nothing new, and eventually you run out of things to add to it.


With FoW instead of rebooting WW2 I wish they had just moved the timeline on with the same basic rules, but gradually adapting them, e.g. the Koean war etc
   
Made in si
Steady Stonecleaver







leopard wrote:
Games get stale, there are only so many "new" units you can add before they all start looking the same.


In essence this. There is only so much design space in any given system. A game without regular updates becomes boring and loses players' interest, but a game that expands will eventually become bloated with rules and units that end up being slight variations of the same thing once all battlefield roles are filled several times over, and as all factions naturally expand to cover all unit types, their identity is watered down. So it's really a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario at all stages of game development. The industry needs to accept that no matter how they are handled, all games (except 40k apparently) have a finite lifespan and there comes a point where new editions can't fix the core issue of a game simply having too much stuff.

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Longtime Dakkanaut




I think 40k gets a pass largely because while there are oh so many flavours of the same thing with more or less interchangeable rules, the rules are not what generally brings people in - its a way of collecting some nice looking models coupled to what was a pretty good background.

the game is secondary really, this is where newer games seriously struggle, the game can be excellent but its never going to get the depth 40k has to the background anytime soon.

40k in effect has lasted despite the rules more than because of them, having a good few factions helps, as GW have held back on "faction "x" gets this, so does everyone else" (well they have had a drive to give everyone larger models but at least they tend not to play the same)
   
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Regular Dakkanaut





Human beings seek pleasure in novelty. We see this happening at different scales every day in the choices we make, from the foods we eat, to the people we hang out with, to the hobbies and leisure activities we participate in.

For things like games it's really simple. You get bored of playing the same old game and eventually you replace it with some other activity that seems fresh and exciting. The community of people surrounding the game gradually declines, the people comprising it get older and find new interests, and then are eventually replaced by a brand new generation of people that will likely have very different criteria for what constitutes a good game.

On an even more meta level, everything dies, man. Look at Star Wars

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2018/09/16 19:51:26


 
   
Made in gb
Longtime Dakkanaut




barboggo wrote:
Human beings seek pleasure in novelty. We see this happening at different scales every day in the choices we make, from the foods we eat, to the people we hang out with, to the hobbies and leisure activities we participate in.

For things like games it's really simple. You get bored of playing the same old game and eventually you replace it with some other activity that seems fresh and exciting. The community of people surrounding the game gradually declines, the people comprising it get older and find new interests, and then are eventually replaced by a brand new generation of people that will likely have very different criteria for what constitutes a good game.

On an even more meta level, everything dies, man. Look at Star Wars


in borad terms yes and no, keep in mind Chess has been about a fair while, not seen many expansion packs for it in recent years (though Assassins chess is worth a look), whats driving modern games is sales and sales are driven by "new", once a game is more or less complete whats left to add? hence unless its very good it may as well be dead and gone.

A solid game is one you can play over any over, there is enough variation in the game play to overcome the fixed forces, fixed deployment and only one scenario.

Same with stuff like Snooker, it doesn't exactly change much, but the actual game is solid enough not to need to.

A lot of modern games, FFG are terrible for this, are built around the idea of not being complete without expansions, and can become seriously stale without them.

There seem to be essentially no companies trying to create a game you can buy once, then spend a lifetime trying to master, where are the repeat sales going to come from (answer, create another, different game that people buy once and spend ages trying to master), have a set or rules that doesn't need constant adjustments because its actually pretty simple and right in the first place.

now try getting commercial backing for that...
   
Made in us
Dakka Veteran





I am still left a bit puzzled. Yes, things get stale. Some things age and ride off into the sunset. However, such processes strike me as being gradual. I would not expect a whole community, or even less likely a national community to get bored in one fell swoop.

Maybe this is just the conspiracy theorist in me, but some companies could even nuke their own games, to come out with new ones to make money off of new product. Heres looking at you Fantasy.
   
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Dakka Veteran





There was a thread on why warmachine is seeing a decline and it's not just that everyone got board and left it was a combination of a game that's bloated and competitive so it's hard to get new people to replace the standard loss of players any game has mixed with MK3 being rushed and poorly done in some aspects and the death of the Pressgangers to keep local communities alive. Add in that there's a glut of good tabletop games so there's strong competition and you have why Privateer is having issues.

Maybe this is just the conspiracy theorist in me, but some companies could even nuke their own games, to come out with new ones to make money off of new product. Heres looking at you Fantasy.


I really only think GW could do that and it took a few years of them getting some really quality miniatures out, changing CEOs and changing their attatude towards their fans to do so. FF could probably get away with something like that with the Starwars license as people will always buy that IP in our hobby.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2018/09/17 00:15:57


 
   
Made in gb
Longtime Dakkanaut




UK

Sinking your own product line to then try and revitalise it isn't really a sane move. See in order to revitalise you've got to spend WAY more resources to get things off the ground; plus its often got to be spent and coordinated over a short period of time.

Consider an individual army that launches with a handful of units. If you support it normally you release a few new units every so often to keep it ticking over; to keep adding new things and expanding its options and attractable features to new games. Ideally each option is high quality and using the latest of what you've got, whilst also fitting to hte armies visual style.

Now in contrast if you let the army flounder without updates and let it nearly tank to nothing; then to bring it back you've got to comission a selection of new models and moulds all at the same time to do a bit relaunch. And you've got to advertise that; and market it and produce enough stock in bulk (and store and ship it) for a bigger launch.


Yes this can work, GW even did it many times, but it was never a good thing for them or gamers really; it was more a function of how things just were.

Now expand that to a whole game and the costs go WAY up. Plus there's the added difficulty that you've got to get more people in on the first few weeks in order to generate interest in the game so that its got a local scene in as many clubs as possible. One army of many being weaker is a problem; all armies being weaker is a major issue.



Also people move on. If its just one army that has issues then you can hope that many who move on just move onto another army in the game. If its the game itself then there's a greater chance of people moving on to another company entirely - that means bleeding customers who won't or can't come back.

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Mimetic Bagh-Mari





Sydney, Australia

Most of the examples you listed come down purely to a new edition change, and the hesitation that comes from such. Warmachine and Flames of War had their new editions hit, and the general attitude towards them was highly negative. This, coupled with the companies themselves deriding the playerbase for not liking the new game, led to huge chunks of the communities up and disappearing, with little to no hope of regrowth unlike new 40k and AoS (as in lose lots of old players, keep new ones coming in). X-Wing and Malifaux are by no means declining, the online communities are on an uptick if anything, but the issue of a new edition hit them just as much. Locally, X-Wing was the biggest money maker for my LGS after MTG. Then came the announcement of a new edition and sales completely stopped. Not reduced, stock didn't move at all. No one was buying because of the new edition coming, and most people were playing other games in anticipation for the new edition. Now that it's out, the community have flocked back, and it's actually growing in big ways again(X-Wings are actually good! What a huge draw for promotion). Malifaux is a bit different, because the new edition was leaked prior to announcement and as such information dripped out in small parts. A lot of things caused major issues in isolation, but now that closed beta testing has begun the community sentiment has smoothed out a bit more. That said, because of the beta requiring NDAs, you're a lot less likely to see people playing the game in a game store. Playing 2E has largely dried up, because those in the beta may as well beta test (which has to be done in a private setting), and those outside the beta are apprehensive and are waiting.

I'd like to add another game to the discussion that I have had a great deal of experience with, Batman Miniatures. This time last year they launched a second edition of the game, streamlining things in a great way that was very well received by the community at large, and drew in a ton of new gamers. However, in the last year we have only had 6 months of "monthly" releases, and this lack of momentum did a great job at killing the growth they were experiencing at the launch of the new edition. On top of that, the most popular Facebook group has flopped between official and unofficial, and is run pretty poorly. The largest voices in the community have been systematically removed from the group by overbearing admins, so there are virtually no podcasts or blogs for further discussion here, forcing people to find them elsewhere, and this is another reason the game has largely stagnated. Knight Models have done an excellent job in the last 2 months at regaining momentum in terms of what is actually releasing, but huge delays and no information about it has had its own effect on the community.

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Awesome Autarch






I think it's a simple relationship between a couple of factors.

The more successful a large game is, the more money and support is put behind it...in turn meaning more and more sales are required for it to continue and grow and succeed. This is inverse to the spending of most people in a game, where you often spend a good chunk to get into it, and then progressively less and less as you carry on. It's generally a bad relationship. A few (very very few) games are able to keep interest that long. Doesn't mean the game is dead, but the ever increasing sales will stop, it just happens. Once the purchases drop off, the money and effort behind the product often start to diminish as the company struggles to justify spending the same money building/promoting it. At some point the company just says "okey doke, move onto the next thing". They may leave the game is a decent state to carry on for a few years, but I think it's just a natural process.

I also think that most wargaming is done with old minis, and old rules...or from components which don't require constant money/purchase/investment. Older gamers often have entire rubbermaid bins of minis/terrain for games and still enjoy playing them, even if they're 20 years old. The game, hell, the company behind it may have folded...but it doesn't stop you from playing the game.

Consider something like X-Wing, first edition. To the casual player, a dozen models per side might be as big as the collection ever gets. It'll still be played, still pulled out on occasion for a night of X-Wing, but that doesn't mean the player or owner has to buy every new release, chase any kind of meta, or even buy more products. Plenty of games are fine with just a handful of models or expansions. An increasingly small percentage of a game's initial buyers will be in for the 10-15 year long haul and will gobble up everything that is produced.

We considered games to decline because we don't see them in game stores or at conventions, or getting new releases. To me that's the beauty of a decent game; one which can be purchased, assembled, put away and enjoyed for the next 10-15-20 years without having to chase the dragon so to speak.

 
   
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Wing Commander





McAllen, TX

Miniature games require quality miniatures. I’ve never play war machine but have done quite a few commissions, their model are cast in hard plastic=making it hard to clean or multiple pewter parts=agonizing time spent pinning each piece together.

Cost: genuine flames of war miniature are expensive for what you get. Platoon of 5 panzer IV=$80

Direction: I’ve never played any of the Star Wars games, they come like toys, pre painted miniatures in low quality cast. Directed toward an audience like MtG players where you can open the box and play right away. The audience tend to lose interest after a short while, as there is no investment other than money spent.
   
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Cutting stuff up and bunging it back together in new and interesting ways.






Under the couch

 Big Mac wrote:
The audience tend to lose interest after a short while, as there is no investment other than money spent.

If that was actually a thing, MtG wouldn't be still around, either. But it is, so clearly there's more to it than that.


From what I've seen over the years, the key to keeping a game 'alive' is largely just down to keeping it interesting. Whether that's done through new model releases, new ways to play or (the GW model) by just re-writing the core rules every few years, there's a careful balance to maintain between adding new content and not annoying the existing customer base with the 'wrong' changes, and when that balance is not maintained, support for the game will just collapse.

   
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Longtime Dakkanaut







 Big Mac wrote:
Direction: I’ve never played any of the Star Wars games, they come like toys, pre painted miniatures in low quality cast. Directed toward an audience like MtG players where you can open the box and play right away. The audience tend to lose interest after a short while, as there is no investment other than money spent.


Just to correct you here - of the FFG Star Wars miniature lines, only the X-Wing line comes fully pre-painted. The fighter squadrons for Armada are unpainted - or they were the last time I looked - and none of the Imperial Assault or Legion models have any degree of paint on them when you purchase them.

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Dakka plog attempt #3 - A miscellany of miniatures

2017's "A Tale of Many Gamers Painting Challenge" - Part 1 - January to June - Time to get your paint on...

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We'll find out soon enough eh.

barboggo wrote:
Human beings seek pleasure in novelty. We see this happening at different scales every day in the choices we make, from the foods we eat, to the people we hang out with, to the hobbies and leisure activities we participate in.

For things like games it's really simple. You get bored of playing the same old game and eventually you replace it with some other activity that seems fresh and exciting. The community of people surrounding the game gradually declines, the people comprising it get older and find new interests, and then are eventually replaced by a brand new generation of people that will likely have very different criteria for what constitutes a good game.

On an even more meta level, everything dies, man. Look at Star Wars


How much you value novelty is by no means as universal as you claim, plenty of people value the exact opposite and wish only to continue repeating an experience they already find enjoyable. Star Wars perfectly illustrates the point, having split the dedicated fanbase(as opposed to general moviegoers who don't know and don't care to know the difference between the Empire and the First Order or the Rebellion and the Resistance etc) right down the middle by pushing that line.

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Yeah, I'm certainly not discounting those that end up finding 40k as one of the few hobbies that they end up never getting bored of and will keep coming back to for years and years regardless of what happens to the game or community. Plenty of "dead" multiplayer games still have very devoted followings years after support has been dropped.

The distinction I'm trying to make is that unless your game somehow strikes on a chord on some deep societal level, it is unlikely to last as long as something like chess or basketball.

With stuff like Warhammer especially, where most of the appeal is so strongly tied to very specific (and arguably niche) cultural themes and references, it seems natural that as the fanbase ages and non-diehard fans find other pursuits, the community shrinks and the company has gradually less incentive to sustain development. Not only that but it's even possible that the game itself simply becomes worse as the creative talent behind the game shifts from the "old guard" to newer, younger designers who may or may not have what it takes to keep the product culturally relevant. Even if they continue hiring the best designers, artists, and writers available to them as the decades pass, there is no guarantee that these new teams will be able to consistently market their version of the product to the next generation. And all the while the clock is ticking as the die hard fans get old and literally, die off.

I really do think Star Wars is a great example of how such a titanic cultural phenomenon could experience such a huge decline in audience perception so rapidly. When I was a kid I thought Star Wars was one of those things that was "too big to fail" but talk to anyone under 20 these days and kids hardly know what you're talking about anymore, outside of some really legacy memes like "It's a trap!".

I've worked in the entertainment industry for around a decade now (on the creative side) and can say with lots of confidence that the team currently behind the Star Wars IP is undoubtedly the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the most talented, high powered, creative veterans in the whole industry. It's the best set of creative leadership and supremely talented artists that Star Wars is ever going to have access to in the year 2018. And it's a team that possibly venerates the original source material more than anyone else on the planet.

And yet even that is not enough to prevent flops like Solo and what I suspect will be a long and painful dilution of the brand over the next few years. Or maybe it will be a surprisingly quick death, who knows.

One thing that I think many fans sometimes forget is that fandom is fundamentally a relationship between two groups of people: the creators and the audience. Those two parties are going to change over time because people change, either their interest slowly dies or they literally, die. Given enough time the relationship between creators, IP, and audience will have transformed so much that the core attributes that made that IP great during its prime, may not even be relevant anymore.

Consider how much of the appeal of Star Wars when we were kids was in the fantastic, "pseudo-futuristic", sci-fi setting. Lightsabers and blasters and droids and stuff. Now consider that kids these days are growing up with drone strikes and hyperloops and virtual reality and social media algorithms and AI. Suddenly one of core pillars of Stars Wars appeal doesn't seem to make sense anymore does it? Going back to what I was saying about novelty, for the kids that grow up in an age of endless technology and entertainment, it becomes more and more likely that the novelty value of something like Star Wars or Warhammer 40k will simply no longer have any effect on them.

More thoughts (sorry for wall of text, but this question is interesting to me):

- MtG is a great example of a game system, setting, and business that managed to successfully adapt their team and product across cultural/generational shifts over the past 3 decades

- Comparing MtG to Star Wars and to an extent Warhammer 40,000, it seems like the emphasis on developing a compelling setting for fans to engage with in different ways benefits a successful long term strategy

- The setting needs to be flexible and able to adapt to cultural shifts while also retaining a strong core identity

- Star Wars was so ahead of its time, it sustained massive interest for nearly half a century until, I suspect, IRL technology caught up and outpaced it and made the "fantasy, sci-fi, wonder" part of its appeal obsolete

- MtG has an incredibly flexible game system and a format for delivering setting that is extremely open ended (art and flavor text basically). The core identity of MtG hasn't changed though (an outwardly simple game based on fantastic creatures, mana, spells), and that's what makes it so great.

- 40k has ridiculously rich setting and many different ways for new players to engage with it. Its reliance on a vast catalog of high quality miniatures that can be used to play a fairly dynamic game is a key differentiator and an extremely unique value proposition compared to other kinds of media competing for your hobby time.


This message was edited 9 times. Last update was at 2018/09/17 08:13:25


 
   
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Some as previous mentioned.


Bad/convoluted rules:

40K 7th Edition, X-Wing card-bloat, etc..


External popularity factors:

The Lord of the Rings/Hobbit wargames


Company being plain stupid:

Dust, late-years Kirby (though he was successful getting GW out of the post-LoTR hole), etc..



Also, for me, focus on tournament play limits the life-cycle IMO, because it is a more intensive hobby (e.g. Warmachine, X-Wing to a degree, since FFGs marketing/promotion emphasised store tournaments, etc.. a lot).

If you make "competitive" your main focus, you tend to draw in people who play A LOT and spend A LOT individually, but fewer people will be able to do so and even fewer will be able to sustain the punishing pace of keeping with a fast-evolving tournament-meta year after year after year. While theoretically possible, I find it practically impossible to play Warmachine or X-Wing (as the main examples) as a casual "every-so-often" game. You go out and play random guy X and you'll get nuked so hard, it'll destroy any chance to game, IMO. You're either in it completely, thinking about the game and it's latest releases at least once or twice a week, ideally playing at least once a week, or you're toast.

40K hard-core tournament circuit is similar. If you wanna compete, it's not only an expensive hobby, but also IMO a very time-intensive hobby. Unlike the above, 40K (thus far) is easier to also play on a back burner if you clearly signal you wanna be "casual", haven't read a 40K rulebook in 6 months and couldn't say on the top of your head how much damage a boltgun does. That, IMO, keeps players engaged with the game, even if they "leave" for a year or two, just playing the odd game once a year, read a BL novel maybe and perhaps get back in at a different phase in their life when career/private life/etc.. allows it. IMO, the same doesn't work, broadly speaking, for Warmachine, X-Wing, etc.. IMO (though it might locally in some places).
   
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Very good comments here.
Warmachine is very prominent example of the game system which seems to shrink and shrink. It seems PP made a few bad decisions (e.g., no more press gangers) which led to a situation which could become fatal for the company. But this is how business goes, some wrong decisions and the company gets into rough waters.

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 wuestenfux wrote:
Very good comments here.
Warmachine is very prominent example of the game system which seems to shrink and shrink. It seems PP made a few bad decisions (e.g., no more press gangers) which led to a situation which could become fatal for the company. But this is how business goes, some wrong decisions and the company gets into rough waters.


This highlights another interesting point. Companies that have managed to diversify their IP across many types of media are more resilient to the occasional flop or bad design direction. I'm guessing a game like Warmachine doesn't have the luxury of having tons of video games and book series for sustaining audience interest. Diversification here really increases the odds of long term success. The new GW seems to understand this, given the relative accessibility of 8th, the emphasis on plastic kits, and the pursuit of newer, even more accessible/diverse product lines (Kill Team, Warhammer Adventures, etc).

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2018/09/17 08:46:14


 
   
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McAllen, TX

 insaniak wrote:
 Big Mac wrote:
The audience tend to lose interest after a short while, as there is no investment other than money spent.

If that was actually a thing, MtG wouldn't be still around, either. But it is, so clearly there's more to it than that.


From what I've seen over the years, the key to keeping a game 'alive' is largely just down to keeping it interesting. Whether that's done through new model releases, new ways to play or (the GW model) by just re-writing the core rules every few years, there's a careful balance to maintain between adding new content and not annoying the existing customer base with the 'wrong' changes, and when that balance is not maintained, support for the game will just collapse.


I should clarify: miniature games and card games are vastly different, one requires quite a bit of hobby time spent(assembling, painting, etc), the other is instant gratification. They tend to draw different crowds is what I’m referring to. I myself had play MtG for about 5 yrs prior to joining the miniature community.
   
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Sunny Side Up wrote:

If you make "competitive" your main focus, you tend to draw in people who play A LOT and spend A LOT individually, but fewer people will be able to do so and even fewer will be able to sustain the punishing pace of keeping with a fast-evolving tournament-meta year after year after year. While theoretically possible, I find it practically impossible to play Warmachine or X-Wing (as the main examples) as a casual "every-so-often" game. You go out and play random guy X and you'll get nuked so hard, it'll destroy any chance to game, IMO. You're either in it completely, thinking about the game and it's latest releases at least once or twice a week, ideally playing at least once a week, or you're toast.

The problem with Warmachine isn't that it's competitive, it's that it's competitive in ways that require you to understand some rather convoluted meta. It's always been competitive, but back in its first edition it was still really easy to pick up and play, the casters were (mostly) all reasonably balanced (and yes, I did say 'mostly' so there's no need to mention Sorscha) and it worked just fine as a casual game. As it's grown, because of the way everything interacts with the various casters, it's become harder and harder to keep up with how it all fits together, and the gulf between a weak list and a strong list has gotten steadily wider.

Even there, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The market can sustain a game that is aimed solely at competitive players... but it has to be a game that people want to play, and the company has to put effort into supporting that competitive scene. So there again, the problem with Warmachine wasn't that it was competitive, it was that people largely disliked V3, and Privateer started taking pages out of Kirby's playbook and killing off community support and involvement.

Little wonder that large chunks of the playerbase took that as a sign that it was time to take their bat and ball elsewhere.

   
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It depends what you mean by successful. In recent memory the only games I would describe as "big" that have declined have been Warhammer and Warmachine MkIII (and the jury is still somewhat out on WM/H, I suppose). A lot of other games that have disappeared or declined have been relatively small or brief success stories. Spartan Games comes to mind here. They released a few well-received games but I'm not sure how popular they really were. I certainly never saw them being played locally and never knew of anyone playing them either.

What we have to remember is that wargaming is still very niche, which makes it a lot easier for games to decline because the user base is often very small to start with. Momentum is such a huge part of wargaming too. It doesn't matter how good your rules are if nobody plays, and the opposite is also true. I'm not a huge fan of 40k's rules but they're functional enough and I know for sure if I turn up at a game night I can get a game.
   
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Under the couch

 Big Mac wrote:

I should clarify: miniature games and card games are vastly different, one requires quite a bit of hobby time spent(assembling, painting, etc), the other is instant gratification. They tend to draw different crowds is what I’m referring to.

Yes, and no.

Not all miniature gamers are interested in the modeling side of it. Hence the vast seas of grey hordes on tables, and the attraction of games with prepainted miniatures. It's not about instant gratification at all... but gratification that comes from playing the game rather than from building and painting miniatures. If a game is challenging and faceted, that's not instant at all. Moreso if it's a game that keeps evolving and offering new challenges.

You personally may find the modeling side of the hobby to be important, but that's simply not the case for everyone, and it's not at all a key requirement of longevity.

   
 
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