Battlefront Miniatures rebrand World War II?

News is breaking across the Web at the moment about Battlefront Miniatures latest announcement:

The quote causing most consternation seems to be the following one:

The final change we are making is that from the new season all the events we run with will be only allowing Battlefront miniatures to be used. This is bound to cause some debate, so let me be clear as to why we have chosen to go down this path. Joe, Gareth and our events cost a great deal of money to run: a little over a quarter of a million American dollars this year alone. And, although it seems childish to draw a line in the sand and say, “If you want to play at our events and support the FOW hobby, you should not be bringing other people’s models along,” it is absolutely that simple. Our business is a business and we want Flames Of War to grow; we intend to give it the best support we can, but this support has a cost.

This does not seem to be going down well. This thread on the The Miniatures Page is a typical example. As I am not registered on the Flames of War forums, I can’t see what comments are being made there. Looking at other forums, it would appear that Battlefront are making various statements to justify this change – but it does seem to be something of a U-Turn from their previous position. It is amazing what quotes from forums can come back to haunt you at times.

If you have listened to episode 90 of the Podcast you may guess that this latest news from Battlefront does not come as a particular surprise, but appears to be part of a bigger strategy that Battlefront have to protect their brand.

And make no mistake, this is exactly what they are doing this. Battlefront have become big fish in a relatively small pond. They can’t claim to have invented 15mm scale World War II gaming, but it is true that they have done a lot to make the scale popular, due to the huge popularity of the Flames of War ruleset. I think, however, they are now finding that their market share is being put under pressure. This is due, I believe, to the dual effect of their own pricing strategy, and the growth of other companies  ranges making models in 15mm for World War II – Plastic Soldier Company, Forged in Battle, Peter Pig, Skytrex and Zvezda to name a few.

However, unlike someone like Games Workshop, who operate within their own created universe, Flames of War is set in World War II. Considering this is the largest conflict to have currently affected world affairs in recent history, it would be slightly difficult to attempt to claim this as Battlefront’s own IP and so it seems that they have rebranded their rules somewhat.

Flames of War is no longer 15mm World War II wargaming, but rather the ‘FoW Hobby’. This reflects moves a move in branding that was made a while ago by Games Workshop, when games like W40K ceased to be wargaming, but became ‘The Games Workshop Hobby’. It’s an interesting change, and their language is now all about supporting the ‘FoW Hobby’.

Now, there is an argument that if Battlefront want to do this, it’s quite legitimate for them to do so. FoW is their ruleset, and this only applies to official Flames of War tournaments.

Their game. Their playground. Their rules.

OK, Fine.

The question is, how big is the FoW tournament scene? How many people (their customers) does this affect, and indeed, how many people will suddenly find the armies that they have loving built and painted suddenly ineligible to play with? How will gamers respond to the fact that they might potentially have to spend a lot more money in order to continue with their hobby?

The honest answer is, I don’t know. I’m not a tournament gamer and I don’t play Flames of War. However, I suspect the impact will also be different depending on which country you reside in. I can well imagine that this announcement will affect the US gaming community much more than the UK one, simply because of the way that gaming works in the two countries.

How will this affect the above mentioned companies? Again, it depends on how many people play in FoW tournaments, and how this new ruling from Battlefront will affect player participation in future.

From what we’ve seen with other companies who have similar policies, if gamers want to play official tournaments, they will simply have to comply with the rules or go elsewhere. I think this is the first time it’s been tried with a historical game though, so it will be very interesting to see what happens next.

What is clear in all of this is that the goalposts in 15mm World War II have moved. Ok, it’s a small part of the hobby, but it may be indicative of what could happen elsewhere.

In the mean time, if this announcement adversely affects your desire to play Flames of War, there are plenty of other very good World War II rulesets that you can use your miniatures with, and I suspect that the publishers concerned do not mind what miniatures you play with.

And this, perhaps, is the problem that Battlefront see before them. More rules, more miniatures, more choice. Great for the consumer, not so good for the producer/manufacturer/publisher.

It’s all a question of how each company chooses to respond to the challenge.

27 Comments on Battlefront Miniatures rebrand World War II?

  1. That was one of the biggest draws. I think these other cheap manufacturers actually INCREASE my purchasing of Battlefront miniatures. Like Battlefront has said they can’t make every vehicle in plastic and neither can Plastic Soldier Company. I have a Mid War Panzergrenadiers(That I used in a BF tournament in Showcase PA) Everything in my army was Battlefront except the halftracks. It just wasn’t a feasible to buy $120 worth of halftracks when I could buy $50 of PSC. Although I bought the half tracks I still bought all the Infantry, Guns and a Platoon of BF tanks to make the army. The other companies are only selling the core vehicles. This is a horrible move on BF part. BF doesn’t even have all the vehicles out for most books when they are published so you have to wait weeks after a book comes out to even use it? Are you serious. Previously it was the Masters tournaments that only required the models, not it’s all Tournaments. I don’t understand these tournaments require entry fees already.. how can this not cover the cost of Tournaments. Just a bad PR move if you ask me.

  2. Vercingetorix // July 12, 2012 at 16:50 // Reply

    Neil, just to let you know, the overwhelming response on the FoW forums is negative. People DO NOT like this decision, and they’re letting the BF guys know. There’s been a couple of responses from staff members, but they’ve been semi-insulting and have been quickly dismantled by the community.

    And, of course, people are showing the picture of JP’s post where he promises that BF won’t restrict the miniatures people can use.

    • Thanks for the update. I could imagine the repsonse, and I expect that the board moderators are currently a little busy.

      I saw the quoted post from JP from 2011. I wasn’t aware of that until today, so with everything else that is going on, that just adds to the irony…

      • I was wondering if eventually that would do this and it appears they have. I for one have 95% of my stuff as Battlefront. It’s that price is sorta raining on my part of the hobby. Also picking up a “Codex” creep style with new books is really hurting the Flames of War “Hobby”. Then a year later a compilation hardcover that makes the older book irrelevant.

        Also, some of the miniatures are becoming more and more commonly miscast and molding are wearing out, the quality almost doesn’t match what you pay sometimes. Surely they do have top of the line customer service, but it’s frustrating when it becomes so common.

      • Vercingetorix // July 12, 2012 at 18:57 //

        Oh, yeah, that quoted post is now a picture that’s getting reposted again and again on the forum.

  3. I love that they censor heir forums, post about another manufacturer and watch the post get deleted. Is their a generic 15mm ww2 forum?

    • Paul, I think it is generally accepted that its poor form to post on a dedicated forum about a compeitors product, unless there is a board specifically for that purpose – usually found on boards where the rules are not tied in with a specific manufacturer…

  4. FoW gets a lot of play at my club and while I have been resisting, I was thinking of getting a platoon or two especially if a far east supplement came out. This decision of Battlefronts means I will be playing IABSM or equivalent for WWII and NOT FoW

    • Vercingetorix // July 12, 2012 at 18:56 // Reply

      At the worst, buy everything from other manufacturers. I was going to add a large deal to my Panzer Lehr force, but instead of Battlefront, it’ll all be PSC and Forged in Battle now.

      • This shouldn’t effect friendly games or locally ran tournament. Also so far no price increase on the horizon. The worst thing BF can do when competitors are making cheaper alternatives is to RAISE their prices ro recoup losses.

        I doubt this will effect most of the run of the mill and friendly gamers, or local tournaments. The question I have is if Battlefront is providing prize support for a local tournament will they require the tournament to have all Battlefront Models? Or is it ONLY tournaments host by BF.

  5. Runs With Scissors // July 12, 2012 at 19:31 // Reply

    I do feel for them in a way. No, they didn’t invent 15mm WW2 gaming, but they have clearly popularized it and frankly I’m seeing gamers dipping their toes in the historical side of the hobby thanks to Flames of War who would never have done so without it. Now they’ve grown the pool of 15mm WW2 gamers to the point where opportunists like PSC see a big enough market to chase after, and of course Battlefront has little by way of protectable intellectual property that they can defend. I’m not really knocking PSC (fair play to them), but would the market for 15mm plastic WW2 vehicles really have been big enough to justify the tooling costs before the advent of FoW?

    • I definately see where your coming from. I think the sudden change of heart is what is angering gamers though. I guess when you put into perspective that there were only a few manufactures only a few years ago competing when BF made it’s promise. Compared to now where boxes of PSC are flying off the shelves. I also think BF must of been seeing many more alternate minis at it’s events to warrant this. At the tournament I went to I’m pretty sure 95% of the armies I saw were 100% Battlefront miniatures. I think this handicaps people when it comes to making custom Objective Markers where BF has a limited range of special figures.

      This is more of a PR move if you ask me try to stop the bleeding.

  6. jules avery // July 12, 2012 at 19:56 // Reply

    Let’s face it this really only effects ‘official Battlefront tournament players’ who are a minute fraction of the 15mm gaming fraternity.

    Everyone else should simply nod, smile and wave.

    Frankly this is irrelevant except it’s a ‘protective’ trade action which looks like openly admitting your competitors offer better deals.

    • jules,

      Not agreeing there for the fact that the massive response on the forums will probaly loose them more money than they will gain from baning other companioes stuff from the official BF tournaments.

  7. I’m a big FLAMES OF WAR fan; it’s my main wargame. In my opinion, BF have written an excellent set of rules, and have a great policy of giving a free copy of the rules to anyone who owned the previous edition. But I’m been disappointed with some of their customer service failings, mostly with the UK staff, who seem to have competency problems.

    Personally, this new move doesn’t surprise me. I’ve been increasingly moving over to non-BF models for a while, because other companies send me what I order, instead of the damaged, missing or incorrect items that frequently come in BF packs. And I’m not into tournaments, as I’ve found too many opponents who like to stretch the definition of sportsmanship, and the spirit of the rules, to the point of bullying and cheating. I wargame to have “fun” with my friends, and I really don’t care about winning or losing, as long as everyone had fun.

    Will this change my love of FOW? No. Will it stop me from buying non-BF models? No. Will it change my attitude to FOW tournaments? No.

  8. As for the FOW forums, I doubt you would see anything other than praise. In my experience, BF is one of many gaming companies that deletes any posts that aren’t sycophantic praise. Suggestions and criticism rarely lasts more than a few minutes.

    • Vercingetorix // July 13, 2012 at 00:06 // Reply

      Ha. You may want to check again. There’s a 20-page long thread that’s essentially ‘This is a terrible idea, Battlefront’ over and over.

  9. Does anyone have a link to the picture of JP’s post?

  10. Wow, Battlefront retracted the statement and made it more than 50% must be battlefront. A good move and will make all sides happy if you ask me.

    • Thanks Travis.

      For anyone who might have missed the announcement:

      http://www.flamesofwar.com/Default.aspx?tabid=57&art_id=3380

      So, BF revise their statement on the content of tournament forces.
      Will it make all side happy? I’m not sure. The last couple of sentences are interesting…

      We appreciate all the civil comments whether for or against. We feel that our compromise shows that we believed all views have merit. We hope this once again proves that we do listen.

      So, trying to score PR points from what will probably have been seen to be a complete PR car crash. Yes, they listened to their customer base (and apparently their forum threads were getting huge and somewhat out-of-hand) and have issued a change to their event rules – they didn’t have to, but please don’t try to spin it as anything it isn’t. I think most of us have seen enough political U-turns in the face of huge opposition to recognise when this happens in a business.

      As has been pointed out on several forums, BF have shown their hand and the strategy they were deploying to target their market competition. The ‘event’ changes are only part of a bigger strategy – will this bigger strategy change in the light of the reaction to their announcement?

      An awful lot of the critiscm that BF have come in for in the past few days is nothing to do with their event announcement per se, but rather the attitude that was conveyed when the initial statement was made, and the content of some of the subsequent supporting posts from the BF management. Its my own belief that these comments may prove far more damaging to BF in the long run.

      Ultimately, I think this whole incident shows that, as a business, you take your customer base for granted at your own peril…

  11. So now they’re going to need someone to count the proportion of BF figures/kit in entrants’ armies . . . ?

    Oh dear.

  12. My view is their (BF) Tournaments their rules for entering the tournament.
    But my issue is how vigorously are they going to vet the entrants armies.
    I have a U.S. Para Company with about 5% non BF minis. Would an entrant with only 5%,10% non BF minis be barred from entering. The statement from Battlefront states “all the events we run with will be only allowing Battlefront miniatures to be used.”
    From their announcement it suggests to me that entrants with 5% (or even only a single) non BF minis would be ineligible from entry. I hope there would be a little common sense applied to such situations.

    Regards

    • They’ve already changed the criteria to at least 50% BF minis for eligibility (see above), hence my post about the need to have ‘% counters’ at their tournaments.

  13. I realised that but still felt I had to vent. 🙂

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