On Monday we were greeted very sad news that Fenris Games were closing down at the end of February. If you read the full story (which can be found here) it tells a tale that is becoming familiar – of a small company that has been facing increasing financial pressures with dwindling sales, to the point where it is no longer viable.
The bitter truth is that, in our current hobby, which allows us to build fantastical areas to fight across, waging war in campaigns forged in our imaginations, many companies that enable us to pursue our dreams by supplying the figures and scenery with which to do so face the day-to-day harsh modern reality of desperately trying to make ends meet.
Let’s be honest here – whilst much publicity is given to those larger producers who can afford it, a significant amount the creative lifeblood of our hobby lies with the myriad of small manufacturers who produce a wealth of products in the small workshops, garden sheds and even kitchen tables around the world. For every single Warlord Games, there are dozens of these smaller companies producing a plethora of diverse goods for every genre, and in every scale, we could ever want.
It has been said that we live in a ‘golden age’ of the hobby, often labelled as such because of the huge choice that the average gamer has before them when it comes to who, what and where to buy their models, scenery, rules etc. That same choice also indicates a huge challenge to the producers – how to stand out from the crowd, how to differentiate themselves from the rest, and how to make any form of living whilst doing so.
The people who choose to do this are talented individuals who decide to spend either their spare time, or possibly their full time, exercising their gifts in creating toys for the rest of us to play with. Many do it first and foremost out of the love of doing what they do, which given the average financial reward for their efforts, has to be their primary driver.
Some would argue that whilst perhaps of passing interest, whether or not a company thrives or fails in our hobby is of little concern to us. Like everything else, the manufacturers face the whims of the capitalist market economy – Darwin at work in finance. Indeed, late last year the editor of a large hobby website went as far to say that the hobby might indeed benefit from a ‘culling of the herd’ – a somewhat callous remark made with relation as to whether companies could afford (or were willing) to pay to advertise on his website or not.
However, all it takes is to visit a wargames show and chat to the people behind the trade stands to discover that each of these small companies, perhaps faceless on the internet, are run by engaging people just like you and I, people who are passionate about their hobby and want to use their creative talents to the benefit of us all, and in doing so hope to get – justifiably – some financial reward. These are people who are trying to pay their mortgage, put their kids through school or simply put food on the table – just like you or I would expect to do in the jobs that we do, day-to-day.
England was once described as a ‘nation of shopkeepers’. If you make a comparison with what has happened on the high streets of Britain with the gaming hobby, we have seen the multiple choice of small shops in the high street slowly dwindle to be overtaken by supermarkets – yes offering cheaper prices, and the convenience of everything in one place – but at the cost of quality and variety. The same could very easily happen in the gaming hobby.
But we can make a difference in a simple way, and it was the heading of this piece. If we want to keep these producers around, and keep the choice of goods available, we HAVE to be prepared to use them. Perhaps spend a little bit more of our own hobby budgets on items that are maybe a little more expensive, but of superior quality, or a unique design. We don’t just pay for metal, resin, plastic and paper. We pay for the creative mind and artful work of hands and fingers behind what was made.
If we don’t do this, then the simple reality is that we will be seeing many more of these stories of closure in the future.
In the meantime, Fenris Games are still taking orders until 31st January, so if there is anything in their catalogue that you have been wanting to buy, but putting off committing to, you have a couple of weeks to rectify the situation, before everything is gone…perhaps for good.