Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Goodbye Flames of War

Our Flames of War is now on clearance at 40% off.

We started carrying Flames of War in 2005 and it quickly shot up to our number one game in the store. It's the only game tracked as its own department. I was a happy, smiling guy, giving testimonials about its greatness at the 2006 GAMA Trade Show. We had organized play for it in our first store and I had an Army Ranger army, headed by Colonel Darby. It inspired me to read historical accounts of the Rangers and for a while I consumed every book that referenced the group.

I'm going to lay a lot of the blame at the feet of Battlefront. With their success, they began emulating the bad business practices of Games Workshop. They lied. They were dishonest with their customers. Their reps changed so often that I stopped adding them to my email address book. Basically, the US operation killed the game as far as I can see. This was as Games Workshop was shedding its poor reputation and reforming itself. In fact, some executives from GW moved right over to Battlefront, their poor practices remaining intact. They even moved the US division to Delaware from the West Coast, a senseless move with a Pacific Rim company. Our customers, mostly veteran "alpha" gamers, fled the game or at least re-focused on other hobby interests. They are a non-renewable resource.

Our organized play opportunities were limited in the old store, and when we moved, all the games that tended to excel with lots of events were given a free pass in the new location. They could prove themselves. It was hoped groups would form around them once we had the space to properly promote them. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done. Product champions, our most experienced Flames of War players, weren't interested in organized play. Customers couldn't be enticed to run events. The staff was disinterested in running events as well and there were other games with more promise to focus upon. Over three years, we couldn't get those two people to show up once a week for three months. We had Summer events, but they ended in the Fall.

Half our Flames of War sales over the last three years were clearance items. Clearly people were still playing the game, but they tended to only buy at a deep discount. When we hosted regional events, it was the same group of people that traveled the Bay Area and played Flames of War. Eventually there was no inventory fat left to cut and further clearance items were going to be core merchandise. That's when it was clear the game was dead for us. The staff urged me to cut it many times before this, but I had hopes it might turn around. It never did.

It got a free pass for so many reasons. It was our only historical game. It was my first miniature game. Something great for it was always just around the corner, but it never came.  Where was Vietnam? Where was the rumored Napoleonics?  What about Korea? At trade shows, store owners hung on the founders every word. But nothing ground breaking emerged. How many times can you fight World War II?

I don't want to completely close the door on the game. The company might reform and the game might take off, much like what happened when Games Workshop re-focused themselves. I would probably try a new game from Battlefront, if they managed it properly.  Until then, I'll be very happy to divert Flames of War inventory dollars to growing games.

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