Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Flames of War

Battlefront made the decision this week to cease providing free shipping on new releases that don't hit their freight limit ($200 cost). This is reasonable considering how small some of these releases have been. For example, this week's release is comprised of two $9 blister packs. Shipping costs are likely to exceed any profit made on these models.

However, what's not reasonable is keeping to this ridiculous new release program, a weak premise for requiring active stores to place an order every other week. Games Workshop once did something similar and they had to suffer great financial pain before they corrected their service problems. Those days still haunt them as they attempt to become profitable once again.

Out of principle, we're not participating in this new ordering program. We will be ordering new releases to hit the street date when they either a) are enough to qualify for free freight on their own or b) are pre-ordered by customers. In other words, if a customer really wants it, they'll need to pre-pay and order ahead of time. Otherwise, we'll get it when our order goes in, possibly in a week, possibly in a month.

What I would like Battlefront to do is to stop this regular bi-monthly release cycle of small items. It would be different if they had other games and other releases, but when our current pre-order is $20, like this week, they shouldn't expect a store to come up with a $180 order because of an arbitrary release date.


  1. We were talking about this issue some tonight. I see two things going on here:

    1) Battlefront seems bound and determined to follow the complete GW model, including every single mistake that they made.

    2) More seriously, they seem completely incapable of doing anything that resembles admitting to a mistake. Changing the release schedule back to what it was would be akin to admitting that they never should have changed it in the first place, hence they won't do it.

    Quite frankly, the game is dying here, largely due to the actions and attitude of Battlefront. Those of us who like the game itself find it hard to generate enthusiasm for it as a result of the actions of the company that makes it.

    Rackham risks a similar problem, but is currently doing just enough things right to keep things right. The last thing that Battlefront did right was to issue the free 2nd edition update books. Just about everything since then has been messed up at least one way or another.

    By the way, where are those Tiger Ace dice? ;-)

  2. Not only where are the dice, where are the Tigers? They're still out of stock.

    For a couple years I've given the game special treatment, the benefit of the doubt, because we lack the game space. Now that I'm seeing that my issues with the game are not particularly related to what I've been doing, the special treatment is over.

    Culling the herd will be the first order of business.

  3. What kind of a game company doesn't keep their basic rulebook in print?

    How the heck do they expect to attract new customers (and those large new customer "getting started" purchases) without a rulebook.

    And this isn't a matter of pulling the rulebook for an edition change, this is simply a matter of "Oh crap, we just shipped the last bunch of rulebooks and don't have a contract to print new oines yet!"

    My advice to BF:
    step one, remove head from hindquarters.
    step two, look around at what is happening to your sales and recruiting. No, really look. Don't just ask the fan boys and other "yes-men" if things are great, look at your numbers.

  4. It's a shame Battlefront has shot themselves in the foot repeatedly. FOW is a pretty solid and fun game, but the companies business practices are horrible.

    We are still waiting for a few vehicle re-releases for the late war compilation that came out a year ago.

    How in the heck can they be out of stock of Tigers? The produce their own models for goodness sake; it's absurd.

  5. The truely sad thing is that if BF fails then the conclusion will be that "historical games don't sell." The real issue is that failed business models don't work.

    BF is getting all its advice from a consultant that used to work for GW. Now GW has done a lot of things right over the years, but they've also done a lot of things wrong, many of which they've stopped doing over the past year or so as falling profits have forced them to look more closely at exactly which of their business practices work, and which don't.

    BF's consultant is advising them to do everything GW did, both good and bad.

    I think that the changing box art is a small, but very revealing, example. Up until the past year or so GW used painted artwork for its boxed sets of miniatures. This was a poor choice for the following reasons:

    1) gamers would rather see the miniatures on the box than an artist's interpretation of the miniatures.

    2) it costs more to create an original painting than to have a professional photograph taken.

    GW realized their mistake (probably the second part more than the first), and now uses photos of their minis on the boxes.

    Ironically, about the time GW was switching from paintings to photos, BF was switching from photos to paintings. The result is that they increased their costs for no good reason.