Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Brand Loyalty...Is It Worth It?
Back then, while there were miniature companies to choose from, typically your game of choice had you buying from one manufacturer, especially if it was a tabletop wargame. That time period instilled a certain kind of brand-loyalty in gamers. Not to mention games who's figures were exclusive to one manufacturer such as FASA's Batttletech and Ral Partha, and our ubiquitous GW and Citadel.
But what about now? Is there competition worthy of killing Brand Loyalty? Is Brand Loyalty already dead for other reasons?
Considering I've asked 3 questions, let's start out by answering those three questions.
What About Now?
I still hear about brand loyalty from many people. Many of us grew up in the old days when you wanted your figures to all be from a particular range, and you stuck with that range through thick and thin. And many of us still do. I know that for my Centurions, I wanted to find ways to model them in their Greco-Roman theme, using as many actual GW parts as possible. I took part in tournaments where you could not have any non-GW figures in your army, and rising up through the hobby in that way instills a type of loyal 'instinct' of sorts. I still look forward to the next kit that GW comes out with, eager to spend my cash on plastic crack.
Is there Competition Worthy of Killing Brand Loyalty?
Now, as then, there are still games whose figure lines are formally exclusive to one manufacturer. Just for obvious reasons, we'll use Games Workshop as an example. Formally they, through their Citadel line, manufacture the only true versions of figures for their games, letting no one else play in their sandbox. In the past, this was enforced mainly by not letting you play in their official tournaments with any figures but their own, unless they were scratch-built to a degree. Also in the past, third party manufactures such as Armorcast were put down using the legal shotgun, so-to-speak. Of course we all know about the ongoing suit against Chapterhouse.
The answer to this question is a sound yes. The competition is proving itself worthy to play in the sandbox for one main reason here, the good old law of "Supply and Demand". As consumers, if the main company isn't supplying it, we will buy it from someone else if we want to. Couple that with GW taking a step back from all competitive venues, and you have the perfect opportunity for those third party companies to give us the models we want.
No. Not yet, but it's being sorely tested. For my own Centurions I wanted to stay as loyal as I could to the main line, however I needed quite a few Greek-style helmet crests. I didn't feel like sculpting them for an entire army, and GW didn't have what I needed…But a company in Europe called Max Mini did. I bought enough packs of a set of head bits with crests on them to convert them for my own needs. Now I'm looking at them to possibly supply Jetbikes out of the Kromlech line for a Pre-Heresy squad of bikers because I like the sculpts so much. The lesson here being that one little need of mine sparked an interest to continue to look at this same company to fulfill another potential need I have that GW doesn't fill at this time.
Brand loyalty is a ship full of holes, and to some degree always has been. But are those holes becoming too numerous to keep up with in more recent years? Chime in here folks, let's hear your thoughts.