Foam Wars continues on with everyone's favorite Miniature Case transport manufacture- Battlefoam and their quest to become either the Mark Zuckerberg or Winklevoss twins of the gaming industry. A blurb in my news feed last week on TGN seemed like a just another "notch in the belt" item in that Miniature Market was no longer carrying Battlefoam and were discounting their remaining stock and replacing it with the excellent line of products by KR multicases.
Battlefoam almost immediately issued a response to TGN, saying Miniature Market had asked for their trade account to be closed 6 months ago. This just fanned the conspiracy theories, given the documented history of Battlefoam's lack of truthfulness in its past business dealings with its competitors. While the truth seems to lie somewhere in the matter of Miniature Market breaching its trade agreement with Battlefoam over pricing restrictions with online sales. A 100+ comment dual thread is currently going strong over on TGN with rival commentaries going on Dakka and I am sure the other usual haunts. Plenty of mud is being slung from either Battlefoams supporters or detractors, but as usual people always seem to overlook the real issues that incidentally get brought to light, instead just jumping on the red meat.
According to Battlefoam's second response to TGN, and I quote:
"Romeo at Battle Foam stated that these restrictions are part of the trade terms to help protect brick and mortar stores that also sell their product and that they had numerous emails with Miniature Market asking them to conform to the trade terms they agreed with."
What smells here is the mention of "Brick and Mortar stores".This really stuck out with me because here in Chicago we've just had a relatively new, growing and popular games store, Black Sun Games shut it's doors. While that is due to some unfortunate extenuating circumstance. It sparked a discussion privately amongst my friends ( one a former game store operator). In that there are just not really any Brick and Mortar game stores left, the ones that exist do so outside the economic realities of the business model. This due to a host of "other factors". (which I'll talk about in its own post at a later date)
Sure, there are stores that sell gaming products all over. but how many are just game stores?, Online discounting and technology outpaced the need for the existence of Brick and Mortar gaming stores years ago, they currently exist as places to meet and play, and if you are fortunate enough to develop a supportive community around you, you can survive.. but without another revenue stream, or online sales component to give you bigger margins than what's standard for the path "manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer" dictates. You are just about D.O.A.
To claim say that someone is going to walk into a brick and mortar game store and buy a Battlefoam bag with a standard load out off the shelf, with all the mark ups and lack of customization that come along with that action being totally ignored, sounds like a fantasy. while I am sure that case exists somewhere, it can only by logic be a tiny, tiny minority. Someone that isn't particularly savvy about what said product is actually used for, and what you could be paying for it somewhere else. (a parent buying something for their child comes to mind) This mentality of customer is actually what Games Workshop has based its business model around, and not coincidentally what Battlefoam seems to want to emulate.
In reality Battlefoam wants you to buy from Battlefoam period. They dont particularly want to have their product in stock with online discounters, they do it to make themselves appear to be everywhere so they can saturate the market in order to make you think they are only people that sell miniature cases.
Here in the United States, Battlefoam clearly appears to be price fixing within its vendor trade agreements. While I have not seen a trade agreement personally. It's only logical that they are setting the terms of how much their product can be discounted for. Which interestingly enough, is something they cannot do in other countries and something you used to not be able to get away with here BUT...( Political Soapboax applicable here, sorry folks. )
Here in the wild west of Capitalism, the USA. we've spent the last 30 years dismantling consumer protections, and fair trade practices all in the name of economic progress, the problem of course, is that economic progress as a result of unfettered capitalism is an oxymoron as it doesn't work. As a result the United States is on its way to mirroring the last days of Imperial Rome with a corporately owned 2 party political system that doesn't really do anything other the preserve the corporate status quo in slightly different shades of grey. The result is the recent Supreme Court decision Here. Which essentially legalizes price fixing by manufacturers, So what Battlefoam does is completely legal.
So fantasies of Battlefoam bags on the shelves at Target and price fixing aside, What's going on here is that Battlefoam wants to be everywhere for market saturation but wants 100% control of what you sell their products for so you aren't under cutting their direct sales (sounds familiar huh?) Miniature Market (who I have bought from regularly since 2006, have great prices, fastest delivery times and great customer service) got sick of their garbage and said its just not worth it. Pretty simple explanation to an overly complicated question.
It's no surprise to me that none of my favorite online retailers carry Battlefoam products. Its certainly not because they dont make a strong product. A friend of mine recently had a Warmachine bag over here at my place and its quite nice if you think paying $150-200 for a bag to carry your toy soldiers in is worth your money, personally I'd rather have more toy soldiers, and a less flashy, cheaper bag with better (softer) foam.
From a business persons standpoint. You have to ask yourself, if someone makes a popular and quality product and you run a successful business selling these types of products why would you not want to sell it?. Well answer to that seems pretty clear, its the company not the product.
So if you're a "40K housewife" and need a fancy Battlefoam bag to elevate your personal social status to that of your actual wife at the country club with that new Louis Vutton handbag, Than knock yourself out!, but it's also quite clear plenty of gamers and people in the gaming trade, do as I do and have made their Miniature transport slogan "Friends don't let Friends buy Battlefoam" and seek out the many other viable alternatives.
Foam Wars, will continue I am afraid- for better or worse.
Read Foam Wars Part I
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