There's a growing trend in the world these days, not just with gaming but with most commercial goods and services; manufacturers and service providers make statements to the effect of "they want your business". But what does that really mean?
It's something I've been thinking about a lot lately for a really wide variety or reasons but it came into sudden focus for me today. About a month and half ago I posted another 'soapbox' that was basically me thinking out loud about whether or not I was putting my money where my mouth was from a hobby point of view and walking away without a really clear answer. By the way; spoiler alert, if you read that last 'soapbox' by the time you're done reading this one you're free to point out that something I said 6 weeks ago is now clearly a lie, I didn't mean for it to be, but it is now.
So from my perspective what's the difference between someone wanting my hobby "business" versus my hobby "money". I'll use the simplest example I can, and one I can hope most people reading this can at least relate to even if they don't agree with it. Great brick-and-mortar hobby stores (the ones referred to as FLGS rather than just LGS) want my "business". They engage with me about what I'm doing with the hobby, they suggest things I might want to try out, they offer me a place to meet with new players and play games. All of these things help them get my "money" but I get more out of that relationship than just the product that I buy. The counter point to the Friendly Local Game Store, is the game store run by the curmudgeonly owner/staff who just want you to buy your stuff and get out. I was recently in Oshawa for work and I saw a model store on my way home and decided to check it out, the place had a crappy handwritten sign on the door saying "no students allowed inside" (it was next to a High School). The person who owned that place wants to sell stuff, but he doesn't want to have to talk to people. Or the other less awful example is the traditional discount e-tailer. Its not that they necessarily give bad service but its a simple good for money exchange with little other interaction.
Now lets talk about game companies. I've danced around saying some nasty things about a few different game companies over the past few years I want to give some examples of GREAT customer service where the company wanted my "business" and not just my money, and some examples of terrible service (no names here though) where the company just wanted my money:
Pulp Monsters; years ago I bought bunch of their models and during a move just lost a piece that I needed. I had it, the set was not defective, I just lost it. I was completely honest with them that it was all my fault and no error of theirs but could they please sell me a single replacement part. No, they would not, even though they had not done anything wrong or mispacked a box they sent me a free replacement immediately. I recently placed another order with them and the package included a handwritten note thanking me for my order.
Dead Earth Games; placed an order with them and within a few days noticed I hadn't received a shipping confirmation. Sent them an e-mail to enquire if my order had been sent, got an immediate apology that it had been missed and they sent it out immediately (only 3-4 days after placing the order tops) and tossed in some free counters to go with the order. Haven't gotten around to another order with them yet but feel like that's something I should be doing soon.
A small miniature company in southern Ontario; got my order the day before they started a promo, didn't/wouldn't upgrade me to the promo price or throw in some models to make up the difference, but also sat on the order not shipping it for 2+ weeks. I paid them, but will NEVER buy anything from them again.
A boutique miniature company in the U.K.; took my order, didn't ship for over a month, when the order arrived it had a note on the invoice that my order had been delayed by a one day closure (how that results in a month long delay is beyond me). I have bought quite a lot from this company over the years but that has now become my last order with them.
Why tell you all this? Maybe it's just a rant, but I'd rather think of it as a statement of intent. I have never asked any company or store for any kind of special treatment or discounts beyond their own promotions and sales, and I have no problem paying a fair price at full mark-up for things that I buy. But when any vendor treats me as a walking ATM my fuse has gotten really short in the past few years...really short.
And now, I'm going to turn part of my last soapbox into a lie.
Why now? Why today? What pushed me to spew all of this out onto the internet today so suddenly.
One company; Knight Models.
I'm going to preface this by saying I don't think Knight Models is evil or villainous, and I don't think anyone reading this should necessarily think what I think about them, but I'm done with them. They will not see one more dollar from me ever again.
This morning I woke up and found after weeks of rumours in the hobby community and unfortunate event had come to pass; Knight Models had discontinued their relationship with Marvel and would no longer be producing/selling Marvel models. This was unfortunate but its all just part of how business works and no one should take anything personally from this.
There was no notice, no warning. Tons of Marvel products had JUST shipped to retailers for what is now effectively a dead game. Tons of hobbyists had no opportunity to complete collections, or make informed choices not to buy something that would no longer be supported. The announcement dropped at literally the same moment that all assets were pulled from their website.
Now a very level-headed friend of mine pointed out that it might not have been their decision, it might have been the way the contract broke down or something they just had to do and that may very well be true, they might have done nothing wrong and had no sinister intent. So why should I be upset? Why should I feel they wanted my "money" and not my "business"? Am I just being immature or overly emotional about something I want? Maybe. But maybe not.
In my experience when people get frustrated and angry about game companies discontinuing product its either because they want to buy more, or wish they had bought less, but that's not really my issue. My issue is that Knight Models has a history of not engaging with their community, of not responding to messages on their Facebook page and not following up on their community outreach programs. So when a change like this is communicated badly the issue isn't really this change, the issue is that unlike a company that does engage with its community I simply can't give them the benefit of a doubt.
I will not be marching down the street trying to rally people behind me, and my voice is so small in the ocean that is the internet I don't expect this to become some sort of butt-hurt fan-boy rallying cry (nor would I want it to), but think of it as a cautionary tale. Not everyone feels the way I do, but I'm not the only one who feels the way I do. If a hobby company can't hear its customers, then eventually they won't be that company's customers.
Well. This is probably the single most negative thing I have ever written in my life. But I hope instead of focusing on what is I hope some other company can read this and maybe see what could have been. It's been a rant but I hope its a call out for a better next time.