I haven't read anyone reporting on this, but it's intriguing and could be huge: Blue Table Painting is running a Kickstarter apparently aimed at remaking the wargaming industry.
In short, huge quantities of miniatures are sold, but only a part gets assembled, painted and eventually used. That may or may not be sustainable for the producers, but the use of eBay these days presumably means it eats new sales more than it might have once.
As I understand it, the idea is to provide BTP with the capital to build up a stock of ready forces - picked, assembled and painted by BTP - to be made available off-the-peg online.
A new player would buy the rulebook for the given system and choose a faction as ever, but then rather than buy all the items needed to assemble and paint a force, and set all that time aside, just make a few clicks and possibly have a new force by the weekend.
In theory, it would mean more new players play sooner, even play at all - with complete, polished armies at least - and fewer miniatures end up sitting around and gathering dust.
But it could well have an impact well beyond that. First, here's Shawn talking about it all.
Here's how I think it could go if the idea takes off. Most obviously, if BTP prove it works, we could see existing or future businesses enter this new market, maybe even current miniature producers themselves. For now, I'll call all these firms 'ready-force providers'.
Next most obviously, a pre-assembled and -painted force will usually cost more than the bits, and increasing ubiquity could mean that explicit social pressure mentioned earlier rises, pushing those with less cash or time out of the hobby, shrinking the player base.
Game stores and online retailers could lose revenue if more of the miniatures being sold are bought in bulk direct from the producer. The ready-force providers could increasingly affect which specific items a producer sells and makes. It could mean less of a need for that producer to appeal to individual preferences, so the number of options within a given faction range might fall over time, while the number of factions might rise to compensate.
What would all of this mean for the smaller producers under the radar of the ready-force providers? Would they thrive or be throttled? How would that change the wider industry?
Even beyond these changes, it could put the producers in a very difficult situation. A big question is how far the potential burn-out involved in those dozens or hundreds of hours is built into the industry model. Maybe a customer base that bumps along the bottom - buying a new force, getting bored before finishing it, then moving on to the next - is how producers stay afloat? Maybe they make more on what we don't use than what we do?
There could be all kinds of knock-on effects, and some even pushing back to the status quo, offsetting the changes, the more so the more the current industry is a stable point.
At any rate, it would put a lot of power in the hobby into this new tier of middlemen, firms which provide a service, but also mediate communication between player and producer.
I trust Shawn and feel I understand his general outlook. He's been generous sharing the development of the business, and his views, in great detail with viewers and readers over the years, and I'd say he has a sharp mind and a good will. This makes me think he has thought through the possibilities, and that if he's going ahead anyway, he's doing it also as a challenge, daring us to match his dynamism and together find the new equilibrium.
Anyway, I'm very interested in how you see this playing out, and if by chance Shawn or any other interested parties are reading - and I'm confident many are - they could be too.