With the rise of successful pre-painted miniatures tabletop rgames, just how important is the painting side of the hobby?
Let’s Be Honest…
Traditional unpainted minis are amazing these days. Companies like GW are kicking out minis that look like this:
IF you really know how to paint well.
But a lot of the time while we imagine our minis will look like this, they actually end up under our beds looking like this:
Just add dust and procrastination.
The Not So Distant Past
Once upon the time the conventional wisdom in the industry said that pre-painted minis were doomed. If you wanted to make a “real product” you would avoid the concept like the plague.
Sure it might make your game easier to adopt, but it would just be youngsters who picked up the pre-paints and they weren’t “real gamers”. Because remember “real gamers” love all that assembly & painting hobby stuff that goes along with the minis.
And that worldview was pretty much accepted for the last twenty years. But lets be honest – a large part of it was probably due to minis that looked like these guys:
Remember them? That’s an ancient Dungeons & Dragons Kobold and Ork. They came with a giant amount of other buddies of similar quality, along with all manner of Battletech, superheroes and every type of mini you could think of. These early pre-painted plastics were soft, lacking detail and the factory painting was … not to Golden Daemon standards. The lack of epic success of these lines or any game associated with them scared pretty much everyone off treating pre-painted minis seriously… for a while.
Fast forward ten years to 2017 when a little company you may have heard of by the name of Fantasy Flight Games threw these guys into the wargaming industry, and got everyone to turn their heads:
X-Wing The Miniatures Game was the breakout game of 2013 and hasn’t slowed down. It’s been joined by Star Wars Armada and with Disney cranking out TV shows and movies like clockwork looks to have a bright future. If there is a sweet spot to be had in wargaming between quality of miniatures, easy rules, deep tactics, and a killer license, FFG has it.
DUST’s universe is still out there kicking out both primed and pre-painted minis range that arrives on your doorstep looking like this:
Now let’s step into historicals for a bit and look at ARES Games’s Wings of War WW1 and WW@ aerial combat games:
Put down your paintbrush, grab your scarf and get playing.
Barrier to Entry
The dangerous thing for the traditional on-the-sprue games is the incredibly low barrier to entry these newcomers offer. Once you’ve seen a group of gamers playing X-Wing or Armada draw in a newcomer, who literally pulls ships off the shelf, buys them and is in the game ten minutes later, you can appreciate the potential for viral growth a quality pre-painted range allows. It’s the traditional games high barrier to entry that can hamstring them if they aren’t careful (let us all take a moment to reflect on Warhammer Fantasy). Expecting a new gamer to shell out hundreds of bucks only to have to slog through months of painstaking hobby effort before coming to the tabletop is a harder and harder sell each passing year in our NOW NOW NOW culture.
The Technology Angle
Certainly the technology for pre-painted quality is here and I can only see more of this type of thing in the future. As an example of technology take a close look at these toys:
This is a line of collectible plastic toys out of Japan. On first hand they don’t look terribly impressive. But note that these are in 1:144 scale and most are barely bigger than a single Terminator. Also, these planes are over 10 years old! They contain screen printed marking that most hobbyists simply cannot reproduce by hand. Did I mention these sell for about $5
Zoom in for a look at the plane’s markings – could you match that? Be honest.
Fast forward ten years from now and ask yourself what will be possible with printing and painting technology.
So I will ask you, do you think preprinted minis will take over our industry, leaving the “old fashioned assemble and paint it yourself” minis as antiquated as lead miniatures and model railroads?
And most importantly, could you see yourself going for pre-painted minis for your future gaming needs (or have you already)?
So what’s your opinion on pre-painted minis? Heresy, or the inevitable future?