The current tight financial climate in the UK and overseas is definitely starting to effect our hobby. The first casualties have already fallen and I expect we will see more as the year progresses. The recent debacle at Wargames Factory (discussed in detail on TMP here and here) seems to have been precipitated by the need for that company to raise money outside the US. The full details of the situation are no doubt more complicated than this but judging from the few 'facts' available this seems to be the situation. Now another company (Bastion Studios) is being shut down due to financial problems. This was reported on Meeples and Miniatures last week.
I expect many gamers are, like me, tightening their belts a little this year. Here in the UK we have rising inflation, increased VAT and rising fuel and food prices combined with pay freezes and job cuts in the public sector. The retail market will likely suffer to some extent this year but I suspect that the games industry will suffer more than others. While you and I may consider our hobby purchases vitally important the fact is to anyone else they would be considered a luxury item.
So what can we as gamers do about the situation, aside from wearing an extra jumper or walking to work. The prevailing advice has long been to spend our hard earned cash at the FLGS and to buy direct from the manufacturers. But I think games companies, like retailers in any other sector, need to realise that brand loyalty alone will not save them if they built their houses on weak foundations.
My suggestion goes against the grain (brace yourself, some of you may not like this) because while I support brand loyalty I also believe firmly in the need to make our individual budgets go further. So my suggestion is shop around, buy second hand, squeeze the best deals you can from the Internet and most important of all, keep playing. Choose those companies and or ranges you really want to support and focus your limited resources there.
There will almost certainly be more casualties in the hobby industry over the coming 12-18 months. I think the best we can hope for is that those that survive come out of this period stronger, and those that die get a second chance to do things better when the market recovers.