Saturday, December 14, 2019

GWS Hobby Spending: Age and Interest

Jasper, of Wargames, Soldiers, and Strategies (WSS), continues presenting results from The Great Wargaming Survey 2019 via the WSS blog.  The latest entry focuses on hobby spending in a brief synopsis of some of the results (see: Take My Money).  In a follow-up post, I dive a bit deeper into the topic focusing on relationships between hobby spending, survey respondent age and primary interest.  For these analyses and conclusions, please read Digging Into the Numbers: Hobby Spending – Age vs Interest on the WSS blog.  Really.  I encourage readers to read the WSS blog post before continuing on so that the following analysis has a better chance of making sense.  Return back here for an expansion of the analysis when finished.

OK.  Are you back?

From the analysis presented at the WSS blog, I draw the following inferences, generalizations, and observations on hobby spend with respect to age and primary interest:
  • The under 21 age group spends the least.
  • Spending tends to increase monotonically with age until reaching 61+ age group.
  • The 40 and under groups tend to spend more on Fantasy/Sci-Fi.
  • Respondents age 41+ tend to spend more on Historical.
  • When the 51-60 age group chooses a primary interest (whether Fantasy/Sci-Fi or Historical), that group tends to spend more than other age groups.
  • Respondents with a primary interest in Fantasy/Sci-Fi tend to spend less than the other primary interest groups.
Each of these broad observations seem reasonable and hardly revelatory.  Are there any of the above in which to take issue?  I do not, but others may.

The analysis in the post, Digging Into the Numbers: Hobby Spending – Age vs Interest, relied upon counts and descriptive statistics to reach the inferences listed above.  These counts and descriptive statistics published in the WSS blog entry will be used in the following analyses.  Digging a little deeper into the data science toolbox, I will examine the survey data from a correspondence analysis perspective.  The goals in correspondence analysis are twofold:  either discriminate (differentiate) between one or more attributes or associate one or more attributes into similar groupings.  Results can be presented graphically making the analysis quick to digest.

While there are three survey attributes of interest (Hobby Spending, Age Group, and Primary Interest), I begin by examining attribute pairs first before jumping into the three dimensional case using all three attributes at once.

Primary Interest vs Age Group
From this correspondence analysis, two distinct groupings emerge.  One group contains historical wargamers that are age 51 and over.  The second group comprises fantasy/sci-fi wargamers that are 40 and under.  Notice that the "Not specified" primary interest group also falls within this category.  The graphic illustrates a clear separation between the two groups suggesting that the data are highly differentiating on these two attributes.  With their positions close to the origin, "Mixed" and "41-50" show less distinguishing features between the mature historical wargamers and the young fantasy wargamers.      
With "20 and Under" and "Not Specified" near the origin and distinctly separated from "Fantasy/Sci-Fi " and 21-40 wargamers, the following alternative classification is reasonable too:
Which is the better classification?  I vote for the latter, three group classification since the "20 and Under" group has very little data.  One point to remember, it is always prudent to verify results against the underlying data.

Spend by Primary Interest
When considering annual hobby spending by a gamer's primary interest, three distinct groupings emerge.  The three classifications are:
  • Fantasy/Sci-Fi spending USD 700 or less
  • Mixed spending USD 701 to 2,800
  • Not Specified spending over USD 2,800 
These are interesting results.  Do these groupings make sense intuitively and can they be explained satisfactorily?  I think so although those survey respondents not specifying a primary interest but associated with the highest spending may be a conundrum.  Maybe these are collectors and not wargamers?  Perhaps gamers and not wargamers?  Thoughts?

Notice the Historical wargamer has not been assigned into a grouping since this group is not easily differentiated by spending levels.  The data suggest Historical wargamers spend proportional to their expected spending level.

Spend by Age Group
A graphical representation of spending by age group shows a clear bifurcation into two groups.  The tails of the age distribution (30 and under and 61 and over) are associated with spending modestly on the hobby at no more than USD 700 annually.  The mass of the age distribution tends to spend above USD 700 annually.  Again, the results seem reasonable given the spending propensity of these groups.     

Spend by Primary Interest and Age Group
Time now to combine the three pairwise comparisons into one graphical analysis.  Unlike the pairwise correspondence analyses, analyzing more than two attributes requires a different technique.  Correspondence analysis offers an extension called multiple correspondence analysis (MCA).  The technique is similar but the interpretations are somewhat different.

In the MCA graph below, what does the scatter plot of spending, age, and primary interest suggest?  The results may be difficult to interpret or are they?
Like correspondence analysis, attributes plotted along the origins exhibit little differentiation.  These less distinctive attributes include '$', 'SSS','Mixed', '41-50', and 'Not Specified.'  After ruling out these attributes that cannot be easily distinguished, each quadrant is examined.  What inferences can be made from each of these quadrants and what labels attached?
Starting with the blue upper right quadrant and working counterclockwise, these associations can be labeled as:
  • Blue - The Grognards - Historical wargamers, age 61+.  Spending patterns are not easily differentiated but they know what they like and it is historical.
  • Green - The Young Recruits - The 30 and under fantasy/sci-fi wargamers with modest discretionary income.  
  • Yellow - The Wanderers - wargamers of 31-40 years in age with diverse wargaming interests and hobby expenditures. While some may specialize, many sample from historical and fantasy/sci-fi. 
  • Red -  The Hard Campaigners - wargamers age 51-60 with money to burn.  Diverse tastes in wargaming interests but when they settle on a genre they have the money to spend.
Of course, these are only the labels I assigned.  Others are equally suitable.  Keep in mind that these are associations and tendencies only.  These are not hard and fast rules.

After making it through this analysis (is anyone still with me?), as a reader, does your wargaming situation fit nicely into one of these associations generated by the Great Wargaming Survey results?  Remember, these are only broad associations and tendencies representing the sample as a whole.  If not, where would you fit?

Does this analysis provide a useful picture of the hobby with respect to spending by age and interest?  For me, yes.  I hope others may find this exercise of interest as well.


  1. I suspect that you and I between us have skewed those figures with our purchases Jonathan..

  2. A very interesting piece of analysis.

  3. My brain hurts Johnathan. What these figures show for me is really just common sense. The younger you are the less disposable income you possess, and lets ne right its difficult to justify spending a lot on figures if your child wants new school shoes. As for the older historical gamer being 51 and above again this age group have been brought up on what is effectively what wargaming was originally about. Fantasy etc came later and dont forget the way history is taught makes younger gamers less aware of our wonderful military history.Good post though well done.

    1. Hi Robbie. I apologize for the brain strain. Mine underwent some stress while pulling this together!

      The results may be common sense but I am relieved that the data supports and reinforces our notions of the wargaming world. This survey has respondents from all over the globe so it does present a picture of the wargaming world.

      You make an interesting observation about the way history is taught today. Being out of school for many decades, I do not know how history is taught today. How is history taught differently than when we were young lads?

  4. Jonathan the numbers to me make perfect sense re disposable income. In college, on a cadet stipend, i barely had enough to purchase figures , paint and brushes let alone terrain rules etc with which to game. Hence my gaming interests, while varied, were subject to what my friends had available at the time (sci fi wh40k, fantasy whfb, boardgames like squad leader).

    Now, somewhere in between your grognards and hard campaigners age-wise, i have means to buy, build, and store miniatures. I think income is a huge driver of these decisions, as are space and time, 2 things of which no one seems to have much of anymore.

    Did i just pen a back cover for a Neil Thomas book?? ;)

    1. It is comforting when scientific results align with one's first hand knowledge and perceptions. Always good to have theory on your side of an argument.

      I came into the hobby before fantasy/sci-fi genre took hold so this is a facet of the hobby to which I am quite ignorant. These exercises in data analysis have opened my eyes to another piece of the hobby.

      Time, money, and inspiration are big drivers in these decisions. You do sound like Mr. Thomas!

      Thanks for your comments! They are much appreciated.

  5. Looks interesting, Jonathan.
    Apart from income the local wargame community has a huge impact. If it’s little and everybody play in WH40K you probably have no choice.
    And one more thing to add, correct me if I’m wrong. Warhummer seems to be the most recognized brand in fantasy sci-fi genre. Do we have a comparable brand in historical wargame? I personally don’t know.
    So if you’re in unknown place and looking for restaurant and then you see Macdonald’s, you’ll probably go there because you know what it is. In wargame War Hummer takes Big Mac role, IMHO.

    1. Good insights, Dmitry! I like your analogy with Warhammer and McDonalds. Maybe Flames of War is as close to Warhammer as historical miniatures can get?

  6. The figures make sense to me. As the children have become independent I found I have had more time for the hobby, although I have made a conscious effort to try to curb my spending over the past two years due to all the unfinished projects that I now have in the queue.

    1. The results make sense to me too.

      At the rate you tackle and complete big projects, I am surprised you have any unfinished projects. Perhaps like me, you rarely meet a period or figure you do not like. I have too many interests and feel compelled to game them all.

      2020 will be the year in which I cut back spending. Yeah, that's it!

    2. We should form a mutual support group for that Jonathan. I might start by documenting how much I actually have ahead of me, to try to shame myself into some measure of restraint for 2020.

  7. Interesting, especially the figures showing a clear Fantasy / Sci-Fi towards the younger and end historicals towards the older end, which of course is no surprise, but it is the identification of the cross-over that is of prime interest, clearly being in middle age point AT THE MOMENT! I wonder if that sort of pattern has been a fairly long term thing or is it the case that the younger sci-fi based element will simply get bigger (i.e. older) and so the cross-over will creep up to later middle age and that historicals will become a shrinking part of the bigger picture. So in effect, the historicals are greying and the Sci-fi are booming and that wargaming is not ‘dying’ but simply changing.

    The spend thing is interesting, as I think older people are the ‘big armies’ buyers and the young are into skirmishing systems ....... but, I had the real world impression that a lot of different skirmishing and box sets were being bought and so I would have expected that the younger end of spend might have been a bit higher.

    1. Norm, thank you for your well-crafted comments and valuable insights.

      The seemingly clear delineation between Fantasy/Sci-fi and Historicals by both age and spending is a key take-away in this analysis. Will younger generations, today entrenched in fantasy/sci-fi, follow the tendencies of the older generations as they march through their life cycle? Will these younger gamers cross-over to historicals as time marches on or will they stick with fantasy/sci-fi and build large armies as their purchasing power increases. This a very important question for both manufacturers and marketers.

      The older generations may be the 'big armies' buyers simply due to purchasing power. When the 'Mean Spend by Age Group and Primary Interest' table in my 09DEC2019 WSS blog post is examined, the 41-60 age groups spend more on both Fantasy/Sci-Fi and Historicals.

      It may be that wargaming is changing and not dying.

  8. I wonder is the mid range (30-41) reduced spending due to the fact that so few games now require 'large' expensive armies, whilst the Grognards still want to do that and expand their collections.

    1. Darren, army size by age group could play a role but if you look at the mean spend by age group, the 31-40 group still spends about $1,000 per year. This is the third highest total among all age groups. The reason this group ends up in the yellow quadrant, alone, is that this group tends to spend across all spend categories equally. They show no discriminating tendency to spend more frequently in one category than another. This group has a balanced spending profile.

  9. Interesting analysis, Jon, as well as the fact that it largely confirms our subjective impressions. As I head towards 65 in a few months (but hardly retirement), I do expect to decrease purchases of figures. After all, what more do I really need? How much lead is actually in the Lead pile, anyway?
    Hasn't happened yet, though, and I still anticipate a hefty budget for 2020! :-)

    1. Glad you find this sort of work interesting! This analysis mirrors my life cycle spending patterns too. I had no exposure to the fantasy/sci-fi side so this has been eye-opening for me.

      I expect to decrease purchases too but I always find a new project that catches my interest. I tend to spend more than I plan. I justify it as stockpiling for retirement!

    2. I did quite a bit of fantasy gaming (D&D, some massed battles), and limited SF Naval gaming when I was younger... but that was an outgrowth of my historical gaming, rather than a gateway to it. Of course, D&D was new after I'd been doing historical gaming for about 5 years already.

    3. I played a little D&D back in the 70's but that was the extent of my fantasy gaming.

  10. Fascinating stuff Jonathan, not sure I completely understand the analysis. But I am definately in the red quadrant, 55 reasonable disposable income and a broad spending profile. The only challenge is those gamers who don’t really want to admit what they spend ! I guess the most interesting thing might be whether there is a fixed developmental curve and spend for all average gamers ?

    1. Thanks, Matt! The analysis is a bit math heavy under the covers so I tried to keep that facet to a minimum.

      One problem with assigning spending is that memory may be deceiving. I most likely spend more than I remember or claim. Many others may be in the same situation.

      For life cycle or developmental curve on spending, see the MEAN SPEND BY AGE GROUP AND PRIMARY INTEREST table in my WSS blog post referenced at the beginning of this post.

      Your comments and insights much appreciated!

  11. Interesting post,being part of the "hard campaigners " group I don't seem to be spending enough! Maybe because I have more of a plastic pile rather than a lead one? As I am a somewhat less mature member than Robbie I find myself disagreeing with him as I started out firmly in the fantasy/ scifi as D&D was my gateway drug into the hobby and for some decades all I really painted was 40k,GW stuff and then moved over to historical in my 40s( my nephew's have also done, in their30s/40s and also my niece's husband who is a similar age) What I have noticed with at least some of the former 40k players is their desire to have a "game in a box" which would explain why warlords started boxes aren't showing up in the younger demographic but are probably more in the 30/40 group who have grown up with regular boxed sets of warhammer and 40k,bolt action feels very 40k ish as well . Thanks for the number crunching!
    Best Iain

    1. Iain, thanks for your feedback and relaying your personal situation.

      If you and a number of family all came to the ranks of historical wargamers through fantasy/sci-fi then that offers encouragement for the continuation of historical wargaming.

      You provide valuable insights into the hobby.

  12. It all makes sense to me, I have spent quite a lot over the past six years or so but I feel I am reaching the point where I have to stop as I have nearly everything I need for my main periods and do not want to spend just for the sake of it. Is that a consequence of just hitting 67? My spending now will be on the basis of want rather than need, which hopefully is cheaper.

    1. Thanks for your feedback, George! I am not sure "wants" are less costly than "needs!"

  13. I SWEAR that I once took a course in statistics and even passed it; so I shouldn’t have to read the post twice to understand it....
    I seem to be missing from a major group being in my early 40s but I’m probably just an older member of the wanderers who’s transitioning into a campaigner. Hopefully slowly bc I’m in no rush to be a decade older.
    I’m less interested in how much people spend or what they play, but I’m intensely curious about how often people play. That would be fascinating to see a breakdown of how much hobby and playtime we actually have (though probably hard to track accurately).
    Though I’d be scared I’m at the lower end...😀

    1. Stew, I am impressed you went back and read this a second time. Well done! Did it help?

      If you look at the colored quadrant chart, notice that your age group (41-50) lays on the origin. What this suggests is that the 41-50 age group diverse in both spending and gaming genre such that it is difficult to differentiate any attributes particular to this age group. That is, your age group enjoys all gaming genres and spends across all spend categories.

      Your last question would be an interesting one, for sure. Unfortunately, this question was not asked on the survey. Perhaps we should add this question to next year's survey?

      Thanks for making the effort to wade through all of this analysis. This type of analysis is beyond a level taught in a first stats course.

  14. That 40-50 transition period might be interesting to dig into.

    1. We might find a few nuggets in the process, for sure.