GWS 2020: The future is plastic

To quote Mr McGuire in the 1967 movie, The Graduate, "there is a great future in plastics." According to the 2020 edition of the Great Wargaming Survey, plastics, and especially hard plastic, may be the future. See Jasper's WSS blog post with an initial peek at some of the initial results of this year's survey at GWS 2020: Highlights and Maybe Some Shadows.

In this first look at the 2020 survey results, Jasper highlights responses to one of the new questions on the 2020 survey. That is, "Which material do you prefer for your miniatures?" Based upon survey responses, the answer is hard plastics by a small margin over metal. Resin comes in at third overall.

As I did for the GWS 2019 survey, I plan to dig a little deeper into the data in an attempt to bring more order out of the data chaos. With Jasper referencing Question 17 in his initial blog post on GWS2020, this survey question relating to miniatures' material preference is as good of a place to start as any.

Material choice

Since this question asked for the respondent's top three choices, I limit my analysis to the Top Three choices even though the survey graphic provides a weighted average across all choices. Does that make a difference? Even limiting material choices to the Top Three, Hard Plastic, Metal, and Resin comprise the Top Three choices as in the survey summary.

Seeing the result of hard plastic figures coming out as the top material choice in the aggregate, is a surprise to me. Perhaps this is only one indication that I am out of step with the hobby. For me, metal is my preferred figure material, but I am one of the Old Guard, I suppose. I began miniature wargaming in the early 70s with Airfix HO scale plastics. While I amassed sizable armies in soft plastic, by the early 90s the plastics were jettisoned, and I moved on to metal figures. I really have not looked back. Well, not yet, anyway. I did recently pick up a Star Wars Legion core set in hard plastic to work with my grandson.

Since the graphic above (Figure 1) is an aggregation of the Top Three material choices, does breaking down the rankings make any material difference? Yes, it does. See Figure 2.

Respondents' top choice for figure material is Hard Plastic (48%), Metal (38%), and Soft Plastic (5%).
Respondents' second choice for figure material is Hard Plastic (33%), Metal (27%), and Resin (21%).
Respondents' third choice for figure material is Resin (35%), Metal (17%), and Soft Plastic (10%).

These results suggest that outside of hard plastics and metals, resin is a popular second choice. As a third choice, it is dominant. Interesting since my collection of resin figures is almost nil. Most of my resin models are for WWI aircraft. I cannot think of having any resin figures, but I must have a few. Again, I seem to be out of step with the masses.

Age predicts preference?

Perhaps, my out-of-stepped-ness can be explained by age? As seen in many of the analyses from the GWS2019 survey, age does matter. Is that the situation here as well?

Looking at Figure 3 (below), age seems to be a driver of material first choice as well. In the 40-and-under age groups, roughly two-thirds of respondents pick hard plastic as their first choice. Hard plastic as a first choice drops to 50% for the 41-50 Age Group, to 33% for the 51-60 Age Group, and down to 23% for those 61-and-over group.

For metals as a first choice of material, popularity increases with age. Those respondents in the 40-and-under groups list metals as a first choice in less than 20% of the responses. In the 41-50 age group, metal as a first choice jumps to 37%. In the 51-60 group that first choice percentage is 58% and two-thirds for those 61-and-over.

Is this pattern brought about due to figure size, game genre (fantasy vs historical), game type, combinations of all three, or something else entirely? Perhaps cost is a major contributing factor in material choice? Cost for the lower age cohorts certainly seems a reasonable barrier to entry into the world of fielding large armies in metal. I have my hunches based upon these results and trends seen in the GWS2019 survey.

Next time, I will examine the effects of adding preferred figure size, game genre, and game type into this debate on the drivers of material preference.

The future may come down to one word, plastics.

For readers making it through these graphics and analysis, and wanting to weigh in with their own observations and experiences, I encourage and look forward to your comments.

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