Monday, 23 May 2011

Games Workshop Kills Kittens and sexually abuses goats!!! (might be an exagerration for dramatic effect)

Or they're just defending a business model that has served them so well over the years!!! This past week, even by Games Workshops standards has been a controversial one, first we get 'fine cast'...its fecking resin!!! No marketing speak please! Not that resin is a bad thing, I actually welcome it, but the bullshit marketing speak that came along with it I do mind. Secondly though, and here's the biggy Games Workshop have struck a blow for capitalists and free market thinkers everywhere by stopping European webstores like the Maelstrom, Wayland Games and others shipping outside of the EU. Restriction of trade, restriction of trade get out your Milton Freidman peeps!!! This has enraged our Antipodean friends in Australia and New Zealand as well as pissing off a sizeable chunk of Central and South America... way to go!

There has been an awful lot of gnashing of teeth and swearing over the last week or so at the injustice the Games Workshop has thrust upon the gaming world. I'm going to try and be more level headed (and hopefully use less swearing) in my appraisal of the situation because things are never really that straight forward in life. I am however going to have to declare some interests and state exactly where I'm coming from:

  1. I use Waylands Games, Maelstrom and Firestorm Games
  2. I'm not Games Workshops biggest fan at the moment, they've killed off Warhammer Fantasy off with the turd that is 8th edition
  3. I no longer play Games Workshops games by choice
  4. I used to work for them many moons ago and think the way they treat their staff is appalling

So as you can see I could be considered a hostile commentator and where I'm coming from you might expect me to be totally against what the Games Workshop has done... but you see I'm not, because its not that simple...

What have they done?

Well in short they've stopped the shipping of cheap product to countries outside of the EU. You can find the statement from their CEO Mark Wells here. Now, something that has been directed at Games Workshop, which I think is quite unfair, is that they're trying to scalp Aussie gamers and others in various far flung parts of the world... now to extent this is true. Because lets face it they're a business and they want to make a profit, but I really do not believe they're trying to rip Aussies or anyone else off more than they would their domestic audience here in the UK. What has partly happened is the screwy exchange rate because of the strength of the GB£ in relation to every other currency on the globe, has made Games Workshops and other local businesses expenses far greater than they normally would be in relation to costs here in the UK. This economists would tell us is the natural market reaction to the UK economy being utterly shyte right now and this current ebb should give our industry (If we have any left) in the UK a fighting chance on the world stage... its not Games Workshops fault however it is incumbent on them to do something about it as a business.

So why have they done it?

Well this 'ebb' in the market also means web retailers in the UK are having a bit of a surge in business. So why should this bother Games Workshop? Well if all they wanted to do WAS scalp people and make a fast buck then I guess it wouldn't, they'd possibly encourage it, but you see that's not all they're interested in because in this business / hobby, that way lies obscurity and eventual death by lack of new customers / gamers. You see those of us who are already in the hobby will always want things as cheap as we can get them and in our own selfish little ways we couldn't give a flying fudge cake whether or not the Games Workshop or any other games company 'grows' the hobby. This is incredibly short sighted of us all and I'm not trying to be superior when I say that, I too have brought discounted product.

We all really need to think back to what got us into the hobby, in my case it was a bonkers dad and his nutty mates who now I think back to it might have been certifiable!!! BUT for most of you it'd have been via the age old marketing tool of the intro game... and for that you need a bricks and mortar store in the locale with a high street presence, or so the Games Workshop still believe and I have to say to an extent I do too. Well to a very small extent, there are other methods or ways of achieving this without having stores, but I digress. These stores however cost money to run and while the Maelstrom, Wayland etc. might have a great business model, and trust me they do, can they really be said to be growing the hobby in Guatemala or Papua New Guinea from their bases in the UK? I'm sure they'd try to and argue they were, but how many intro games have their staff conducted in Melbourne of late? Not many I'd wager. I'm not going to suggest like perhaps the Games Workshop have that in effect these webstores are 'freeloading' off of the spend of businesses out in the likes of Australia who have tried to grow the hobby, because that calls into question the integrity of the people involved in these companies and I think that's unfair, I really do, but it is a valid point of view.

So you see with these large UK retailers under cutting the LGS's in these far flung parts of the globe it makes the Games Workshops standard business model completely unviable. These LGS's have a presence on our high streets, they allow people to stroll into them and peruse the wares on offer. To sample an intro game, and lets be clear about this, our hobby IS a physical thing, it has to be done in person. It can't all be conducted via the internet and if it can we don't need these webstores either we need an Xbox 360 or a PS3!!! The life blood of our hobby is new gamers, and new gamers quite often never knew the hobby even existed without wandering into a store and asking 'whats all this about then?'. While we might think of Games Workshop as some HUGE global behemoth of a corporation, when compared to the likes of Sony, Microsoft and co they're small fry, in fact the Games Workshops entire budget is dwarfed by the budget Sony is currently spending on Uncharted 3, that's a SINGLE game. So competing with other brands of entertainment for new customers by marketing alone won't cut it. Drop in stores supported by communities of local gamers is the only tried and tested method that works.

Is there an alternative?

That's not to say it is the only method that will work!!! There are always alternatives, we just might not have found them yet, although I could have a pretty good stab at it myself. Howevert if these webstores want to continue selling to countries they have no presence in they need to come up with a way of helping support their partners,  in this case Game Workshop and its business plan. Simply shifting the product at a discount isn't doing that and I think if the guys at these stores sat there and actually thought about it they'd realise this was the case. Business is a partnership and when you're in a partnership you don't ignore the other guys point of view or shaft them and that goes for the Games Workshop as well. Because lets be clear there is an awful lot of shafting going on right now both ways, in fact its a shafting cluster fuck and at the center of it all is the customer... you guys.

Our hobby is a community and I hope the Games Workshop and these webstores can come to some form of mutual arrangement that will allow these stores to sell to these countries by co-funding road shows or other such initiatives. I'm more than willing to talk through my ideas with anyone at these webstores or the Games Workshop themselves as I have plenty of them, and I'm sure it'd make both parties happy. Regardless of whether or not the webstores were making a bad picture worse in Australia etc. the simple fact is Games Workshops product is stupidly expensive in these countries right now and because of that expense I really don't think LGS's in these locales are viable any way webstores or not... certainly not right now at least.

I don't think there are any bad guys in this debate I really don't, on the one hand we have the Games Workshop trying to responsibly grow their business and hobby. Yet on the other we have the legitimate business operations of these webstores, who lets not forget are actually gamers themselves many of them, who are just trying to make an honest living. That's a key word there as well HONEST. There's nothing wrong with either stance but clearly the two things right now seem incompatible, but there must be some middle ground... I hope there's some middle ground!!! Because right now the Games Workshop are coming off as the bad guy and that is damaging their image and the hobby as a whole.

What about the gamers?

Well its you guys who are the real losers in all of this. If you're living in any of the countries affected you have my deepest sympathies because I know for many of you this will be the death of your hobby and that must be a crushing blow. If anyone tried taking my toy soldiers away from me I'd get medieval on their ass!!! I can't really offer words of comfort because there aren't any and I'm not even sure their are any easy answers either. Bottom line is the Games Workshopss product costs too much for it to be accessible if it is sold locally, yet if it isn't sold locally the Games Workshop doesn't get its fresh faced customers to keep its business and your hobby going. Its a tough one, and while right now this might seem like a pithy solution to some of my Antipodean friends but... why not try Infinity or Warmachine? Peace out!


  1. Now, in that I agree with you, the have now killed the hobby in latin america, how r we going to get our miniatures without Maesltrom or Wayland :(

  2. It's harsh on you guys, really harsh. I understand the GW's point of view, its not easy for a company like GW to grow its business in other countries in a controlled fashion especially given global trade. You either embrace and work with it or you take the GW's position and try to fight it. Just feel gutted for all you guys... but remember my good man, they can't stop friend like me in the UK posting you presents ;)

  3. Being in NZ I can say this.

    We pay a 60% mark up after exchange rates on GW products compared to the UK and the US.

    We can't order online anymore from other stores

    GW UK charges 350 pounds for delivery to NZ, all but stopping you buying at UK prices.

    I'm playing Warmachine now thanks, sick of being screwed over

  4. @Vomkrieg, I agree. It was a brutally stupid decision by GW to do what they have with NZD, AUS and South and Central American countries. I still don't fully grasp why they just can't understand that their current business model is not suitable for these markets right now and they need to switch to a different method of distribution and marketing.

  5. When sales fall in these regions they will soon do something about it. Not very good right now I know, but in the long term its might be a better picture.

    1. I'm not so sure sales have actually dropped in those areas enough for them to change their tune. I'm hearing sales in Australia dipped iniially after the announcement but then shot back up again to riduculous levels by the end of the year. We'll soon see I suppose when they put out their financial figures, but in the case of Australia it really could be a case of the "lady doth protest too much". If they're all still paying those prices and sucking it up, they'll lose a bit of sympathy from me.