Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Is the Imperium a Metaphor for Games Workshop?

I don't think this is meant to be ironic, but...

Now I'm probably not the first person to have thought the Imperium could be a metaphor for Games Workshop itself, and I'll probably not be the last. Hell, I'm probably not the first person to commit the idea to paper or the Internet, however I am a lazy bastard at times and I can't be bothered to go search around the place looking at other people's thoughts on the topic, especially when I have so many of my own opinions, thoughts and yes, my own brain dump to achieve. Yeah, I'm sorry this is going to be another one of my "its in my head and it needs to come out" posts, so if you're one of my readers who couldn't give a flying feck about what I think, you may as well go do some painting or something...

Blood Bowl by Yogh-art - Here
If you're still here, put some music on and make yourself a drink, this is going to be a long one. Why am I dumping my thoughts on Games Workshop into a stream of consciousness? Well, I was talking to a friend and he said that my blog should return to the subject of my displeasure with Games Workshop, because it struck a chord with so many people, and that if a few readers could just see that I'm genuinely like them, that I once loved Warhammer and 40k, that I actually brought Gorka Morka and all the iterations of Epic, that I ran Blood Bowl leagues and Necromunda campaigns, that I care, then maybe, just maybe, all my other points and articles might hit home. Yes, I love the 40k fluff. I still think it's great. Yes, I love the back story and characters of the Old World no matter how generic and formulaic it might bloody well be. I love it. I grew up with it. It made up much of my childhood. So yeah, I'm like much of you... except I've seceded from the Imperium. It's also been partly inspired by chats I've had with Jake Thornton over the last few months, and the HoP blogger SinSynn, so I'm acknowledging their involvement here as my inspiration, so to speak.

So why has this idea of the Imperium being a metaphor for Games Workshop suddenly occurred to me? Well, it hasn't; I first thought it might become some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy right about the time the British Higher Education system and I finally got bored of each other and we decided to go our separate ways around 2002. I looked around at the gaming landscape here in the UK and I saw this big, supremely bloated organisation, Games Workshop, dominating the wargaming landscape. They'd crushed out all independents, pretty much, in exactly the same way the Emperor's Crusade had united the known human galaxy (by dubious means of course - he's an emperor not a UN Peace Envoy). Games Workshop had managed to unite wargaming with some of their own questionable methods, primarily buying up exclusive rights to importing products and then... not stocking them. They also at various times stopped independents selling Games Workshop stock and opened their own stores where independents appeared to be doing well... but lets not go into the details too much!!!



If you don't know who is responsible for this... well... I give up!!!
I even joked at the time I left university that it was funny because they'd written a back story that warned against monolithic structures, dogma, and the crippling stagnation it breeds, but were doing the exact same things themselves in their business. But no one else found it funny and most looked at me like I was some sort of weirdo. Well, to be fair, I am some sort of weirdo, but that's not the point. Games Workshop was having its renaissance period, basking in the glow of its own received wisdom. At the head of the company were people who had fought the wars in much the same way as the Primarchs had, and therefore they knew what they needed to do to be successful. Because they'd done it, they'd seen off their competitors and now they could expand and strengthen. Their retail chain had in effect won them the war; they'd all but eliminated their competition.

Stagnation by empatia - here
However, without that competition in the future, the successors of the early pioneers might struggle to understand what is needed of them to evolve the company and its products, to maintain this success, and to know what to do when the inevitable new enemies appear. Without competition they might become weak, and indeed I think they have. You see, just like the Imperium, Games Workshop entered a period whereby they had no competition here in the UK. Kids around my age, without the geeky parents I had, didn't know of any other companies or products. By the early and mid 90's, Games Workshop had rooted out these heresies and purged them from existence. However, it's a double-edged sword; you see, companies get stronger and better because of competition, or they die. But mostly they learn to be a little less rubbish, because if they don't, somebody else will steal their business. Competition gives companies drive, it keeps them on their toes, forces them to innovate and provide better product.

The irony though, is that the ultimate goal of any private business in a capitalistic system, whether stated or not, is to destroy all the competition. Why? Well, think about it; that competition means that you are making yourself or trying to make yourself better than the other guys so people spend their money with you rather than them. Yeah, that's right, Games Workshop destroyed the competition by offering a more compelling product or better service than others out there, or perhaps just by creating a monopoly. Nobody knows for sure, because the victor gets to rewrite history. Besides, it's a moot point and one that's not really important because again, much like the Imperium they created, they were now the ultimate power in the galaxy. Perhaps in the early days they were too good? It's a distinct possibility. So, like the Emperor, all competition was crushed and one singular truth remained. And that truth would ultimately stagnate because times change, and if companies or empires stand still, they quickly become irrelevant and die.

Ian on the left and Lara Croft on the rig... no... wait that's wrong...
Two of the original founding members of Games Workshop, Ian Livingston and Steve Jackson, have both moved with the times and gone into computer games. They embraced technology, however Games Workshop has blindly stuck to their original template that brought the company success, and while that might seem totally logical, it is also blisteringly flawed as it assumes the environment is the same when it quite clearly isn't!!! Since their founding we've fought wars with Argentina, Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. We've seen communism falter and fade in Russia and China and witnessed the works of Karl Marx recently gain some credence again. Women have got equal rights, the Euro has been created and Birmingham City FC have finally won a major Cup (sort of). The world has changed. Now I'm not suggesting they stop producing little toy soldiers, but they do need to look around them and see how their product fits into the world they find themselves in and make sure that what they're doing still fits with what we all want to do.

Gotcha by Steven6 -Here
But what is this plan that made them so successful, this STC? Well, it's predominantly putting a physical shop in every and any backwater they can and then try to squeeze the competition out of the area and totally dominate the supply of any demand and more importantly, information. If Games Workshop was the only show in town in the 1980's and even early-to-mid 90's, then that used to be pretty much the only way to get hobby information, and of cause it was totally biased towards them and their product. They struggled with that model however in the USA however, because it's a vast nation, and clearly they've struggled with the model elsewhere as well. You see, it worked in the UK of the 80's and early-to-mid 90's, however the world around them as I have said has changed, and stoically Games Workshop has stayed the same, refusing to usher in new ideas. Much like the Imperium, they have an STC sent down to them by the God Emperor and they are blindly sticking to it by faith alone, even as they sacrifice yet more dividends from their shareholders to feed the bloated beast at Lenton Lane.

Space Wolf by Juddski - Here
You see, this is the ultimate fallacy Games Workshop has told itself time and time again. It's been so successful because they've made the best games, the best miniatures and the best hobby products. Sorry, its bollocks, and has pretty much always been bollocks. The reason Games Workshop was so successful was because their retail network, which was built on the backs of other companies' products as well, was so comprehensive and, quite frankly, good at customer service. Many independents in the early days were run by insular hermits who didn't like talking to real people. The Games Workshop stores however, were friendly and accessible. These shops were the foundation the company was built on, not Warhammer Fantasy Battle and 40k - they've told themselves this lie so long ago now that those who were there, those who knew the truth, have forgotten it. The main reason their games became so popular is because they had a monopoly that allowed them the time and space to turn their games into the products they've eventually become. This monopoly allowed them to rise to be the best. They certainly weren't the best in the early days, and despite Games Workshop thinking it's their games and IP that are the real commodity, The company's real strength is actually their retail network.

The games you see have started to falter of late. Randomhammer has caused ructions in the community and it's now at the point where I can say hand on heart I only know two of my vast network of close gaming buddies who are still playing it, when previously almost all did. It's old, it's stagnant, and quite frankly needs an entire overhaul from top to bottom. The core mechanics are 30 years old now and the game we have now is far larger in scale than the one Rick Priestly originally envisaged. Warhammer 40k too has actually grown and then grown some more, to itself be a beast it was never intended to be. Why? Because to support their greatest asset, the stores, they needed us all to by ever-increasing numbers of miniatures. It's got to the stage where the various offices of the Imperium (or departments of Games Workshop), are actively hindering each other and slowly killing themselves off with a toxic cycle of a business plan that really requires some radical thinking, which I'll cover tomorrow. For now though, it's the vitally important High Street presence that should concern them the most.

However, this high street presence could still work for them IF the stores were properly staffed and were able to be the 'hobby centers' they used to be when I worked there... but they're not. They're single-man stores where the staff are driven into the ground by a never ending stream of bureaucratic nonsense and corporate speak. Where we as hobbyists can no longer just turn up and learn how to paint or put together a miniature. Where we as gamers are no longer encouraged to come and play their games. Oh no, they want us buy a 'Realm of Battle' board and play at home, or to set up our own gaming clubs. That's fine by me. Why? Because if we have our own gaming clubs it's far easier to show fellow gamers the delightful temptations on offer from other people's products and convince them the Imperium isn't the only show in town. Yep, they're trying to maintain a monopoly while pushing people away. Nothing they do seems to make any clear business sense anymore. They focus on the micro, the details, without looking at the systemic problems they face as a whole, the macro.

Its Mars Approved by astronomicon - here
The long and short of it is, Games Workshop's business practices are shockingly out of date and out of touch with their customers. I was told by a number of Games Workshop staff that a very senior manager at the company had given a speech  a few years back whereby they'd said the recession wouldn't affect Games Workshop, that they were 'recession proof.' A quick look at the profit and loss sheets for the past few years shows how blindly optimistic that view was. However these staff who'd been to that meeting came away from it thinking they were working for a company that at best was run by fanatics and zealots with no common sense or original inspiring thought and at worst incompetent idiots. They've all long since left the company - again, a bit like the Imperium; the dogma drives away the truly loyal and only the blindly loyal remain. The annual price hike has still taken place year on year, while other luxury or hobby goods manufacturers are trying to lower prices... but the price hike is part of the STC and the STC must be obeyed!!!

Mark Wells CEO and Tom Kirby Chairman - Games Workshop

Even after Mantic Games showed them the true truth behind why they started making plastics in the first place (cheap army fillers - because all the miniatures are really to gamers is wound tokens),  they blindly forge forward, forgetting to actually ask customers whether we want to go with them. You see, the early Games Workshop was successful because they created and imported a shed load of product. They stuck with what we liked and got rid of what we didn't. They listened, albeit to the ringing of the tills, but they listened. The current Games Workshop has stuck its metaphorical head in the sand like an ostrich. They think they're the only show in town... still. Going to Warhammer World and hearing how genuinely blissfully ignorant many of their head office staff are of the outside world is scary. Some have heard of Privateer Press and the odd one or two of Infinity but beyond that they don't have a clue and seem so out of kilter with what hobbyists are up to that it should terrify their senior management staff. One particular youngster asked me who Mike McVey was. I thought he was kidding at first. He wasn't.

More for less money? Yes please Mantic!!!

This attitude extends into quite frankly piss poor customer service. Not from their shops staff I might add, who are on the whole pretty damn good in my area, but from their corporate head quarters. Games Workshop still think its OK to take up to three weeks to send me a product that has been in production for 10 years. Meanwhile a small one-man cottage industry called Kingdom Death run by an enthusiast of a former Games Workshop product, Warhammer Quest, can get an order of two fine resin-cast miniatures in under half the time from the USA to me here in the UK. Now my geography might not be the best but even I know Nottingham is closer. Although given the speed of delivery you would swear New York was way closer. You'd also probably on the standard of service alone say the one-man show Kingdom Death was more professional than the overly bloated Games Workshop. Yes, Adam Poots the lone ranger is able to offer a way better service than the industry behemoth.

This isn't a one off though is it? We've all faced it. Some of you still haven't received your subscription copy of White Dwarf yet. Why? Because Games Workshop's customer support is shit!!! Advanced ordered the Ogre Kingdoms army book? You mug, they only treat you right while they're trying to get your money. You'll get that book days after someone like me walks into a store and picks it up off the shelf. They still live in a world where they think the old 'mail order' time scales of 2 to 3 weeks are relevant. It's not. They operate in a world where Amazon and other online retailers can get product to me in under 24 hours for a small fee, or 48 hours for no fee at all. It'd be OK if their shops were fully stocked with the entire range but they're not. However, the worst customer service I have had recently from any company, if not ever, actually came from one of their shops, which is bizarre considering I have a lot of respect in the main for many of the local staff here in the West Midlands. It actually happened in the Birmingham Games Workshop and involved the current regional manager, a guy who we'll call Jobsworth McIncompetent (I know his real name as I used it to make my complaint which never received a response) to protect the identity of the innocent. He just shows exactly how little the company actually truly cares about its customers and he exemplifies an attitude I've come to expect from many of the senior managers I've had the displeasure of bumping into over the past few years. It is an attitude of them being at best incompetent and feckless, but at worst being brutally arrogant and 'superior' to you the 'citizens' - sorry, 'customers'.

It was the stores 25th Birthday (although I knew it was actually 26 years old and it was in the wrong month) and they were throwing a party. Jobsworth McIncompetent decided to serve me as Brett, the actual store manager, was busy running events and his staff were struggling with a shop full to exploding and were run off of their feet doing events. Jobsworth started serving me. He ran my products through the till: a book, some glue, and some scenery. So far so good. He took my card off of me and then... decided to walk off. No explanation, he just bloody walked off and left my card behind the till. He didn't appear to be doing anything other than looking at the staff making deliberate prats of themselves during a raffle; his presence certainly hadn't been requested by anyone. I had a train to catch!!! It's a credit to Brett that he could actually see what was going on and came rushing over to finish the transaction. If these are the sorts of idiots they have as area managers what hope do they have as a company? How the hell can Jobsworth McIncompetent sit there and tell his managers how to run their stores, tell them about good customer service, when he himself wouldn't know what any of that stuff was if it smacked him repeatedly in the face with a fecking Thunderhammer? Answer: he can't because he's so utterly rubbish himself!!! Yet I bet he acts like a Commissar when it comes to stupid head office nonsense like rainbow displaying paints and having motivational posters up. They love their motivational posters, trust me...

FanartBattlesister WH40K by Kamyu - Here
They seem to exist in a bubble of deniability where they truly believe they are the greatest company around. You see all companies say they make the best product or do the best things to try and convince their customers via marketing to buy their crap. However, on the whole most companies know it's probably horse shit and that it's all marketing speak. What they've done is position themselves in the marketplace as best they can and hope the market research was right and the punters like what they're doing and the cash rolls in... but Games Workshop management staff seem to be laboring under this self-made illusion that they are the mutts nuts and can do no wrong. They seem to be the only ones in the world still believing their own bullshit. They haven't realised we all get fantastic customer service off of other companies, they haven't realised other companies are now making far better miniatures than them, cheaper miniatures than them and better games than them. Like one half of the Imperial Aquila they are blind to the truth. The world has changed and continues to do so and they need to change too.

Warhammer Signs of Faith III by nachomolina - Here

However, the biggest change Games Workshop has seen in its time as a business is the Internet and online retail and indeed the globalisation of commerce and communication. The Internet ruins Games Workshop's STC. Think about it; before the Internet they could dominate all other methods of communication, like the Imperium. Magazines? Well, White Dwarf became the biggest magazine because it was the best and it used to cover everything, and then, when it killed the competition off, it only covered Games Workshop products. The other place that you could get information about the hobby was your local hobby store - oh snap! - that's right, they pretty much drove all the independents out of business, and their High Street presence is astounding even to this day here in the UK. However, they didn't count on the Internet, the multi-headed beast that knows no bounds and lives in the warp (except normals calls it cyberspace). Yes, the Internet is Chaos!!! Fear the Internet!!! Because trust me, the Games Workshop hierarchy fear, loathe and detest the internet...

Beserk of Khorn by Yogh-art - Here
The Internet is Khorne enraged! It is Internet message boards full of angry fanbois and Internet warriors railing hard against Games Workshop, spewing forth hatred and anger with a rage unbound. They attack the Imperium - erm, sorry - Games Workshop, night and day, exposing every weakness that exists, pointing out how crap things have got at every conceivable turn in a seething torrent of abusive text, wounding the slow, lumbering beast that is unable to comprehend this force of nature or cyberspace. Confused, Games Workshop management flounders and tries to ignore the reality of their situation. They huddle together like the citizens of the Imperium. They believe in their own fallacy that what they do is right, good, and the best there is and that these horrible daemons (complaining customers) will go away or eventually be extinguished by the true light of faith, the Games Workshops truth. Except they aren't going away; they're getting worse. Just like in the fluff, Chaos is growing stronger and the Eye of Terror is getting bigger by the day. But do they listen? Do they read the signs and portents? Do they heck as like!

Nurgle Marauder by after-eleven - Here
The Internet is also Nurgle. It spreads the disease and pestilence far and wide. Any malcontent or dissatisfaction is instantly beamed around the globe like a virulent virus in less than a second, and it sits their for all eternity, festering, waiting for new victims to happen by so it can infect them with its disease. And so it becomes a global pandemic, with more people adding yet more boils and pustules ready to burst forth at any prodding or poking from inquiring minds. Bad customer service in Sydney? Someone in Slough will get to hear about it and know they're not the only one who's been treated like shit. Unhappy with 8th Edition Fantasy? Well, now the Internet tells you you're not alone and feeds you the symptoms of that particular decay. Hate random charges? Check. Hate the overpowered magic? Check. Hate the stupidly large infantry units? Check. So on and so forth. You can self-diagnose your hobby ailments. Witness the furore over European independent online retailers and the decision by Games Workshop to cut off the cheap supply of miniatures to South America, New Zealand and, lest I forget, Australia. Whether or not that was the right thing to do again is a moot point; just look at the rage and seething animosity it created. Why should we in the UK care? Well apart from a mutual camaraderie born of a common hobby, we shouldn't, but the Internet made us care about the Imperium's - erm - Games Workshop's mistreatment of its far flung empire's extremities and its down trodden citizens - sorry I'm at it again - customers.

Warhammer Slaanesh by Genzoman - Here
The Internet is Slaanesh too. It's full of temptation and no, I don't mean Japanese school girl tentacle porn, although it's full of that too. No, it's people like me, who don't denigrate Games Workshops openly (although I am right now). That's not how we devotes of Slaanesh roll. Oh no, the way Slaanesh works through people like me is that we would rather show other companies' sexy new products that are better and more tempting, and probably cheaper, yeah you love it you whores. We show the odd flash of Infinity nipple, or Dystopian Wars cleavage. You might even get the full frontal nude shot of Warmachine and Hordes, or the ever-so-kinky and suggestive view of Malifaux rolling in silk bed sheets as she smiles seductively. You like it, don't you, you bad, bad boy!!! There's stuff out there, and the Internet is willing to sell it you and extol its glorious, hedonistic virtues: this ones has gorgeous mini's; this one has sexy rules; this one is free and easy and will game with ANYONE!!! Come on, be a game whore, be a faction whore - you're too much gamer for one game and one faction. Come on buy me, buy me, buy me hard!!! Oh yes, the Internet is definitely Slaanesh and Games Workshop has no idea how to use its wily ways to sell its own wares.

Champions of Tzeentch by MajesticChicken - Here
The Internet is also Tzeentch, the Changer of Ways. The Internet has been a game changer for everything and everybody, and those who have changed with it and embraced it have reaped the rewards this whirlwind of change has brought with it. Is it all good? No, but that's the nature of change; sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad, but everyone has had to bend to this irresistible force of change. But not Games Workshop, oh no; they fear it. Trust me they do. I've heard people at head office prattle on about, "bloody Warseer this" and "damn Dakka Dakka that." They hate that these places exist and that hobbyists know about them, because they can't control what you all think and say out there in cyberspace, no matter how hard they try. It has ushered in for the rest of humanity an age of digital streaming, online shopping, communication and convenience. The world is at our finger tips and we are now used to far quicker more instant results from those with whom we choose to do business. So when we are met with an archaic institution such as Games Workshop so clearly is, it feels like an anathema to us. Yes, the Internet (Tzeentch) has wrought change on the world like no other force before it, and it has brought its three siblings Khorne, Nurgle and Slaanesh, with it. But the biggest thing the Changer of Ways has foisted on Games Workshop is the evolution of rule systems. While Games Workshop has stagnated with the 'you go I go' turn mechanic, others have brought in ways of making sure we're 'always playing,' not to mention new interesting mechanics like using a deck of cards, and many other innovations besides. They've even then had the audacity to bloody use the Internet to give the rules away for free! Wargaming has evolved, while Games Workshop have stuck rigidly to what they know.

As Chaos Advances by Juanico-El-Muertes - Here

However, much like the Imperium they created in their fluff, this heresy is of their own making. It started internally. Many of the early prophets of Games Workshop, such as the aforementioned Livingston and Jackson, left. So, too, did the Rick Priestly's, Andy Chambers and Mike McVey's, as did many others after them - people like Jake Thornton, Alessio Cavatore and many, many more besides. All fell to the lure of heresy and new things, or were purged from the Imperium by the Inquisition. Some went on to help form new companies like Privateer Press, Avatars of War or, most recently, Mantic Games, and yes, I do think Ronnie Renton is on to something. These guys are like us they're gamers and enthusiasts. The pain for Games Workshop though is that these 'heretics' actually knew a time before Games Workshop's monoculture. They know different things. They are 'gamers' in the broader sense and they have a wealth of experience that they can draw on. Hell yeah, sure, Games Workshop has probably taught them a trick or two as well, but they have fresh and new ideas because they weren't brainwashed by the propaganda.

What Games Workshop is left with is a bunch of people who have only really ever known Games Workshop product, and who therefore have a very narrow spectrum of experience to draw from. At least that is very much how it seems to me. It's incestuous, and the DNA, or gene-seed if you will, is becoming weaker and weaker with every passing day. Games Workshop has diluted its own essence and it's becoming a parody of itself. It desperately needs fresh blood, but not drawn from the ranks of its adoring subjects, oh no. It needs some of the Xenos and Heretics to join them. Yeah, the people they've ostracised and ridiculed. The people they've pissed off and annoyed. They don't need Matt Ward writing anything else for them at all. Ever. Period... bloody stop him before he makes a Forever Friends card with Necrons and Blood Angels. Please somebody stop him!!! They need to get rid of the 'Matt Wards', who are stale and pale imitation of who Games Workshop employed before. I'm sure they're nice people, but nice people don't win you wars. When you're in a dog fight you need winners.

So what we have is a bunch of zealots who only know what Games Workshop has told them. The received wisdom and knowledge passed down through the ages, its meaning often mistranslated or openly and brazenly misinterpreted. We have an increasingly insular bunch of people at the top of the company, totally paranoid about everything, developing games without doing open Beta's like everyone else does. Treating all information like it's a secret to be protected, and not communicating with us. What we have my friends, is the Inquisition. Fear the Internet (Chaos)! Fear other game systems (the alien)! Fear everything that isn't us!!! It's probably this fear of the unknown and the outside world that keeps them so locked up in Lenton Lane, shit scared to look outside in case the massed ranks of the enemy might see them!!! They've turned themselves into the Inquisition.


So there we have it, the Imperium is a metaphor for Games Workshop I believe. You see, we now have an Imperium beset on all sides by Xenos, heretics and well... nerds (let's pretend I said 'Nids'). You see, Games Workshop is the monolithic empire stagnating, bereft of fresh ideas and leadership, while all around their enemies stalk them. We have Privateer Press and Battlefront cast as the forces of Chaos, turning Games Workshop's own methods on them, doing things slightly differently but in an ever-so-familiar way. We have Malifaux and games of that ilk rampaging around having a laugh and bashing Games Workshop over the head with a fun hammer as the Orks. We have Infinity as the elegant and advanced Eldar, hell, maybe even the Dark Eldar and Tau to boot. Then there is Mantic Games, the new comer to the galaxy, aiming to devour much of the Games Workshop's DNA and repurpose it into a leaner, meaner fighting machine (yeah they're the Nids). So is the Imperium doomed? Well that's partly up to them and mostly up to you its loyal citizens: with Xenos and Chaos at the doors offering their temptations, do you still want to resist? I don't...

Death Company by Scebiqu - Here
However, please don't mistake the passion I have expressed in this blog for hatred or blind nerd rage and petty spite. It is not that, I assure you. No, it comes from a different place and one Games Workshop should do well to understand; it is born out of a sadness at the way they've ruined their core games, trampled on their own legacy, and destroyed any love I might once have harboured for their products. Yes, OK, it's tough love, but it is still love. It's grown from a near-decade of disappointment in substandard product and services, and a lack of respect for me and my friends as loyal customers and fans. It's grown of a frustration and a desperation that something that once was so good has gone so epically wrong, and taken so many blisteringly obvious bad steps along the way. They're once more targeting the kiddy-pound - did they forget what Pokemon did to them? Look at much of the artwork on these pages. I'm pretty sure not all of it is 'official' artwork. Just look at what they've inspired in others! You see, for 27 years, Games Workshop had (note the past tense there) been a part of my life, but they've stuck two fingers up to people like me - gamers, painters and hobbyist - and said they don't give a damn about us. They are under the misguided perception that nerds and geeks grow on trees and that there will always be a fresh batch. They're right to an extent, except the next batch are our offspring and I won't let any of my spawn ever worship at the Games Workshop alter while they treat us like mugs. It's also easier to grow a business while keeping your core customer base happy. If you become like a shark, always having to swim forward in search of the next customer as you haemorrhage your old ones, it can get tiring trying to constantly recruit new people, and ultimately, it means you start standing still. Peace out!

192 comments:

  1. I *knew* there was a reason I subscribed you...

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  2. Wow, that's a great article. Well thought out and reasoned. Kudos to you. While you hit on the Xenos and the Malius, you left out the Heretics. Those of us out there, like myself, who have abandoned the true faiths of 40K and WHFB, for thier mutant offspring like BFG, Epic, and Mordheim. We're the like the abhuman squats, a relic of a bygone age that is being forgotten.

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  3. Cheers guys, I really thought twice about posting it because I truly want this blog to be a positive place, especially right now. But you know what I need to vent because I'm watching something I love self destruct and its just so sad to see.

    @Infamous, yes I had forgotten the heretics I guess, or perhaps the long lost inhabitants of specific worlds cut off from the rest of the Imperium for centuries by the warp. ;) I think its an apt metaphor and a powerful one though in many respects. I hope others read it a take from it what they will. Perhaps it'll inspire some others to expand the metaphor or shoot my points down in flames. Either way I hope it starts sensible debate about it, because its our hobby and we're all invested to various degrees in the GW. We need some sensible debate.

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  4. Fantastically well written and thought provoking. You do good work.

    As a relative newcomer to the world of Miniature warfare and painting (I just hit my 3rd year anniversary of walking into a GW Store), I sometimes have trouble understanding the level of love and commitment I see from people towards Games Workshop.

    At the end of the day I feel there is a lack of discourse and dialogue between GW and their fans. In a way GW has become the 'Nanny State' of Miniature gaming. They drip feed us with miniatures all the while touting that their way is the best, and the majority of people seem content to just follow along.

    Certain decisions made recently have started a chain of events for which GW will have to answer for, if they survive long enough to pull their heads outta the sand.

    I'm anxiously awaiting my first box sets of Malifaux Miniatures...

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  5. A very well written article with some very astute observations, and I enjoyed reading it. Thanks.

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  6. Beast! Loved it, hated it, had sex with it and then felt guilty all over.
    I am Slaanesh.
    I am Tzeentch.
    Shift happens mofo!
    But what is all this tentacle porn? Sinn Synn has alot to answer for...

    A very good read Frontline. I think we can all appreciate where it has come from, a place that was once love...

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  7. Well said, I will be posting links to this article on my local club forums. Thanks.

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  8. I agree with you completely, and funny how it fits with their IP, isn't it? The taint of chaos! I've been meaning to post my thoughts on GW for a while now, lest my less-than-veiled comments lead everyone (my eleven readers?!) to believe that I'm bitter and twisted about it. I have a deep affection for Games Workshop's Intellectual Properties, though it is a bit of a misnomer at times. I've had a lot of fun with their games and I don't regret that time at all. I'm even prepared to have a proxy game of 40k with a mate next weekend (if we can get our heads around the very different rules 10 years on) as his being back in the hobby gives me a chance to drag him into the games I play. However, I refuse to pay extortionate prices in New Zealand to an outfit who so clearly thinks I'm a mug. Especially seeing as though there are so many accessible and quality alternatives these days!

    Thanks for posting Frontline, I enjoyed it a lot.

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  9. One more thought while I was re-reading my post - I think the "in your face" nature of Games Workshop does have its advantages. They could be seen as a kind of wargaming "gateway drug". All of my wargaming friends started off with GW, and before the advent of Flames of War I imagine that the same could be said of everyone my age or younger in New Zealand. I've read quite some debate on this point on "theminiaturespage" forums. A useful example is the recently-released Warhammer Historical: Waterloo rulebook. Crusty old grognards were quick to jump on the product from a negative perspective, however others pointed out in reply that if it is an "gateway" for young WHFB/40K gamers to get exposure into historical gaming, then it can only be a good thing. I for one have ordered the rulebook, as I hear its an aesthetically pleasing beast of a thing, and I think it will be some great comic relief from the more "simulation" rulesets and hopefully give us a bit of nostalgia from the old Warhammer days. We shall see. Gosh, and sorry about all of the text...

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  10. Nice post FG. I see what you mean about it overlapping a bit with the ideas in my recent posts - we do seem to think along similar lines much of the time. Your "internet as Chaos" analogy was particularly entertaining, especially the Powers. One question though: in your model, who are the Zoats?

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  11. Such metaphor :)- GW = Apple..

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  12. OK wow, that's way more responses than I was expecting. I'll try to answer all your points as best and brief as I can because I've already subjected you to a wall of text.

    @Vent the lack of discourse between consumer and company with GW is shockingly outdated when you have other companies in the field who communicate so effectively and on such a personal level. The GW believe communication is a one way stream and they should be the ones doing the talking, but people are getting sick and tired of listening.

    @Pacific and Venbro I'm really glad you enjoyed it, I didn't want it to come across as just some nerd hammering away on a keyboard in rage, because that's truly not how I feel right now. Its like watching an ex you had good times with fuck there life up with alcohol and drugs... its not pretty and it makes you feel bad.

    @Blackhand, if you feel the need to post links, post away if you think its that good, hopefully it'll bring in some new people to the debate on my fledgling blog, but I'm not going to link it anywhere myself.

    @Micky, I have no idea really what the hell its like for you guys in NZD and AUS, I really don't. Sure I have people tell me and explain it in gory detail but really its just something I can't wrap my head around. They need to find a way of servicing the southern hemisphere much, much better. Oh and yes the GW do provide a vital function for the rest of the industry they are the company that brings more new meat into the hobby, so to speak, but even that's in danger now because the entry cost is so expensive that I've witnessed parents say fuck that, I'll buy you a PS3!!! That actually happened to a store manager friend of mine and the parent in question was a barrister, who quickly apologised for his fould language. His shock though I've seen a hundreds times before.

    @Quirk, do you mean the Nids Zoats or the Warhammer Zoats? Because haven't the Zoats come back in Fantasy now in Storm of Magic? Any way because of the metaphor I'm going to take it you mean the nid zoats... for me they're people like my dad who were around the GW when it started up and were amongst the first loyal customers to support them, the first generation of people if you will the GW ruined the hobby for. They enriched their hobby and then took it away and said we don't want you now we're big and popular.

    @P[akh]B that's not too bad a metaphor either, although for the main Apples products work and people seem happy with them. 'm not too sure many people I know are currently happy with the GW.

    PS sorry for yet another wall of text guys. :P

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  13. They may well have brought back all manner of stuff, but at the prices they charge I have not looked at 8th at all, so I'd not know. I did have a thought about Zoats though.

    They're the customers who played 2nd edition Runequest; loyal customers who bought loads of things when GW imported a variety of other people's products. They were rejected, but given a compromise solution of GW's edition of RQ (work as auxiliaries for the IG), and then completely cast out, and their existence denied entirely when that was abandoned too. Conform (join the Imperium) or be cast out forever.

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  14. @Quirk, yep... that'll be people like my dad and again it seems like we're on the same wave length. We'll have to sit down for a proper chat one day and set the hobby world to rights, possibly over a game or two of DKH although I'm reeling currently from a few bitter defeats... :P

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  15. Bahind every bitter cynic is a frustrated Romantic.

    I feel you on so many levels, Jes goodwyn and phil kelly saved 40k for me last year with the DE release, Ward has done his best to piss me off since with his bonkers OP emergency toilet paper.

    I have linked this article from my blog.

    GW really could have the best wargames in the world, it would take less than 6 months for them to start the upswing.

    I deeply believe the Emperor must die for the imperium to be saved. Ie get that fat Tw@ Kirby off the golden throne all he does is drain money into his own coffers, he is essentially asset stripping the company.

    I texted you BTW, I would like to catch up again in person at some point, I have something non- GW to run past you.

    Thanks for this

    M.

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  16. Ah so you are who I think you are Sorrowshard!!! Cool I'll look out for the text, although my phone is bloody useless. Yeah it'll be good to catch up.

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  17. @FG it's the defeats that teach you the biggest lessons. It would be good to meet up. At a convention sounds most likely.

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  18. Yes, i am he who you think i am my Norwegien forest Kitteh's say hi , both brown one and white one very much enjoy your kitteh approved articles and demand moAr.

    Srsly hit me up , wanna talk infinity and all sorts.

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  19. All that can be streamlined down to one sentence "Games Workshop is run by Idiots" - the Lunatics have taken over the Asylum! It started with Lord of the Rings - they saw the cash come pouring in, and thought it was their wonderful Management skills doing it (Rather than LotR being such a huge success) - they alienated customers, staff, managers - even some designers and sculptors; and yet the cash cow was so strong, none of that mattered. For some reason, the "powers that be" still think its like it was when LotR was still huge - and its that thinking that is the cancer that's slowly eating away at GW's soul. I was talking about this to my friend Chris, how GW think they can do what they want - simply because they THINK they are bullet-proof. IBM tried something similar with inflated prices and inferior product years ago - and it nearly killed them. If an Industry Giant like IBM can get their fingers burned, what chance does GW have! I've gotten into Crooked Dice's 7TV again recently, their customer service is second to none - I had a miscast head, told Graeme at CD. The next day it arrived! If TWO GUYS can do that (whilst holding down regular jobs AND having Families) WTF can't GW! @Sorrowshard - why du look like a Bond Villain in your Profile picture LoL!

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  20. A very very interesting take on the GWS situation.
    I have to admit I do love 40k (not all of it - ie terrible rulesets and stuff like the sisters release), I was tempted to try fantasy with the new edition till I saw the rules at which point I just couldn't bring myself to buy into the system.

    Being in Australia we got absolutely smashed by the embargo of UK retailers, who could ship plastic kits over here at half the price we buy them for... Our currency has risen and GWS decided to take a rather large swing at Australian consumers. (Perfect opportunity to drop prices I would have imagined)

    Unfortunately the corporation is effectively corrupt to the core, in their annual release (this year or lasts) they proudly mentioned 'growth' and success without any kind of discounting. Ironic since many retailers have to do it for them. Also ironic because their pricing is a major reason they will never draw lots of people into the game, particularly here in Australia. Its unaffordable....

    They are railing against the modern world, and are only succeeding for the reasons you have outlined, and don't seem to realise even these areas won't last with their total mismanagement in other areas.

    Take a look at the letter released about the embargo, here is the TLDR version "Hey, your angry, we know, we don't care though. Here's some excuses that make sense if you only have a single brain cell - now go **** off".

    Sadly unlike other companies who have made similar mistakes GWS ploughs on, apparently unaware.

    Sadly the retail store staff here are chosen for their ability to toe the corporate line and pass on the right messages. Mainly good people but a balanced convo about hobby? Impossible. (All the really honest ones disappeared)

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  21. It's only fitting, I'm massively into DE, and baddies and good old fashioned maniacal laughter.

    Villains always steal the show, even the best hero's are bad flawed people who's selfish interests come into conflict with worse peoples schemes...

    Look at me and my DE for instance.

    I just wanna have fun doing my thang, nothing wrong with a bit of playful rape&pillage, torture and slavery. I just keep coming into conflict with ALL these damn Spaze Mureene players who are obviously committing all those acts on a galactic scale.

    They can't even be honest about it and admit it's because they enjoy it and need to to survive, they just blame some poor old crippled man on a life support machine for it all Vile degenerates !!

    It's the difference between your local artisan butcher and a mechanically reclaimed meat processing plant (the Imperium/GW being the latter)

    Savin the Galaxy a piece at a time , accidentally .....

    I posit that the DE are actually the only true positive force in the 40k galaxy...

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  22. My friends and I have had a few discussions on when GW will go the way of FASA. We all played Battletech 'back in the day', thought FASA was too big to fail, and then...poof.

    The IP has since been sold (at least once) repackaged a few times and bleh. None of us who once had hordes of (now) 'Classic Battletech' minis have any, play it, or even really care about it. CBT now seems to us to be a pale shadow of what BT once was.

    Sad as that is, we feel its only a matter of time before GW and all of it's IP falls in a similar fashion.

    Its really quite disheartening.

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  23. FASA actually closed its doors because of a parting of the ways, not because the business was struggling. One wanted to retire, another to pursue work in the Computer Games Industry etc - they ended "on a high" because they thought the TTG Industry couldn't continue as it had.

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  24. Strangely when the IP has been given to a different company ....

    A bit like the star wars films really, the two films Lucas did not direct are arguably the best, and the newer jar jar binks BS compares very closely with randomhammer....

    Giving Matt ward that edition was like giving a lobotomized monkey a bus full of Nitro Glycerine and puppies to drive.

    Cobbles ftw !!

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  25. Excellent article. The "internet is Chaos" is classic. Interesting timing too, given Netflix's recent fiasco and public apology here in the States.

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  26. Great article, sir! Excellent metaphor. I know a few ex-Games Workshop employees that will definitely agree with your post.

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  27. We had a store manager once that everyone hated. I don't mean that I hated him and people agreed with me, I mean that several people independently expressed said hatred. The store was actually good before that, we had dedicated staff who treated us with respect. And then he came...

    Suddenly there were rules like "you're not allowed to stay in the store more than 20 minutes unless you buy something". This was applied even to those who came in to play games or paint miniatures, and he tried to get it in on Games Night and Veteran's Night too (I think the other staff rebelled against that one, and he rarely worked late enough to force it). I got kicked out once for hugging my girlfriend. Nothing extended (it barely lasted a second or two) and obviously no kissing or such, just a very brief hug. *Bam* That's inappropriate, get out.

    After he left we saw him while we were queueing for Games Day one year. Everyone from our store joined in for booing him, spontaneously with no previous arrangement. Idiot took it as a joke and hung around trying to talk to us.

    The store was never the same again, even after he left. We never got staff like the old team.

    So yeah, I could have predicted the direction the company was going in. I'm glad I jumped ship before the Blood Angels and Necrons became best friends forever.

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  28. I can put all the feelings I share from your article in one sentence. All the sadness, the dissapointment, the dropped expectations, the missed oportunities. At least from my personal point of view:

    War of the Ring.

    Cheers!
    http://dogui.wordpress.com/

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  29. They went wrong when they put Elves in space, everything has been downhill since that day. - Games Workshop design team "Lets make a space version of Warhammer. What about the races? Just give them the same sh!t in space and make it gothic". I don't think the gene pool is getting diluted, it was never much in the first place! Great article.

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  30. What an engaging read!
    I too posted an opinion piece similar to this one; it was after recently playing some 40k (which resulted in me having a GREAT time...followed quickly with depression brought on by the realisation of what's wrong with GW's games & company--and more importantly, where they're headed). It's maddening how having a fun time playing their games is just as likely going to highlight what's wrong with GW as not.

    I still like the fun that their games can facilitate (not sure that the game itself is "fun"); it's too bad GW is relying on their end users to create the value of their product (eeeesh: that's pretty jargon laden, but I *do* think it describes what's going on with GW's games these days).

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  31. Linked!

    I don’t have anything to add to the conversation that hasn’t been said a million times before; but to be honest the biggest emotion I feel towards GW is sadness – it’s a terrible shame to see what has happened to something so much more than a hobby that literally framed my adolescent, teenage and early adult years.

    Yes, I’ve moved on to other wargames, and I’m glad for doing so, but still, GW products produce a very strong sense of emotion and nostalgia.

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  32. Dude! This is so epic that I've gotta stop and come back later (ok the Crazy Lady has chores fer me, but let's pretend I'm doing something cool, instead, huh?).
    I had to comment on Joe McIncompetent, though.
    I really wonder if this isn't a GW sales tactic, since it happens to me virtually every time I bring stuff to the counter in their stores.
    Are they hoping I'll grab some more paint, or maybe brushes or other sundry items near to hand? Do they think if they friggin' LEAVE ME THERE that they'll score an 'impulse buy'?
    I dunno but I resent this...tactic, if that's what it is.
    I mean, seriously- every time I go there.

    I won't comment about the hyper-aggressive 'salesman's pitch,' but I've known the staff at my GW store by name for several years....and they STILL try to sell me Space Marines.
    -_-
    Really, now....

    I've got...really COOL stuffs to do (wait, garbage and grocery shopping is cool? HUSH, YOU!, but I'll be reading the rest (and prolly commenting s'more) later.

    Really good stuff, Frontline!

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  33. This is an excellent article and your ideas about GW should be read by all of us dorks worldwide. On that note, I will gladly offer to go through and pretty it up (I'm an editor in my real life). I'm sure this will spread across the interwebs, and it should be as flawless as possible.

    If you'd like, I can be contacted as Marshal Severarse on Frostreaver.net. I'm not sure if this blog membership permits PM's (I signed up just to post this). I'll copy text from here, work on it, and email it back to you to repost.

    Great stuff.

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  34. OK wow again on the responses, I step away for a while and its gone supernova again… I’ll keep it shortish:

    @Jake, yeah well it sucks being the student and I’d rather be the teacher!!! :P

    @Sorrowshard, Norwegien Forest Kitteh’s are kewt, I’ve sent you a text give me a call and we can arrange to meet up or something and talk toy soldiers again.

    @Doc I hear you brother, its amazing all the things you said over a decade ago when working there still seem to ring true. They push people like you away and that’s their biggest mistake.

    @Kris that’s an opinion often expressed it seems by Aussies. While I might get disheartened and saddened by certain things happening with the GW, here in the UK we have it so good compared to you lot in Aus and New Zealand.

    @Inquisitor_Dunn, thanks matey, sorry to see you’re out of the HoP Idol contest.

    @Da Masta Cheef (Orks and Halo good combo!!!) yeah I’m an ex-Battletech guy too, although I think Doc probably has got closer to hitting the nail on the head with the reasons behind their demise… although there is some truth in what you say also. Do I think the GW will go the same way? No, because too many people love their stuff for that to happen, hell I’m still one of them.

    @Alex, I felt the internet as Chaos was a good analogy other don’t, others seem to think the webway is a better analogy… although of course I could also argue that although originally existing between the material universe and the warp originally after the fall much of it was taken over by Chaos and so that too could fit with the analogy I’ve used too… but doing that would just possibly anger those people even more.

    @Kemp, that’s not been my experience, I’d suggest he was a one off and I can’t imagine any of that coming down from head office. Some people are just tools, sadly they will reflect badly on the companies they work for.

    @Dogui, never really tried War of the Ring so I can’t comment on it really!!! As for the Hobbit I’m putting up an article in a short while about the direction I hope the GW take with it. I think if used properly the license could be an awesome bit of business for them… of course much of it will be decided by what they’ve agreed with the copyright holders in their contract.

    @inrepose, hey I like Elves in Space!!! :P But yeah a lot of people from before Rogue Trader didn’t like the switch. I’m aware of plenty of old timers ;) didn’t like that idea and thought they should have just gone with different and new races like the nids etc. However as odd as it seems it has given their brand of sci-fi a unique flavour, but I guess that also means some people inevitably won’t like the taste.

    @imaginaryeric, sadness is the over ridding emotion I get, but at times it turns to frustration. I guess its because I’ve invested so much of my life into the Games Workshop, their products and games. God reading that back makes me sound like a saddo!!! I need to get a life. lol. :D

    @SinSynn, hey matey, glad you stopped by and yeah I too am given cool and dangerous missions by she who must be obeyed!!! I find if I pretend I’m a spy trying to take the trash out without been seen it makes the whole experience far more engaging… I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts.

    @Marshal Severarse, yes please. Believe it or not I’m actually Dyslexic and I do much of the writing I do to try and force myself into good habits in writing because well… my brain is defective and the only way I can improve my writing skills is to force myself into doing writing. However I know I make spelling and grammatical errors a plenty. You can contact me via email at:

    TheFrontlineGamerBlog@gmail.com.

    And that goes for anyone. I’ll always do my best to respond quickly but please don’t think I’m ignoring you if I haven’t got back to you within 24 hours. Thanks everyone.

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  35. My own blog had started as a way to try and make myself happy with GW games again. In the end I walked away after 13 years finding other games more enjoyable and geared toward certain different game experiences and doing it well. I just can't but feel like GW games are about putting models on a table and throwing dice now. That just doesn't sound like much of a game to me.

    Oh well, my first love is now Flames of War and my mistress that I see far too often is Warmachine now and the experiences I get from them are just better on a day to day.

    Of course big-big events are still fun and only the GW games do them that large so there is one very rare niche experience that GW can provide me.

    I just miss when I could care about a GW game that was good and getting better and fluff that would reel me into reading novel after novel.

    Now those elements aren't there for me and I split them up into two games. Warmachine fiction is awful but real life stories of WW2 are amazing. The game play of both my current favorite systems are really sound and appeal to a veteran who has seen scores of good and bad rules.

    I'm no longer sad about having moved on though. The rules and fluff have just gotten that bad. Listening to Garro on my drive to the NOVA Open was what finally broke my spirit and long developed love for the 40k background.

    C'est la vie it's only a game but it used to be so much more.

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  36. @SandWyrm thank you.

    @JoeGuardsman, I started my blog because I wanted to write about the hobby I love. I've played HoMachine now for 5 years and Infinity for 4 amongst others games. Because of my dad I've always known about other systems.

    As for GW games I personally think they are a little too simplistic for me now. I used to enjoy them... well I enjoyed the community. But now with other games growing in popularity I'm getting that from other games too and one day I just woke up and thought why the hell am I playing Fantasy and 40k again? I'm not enjoying them right now. Will I ever go back? I don't know, I'd never say never though.

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  37. @Marshal Severarse thank you, its appreciated.

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  38. I really enjoyed that, it was a great read. Particularly like the metaphor.

    And I know exactly where you're coming from. It's very childish to be overly negative about a hobby, but as a fellow adult gamer who grew up with these games I understand that it hurts to see them die. And they are dead. I'm pretty sure I don't enjoy them at all any more. I only play out of habit and because my mates do, like a smoker who wants to quit but doesn't really know where to start.

    There are so many exciting things happening in the world of gaming, and the world generally, and GW is still trundling along, trying frantically to convince us all that it's still 1990 and we should bend over and take one for the team. It's pathetic and painful to watch.

    I'm just about to go and read your next post about solutions, can't wait :)

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  39. @James S I think some people seem to think I'm a hater when I just a playa ;)

    Its hard to articulate sometimes how some of us old timers feel about the GW hobby. I've steered clear of the GW for ages now really, trying to concentrate on the positive things going on in my hobby. But I was asked to write some more opinion pieces on the GW. To be honest I was expecting a lot of flack for writing this and I was hoping for some rebuttals, so far the overwhelming response to it via emails has been overwhelmingly supportive of what I've said. A few people disagree with certain points but on the whole people seem to be of the same mind... oddly that just saddens me more. I was hoping for some more people saying cheer up you miserable sod its not all bad and all I've got is people heaping more misery on me!!! :P It seems there are a lot of hobbyists out there feeling discontented with their GW hobby right now and that's a very sad state of affairs because I truly believe a healthy GW is vital to the future of the entire hobby.

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  40. In that case, I'm sorry for being a misery-heaper! I think you just captured the feelings of many old timers so well, it put me in a rare self-pitying mood :D

    I still play GW games for the social factor, but that's all. And that's a good reason to play, maybe the best. I'm actually going in a 40k tournament tomorrow, but I don't give a rat's if I win any games - it's just a silly couple of days of toy soldiers with an antique and retro game system. The trick I think is to not take it too seriously.

    The main effect of GW's unchanging (and, speaking as an Australian, unjust) policies on me is that I only give them the bare minimum custom for me to maintain an army or two so I can pick up the hobby when I feel like it.

    Besides, nothing any company can do can take away the enjoyment I get from painting and modeling, and that's what really got me into it anyway. I remember as a kid buying that old WHFB box with the 60 minis in it, 10 0f each faction, and it was probably a year or two before I played any games at all. I just wanted the models. They still make good models today. They're getting a bit too intricate and ornate for my taste, but I can't deny they look bloody good.

    On your last point, it's true, the whole miniatures and wargaming hobby would be a different place without GW. I wonder how many of these other companies would handle it if GW actually collapsed? Could any of them fill their shoes?

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  41. @James S, I think Privateer Press are the closest to being able to step into the breach should the GW go bump for some reason. But were the GW to go bump I think you'd see others step in. I'd imaging FFG would suddenly be way more interested in the whole wargaming thing. I wouldn't discount other companies being able to ramp up to meet increased demand but it wouldn't be over night, no way. The investment a company like Corvus Belli would need say to meet that sort of demand would be huge and then the time it'd take to put all that in place... well lets just say lead in times would be long.

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  42. Yeah, they'd leave a huge hole, with PP the biggest player. I don't know much about corporate stuff but I too think GWs sales tactics seem baffling in the modern world, and doomed to failure.

    The question is, if they don't change and they do go belly-up, would there be any company out there wealthy enough that cared enough to save them, like Wizards of the Coast did for TSR?

    If I was a competitor I would a) probably be a lot smaller than GW and unable to buy them, and b) feel no sympathy towards them at all. Yeah, their IP's may have developed some originality and influenced others simply by existing for so long, but loyalty is not a strong virtue in business, as GW themselves have demonstrated many times. I am genuinely worried for them, but at the same, you reap what you sow.

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  43. Whether or not you have a love for the company or not the IP is a veritable gold mine, I'm sure FFG's would step in if something went horribly wrong. They certainly seem to be making enough dosh to be able to convince a bank to loan them the funds to turn the GW's IP around... but I'm not saying the GW will go bump. I so think though t hey could be heading for stormy waters and will probably have some tough choices ahead... WFB is dead, do they cut the product that kick started it all for them? It could come to that because although people still play the game, nobody is buying new armies, its just too expensive and out in Australia I dread to think what it'd cost.

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  44. I Know what you mean. FANTASTIC article! It moved me to tears. mostly of laughter but with some underling sadness. I put a link to your site in my latest Blog post. Thanks for writing it.

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  45. I salute you sir. It was a long read, but I love the parallels you have made. GW actually does run their business like the imperium. As a former GW store grunt here in the states we all lived in fear of HR sending an offico assinorium agent, not kidding there is a gw staff shirt that has the rank assasin on it, to remove the store manager because of crimes committed against the company. I even got heat for playing eldar. I had to start a sister army to keep my job.

    It is sad really. I have to agree with your assessment that GW is becoming stagnant. The talent pool has been dulled and lacks the flare it once did. The only good fluff is coming out of the black library books. Although I still do like the fluff out of the eldar codexs so Phil Kelly is safe from wrath at the moment.
    On a related note, matt ward and robyn crudditch should not be allowed to write codexs anymore. wards fluff sucks and his armies tend to be over powered. Crudditch screwed the tyranids yet gave the imperial guard one of the best codexs ever.

    again sir hats off and I look forward to reading more in the future.

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  46. @The Rogue General Hunter, thanks and I'm glad you enjoyed it. I tried to inject it with a bit of humour, but that doesn't always transmit well via the medium of chaos... sorry the internet!!! ;)

    @SeeKarandras, Sorry it was so long, but I don't often touch on the subject of the GW on my blog because currently it takes up literally 0% of my hobby time because the decisions the GW takes pushes me further away every day. However many of the people who have been reading my blog from day 1 and who have emailed me to chat to me know I have a huge passion for their backstory and product and know I'm not just a hater of GW because its cool to hate them, I don't actually hate them I'm just so tired of seeing them screw things up. So if you're hoping to see more articles on the GW you might be in for a long wait because I write about other game systems now mostly because that's where my hobby heart is with games like Infinity, Malifaux and Dystopian Wars cuttently. Also I've been playing a lot of board games lately... and thanks for the compliments.

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  47. Well thought out and a far cry from the rants that are often posted. Kudos.

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  48. @Baneon, thanks for another compliment. I tried hard to make it not read like just another rant, but I know to some that is exactly how it will read. I just wanted to get my feelings and thoughts down in a way that was engaging and at least made people who switch off at rant read, listen and ponder... even if after all that they decide I'm talking utter bollocks!!! lol. Just want people to stop being so blindly loyal or totally hostile toward the GW and articulate their concerns in a slightly more coherent and rational manner.

    ReplyDelete
  49. As someone who started their relationship with GW nearly twenty years ago now I too have been driven away by their policies. I'd stopped playing a few years back for a variety of reasons but about six months ago I decided to get back into 40k, a game I had largely neglected since 3rd ed came out and to consider getting back into WFB. Well I ordered myself up a Death Guard army from the UK. With a massive amount of Forgeworld models. Heck they're cheaper than the standard GW ones here in Australia so why wouldn't you? I got my army and then they stopped international suppliers selling to us, so we are forced to buy products artificially inflated to double their cost in Europe.

    Then I had a truly disheartening conversation in a GW store with one of the staff. I was unfailingly polite, I have always believed that you shouldn't slag someone off in their own home. I'd popped in to have a look at the new finecast stuff and I got the spiel from one of the guys working there. His complete and total disconect from the rest of the gaming world staggered me. After him telling me how revolutionary resin models were for about the fifth time I broke down and pointed out that a lot of companies produce resin and it really wasn't a new idea. His instant response was to say they didn't and demand I name one. I named about five and he stalked off in a huff and refused to even look at me for the rest of my time in the store.

    End result of all of GWs policies is that I'm not buying their product anymore and looking at more and more different systems. That Death Guard army is sitting in boxes, most of it not even assembled, instead I am spending my cash on other things. In some ways I too am saddened by the loss of the game I once loved, on the other I see it as the easily predicted end product of a long line of bad decisions. Hey back in the nineties I watched the per model price of my favourite army double in less than 18 months when GW opened retail stores down here. They did it by changing numbers in blisters and smaller total price increases but anyone with a brain saw what they were doing. At the same time they drove most of the independants out of business here the same as they did in the UK.

    So here I stand looking out at a plethora of great games with gorgeous models and the hardest decision I have to make is what do I collect next? All I know is it isn't going to be a GW product.

    ReplyDelete
  50. @Darg, we may live in different countries. Hell, we live in different continents. But, you sound like you've had a very similar experience to the one I've had with Games Workshop. Except the price gouging you guys have to put up with in Aus and NZD is absolutely outrageous. I struggle to see the 'sense' in many of the 'business' decisions Games Workshop makes, and that saddens and worries me.

    It saddens me because of all the things I've said above. I do still have a big place in my heart for 40k and Fantasy. But, they're just not fun anymore and the extortionate prices mean I see no reason to carry on with their little part of the hobby world.

    It also worries me because they are the 'gateway' company to the industry. They have been for nearly 20 years now. Ask most wargamers and they'll say they cut their teeth on Fantasy or 40k or possibly both. But it's getting too expensive for new comers to the hobby AND it's not fun anymore. Who is going to step up to the plate and bring fresh blood into the hobby if they don't? Are other companies and independent stores ready to step it up? I don't know. Are we as hobbyists prepared, or even willing to step into the breach and act as hobby champions? Again I don't know.

    There are some great products out there now, created by lots of professionally run businesses. But we as gamers need to play our part in promoting those options to people. I'm doing my bit here on my blog and at local gaming clubs. I just think we need more of us doing the promoting and yeah, OK, evangalising. I hope you're enjoying your hobby ow though Darg no matter what you're playing.

    ReplyDelete
  51. This article is about the best editorial I've read in the history of ever. I agree that in the end, it's more of a sadness over what used to be than a rage over what is now that I feel. It really hit home recently when I realized that I had many fond memories of the GW hobby, but that I wasn't making anymore. I went to Games Day US this year and came away having really enjoyed getting to hang out with some fellow bloggers... I guess there was GW stuff there too.

    ReplyDelete
  52. @The Inner Geek, thanks, and I'm glad you liked it. Sadly the social aspect seems to be the only 'plus' side to the GW hobby now, strangely though even this is diminishing because all the people I used to like in the hobby are moving over to other game systems or just leaving the hobby altogether and the people left aren't really my 'sorts of people'.

    ReplyDelete
  53. As someone who was around in the old days and worked alongside people like Andy Chambers, Jake, Mike McVey and the others I certainly see where you are coming from.

    One thing though is that while you correctly say that their huge retail empire drove their inexorable rise to the top, by the late 90s it had also become their biggest liability. Retail you see is an expensive business with razor thin margins (even on marked-up luxury goods like plastic soldiers). You need to pay rents on expensive property in busy shopping areas, you need to pay for trucks to carry your stuff far and wide to serve this sprawling network of retail stores, you need to pay for bright-eyed and bushy-tailed people to sit in those stores and sell stuff - even at GW wages that's a lot of money when you multiply it by the number of staff. In a post-internet world, high-street retail is hugely inefficient compared with centralised mail-order only operations who just need to pay for a big warehouse out in the middle of nowhere, a handful of box packers and a Fedex account. What was once the jewel in the crown quickly became the albatross around their neck and the company haemorrhaged money as a result.

    You are right when you point out the intangible benefits of the retail chain - the ability to control the message alone is huge and also the gateway to the hobby, the accessibility etc but those things aren't free and, ultimately it turned out that even GW couldn't afford them.

    I was fortunate to work at GW during a very fun period, I got to work on some outstanding product and with some incredible talent. A lot of those people are still there and are still producing world-class work. I don't really want to get into a discussion on what is and isn't good because for one it's all largely subjective and for the other it's not a useful sidetrack for this discussion. I will say though that as a former fanboy who got about as disillusioned as it is possible to get, wandered off and (relatively) recently got back on the train, GW still has a lot to offer people like me.

    ReplyDelete
  54. @Iain Compton, I agree. That's why a day after this article I wrote another:

    http://thefrontlinegamer.blogspot.com/2011/09/is-it-time-games-workshop-split-itself.html

    I think the company needs to let their retail chain go off and do what it needs to do to be popular, or die in the attempt trying. And also allow the design studio to do their thing as well. Reality is, the product GW produce isn't profitable enough to support their bloated retail network. Whatever way you look at it though, the retail network needs to be cut back.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Wow...that was just...wow. Awe-inspiring and thoughtful.

    I myself even feel suitably chastened for being willfully blinded by GW's supply of plastic crack to see the damage they've wrought - on themselves, on hobbyists and gamers, and on my poor, abused wallet.

    Is it any wonder when, as I recently decided to put together an IG army, I went with Wargames Factory's very, very affordable and nicely-sculpted Shock Troops and Heavy Weapons as Death Korps of Krieg/Armageddon Steel Legion proxies?

    I really don't know what else to add. Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  56. @Heya Sean. Glad you enjoyed it. I think GW's biggest and wisest move was to make the hobby 'easy' for people. Nothing wrong with that, it was a smart business decision. Thing is now I look round at their competitors it's no longer a case of are they as good as GW, but more a case of how much better they are. Certainly game wise many are light years ahead now. Miniatures as mini works of art can be a different tale because visual stylings are a subjective preference. On quality though Finecast is a massive fail compared to miniatures provided by pretty much every company out there. All I urge is that people go and take a look at other peoples product and decide for themselves what it is they want.

    ReplyDelete
  57. @Sean, just noticed as well that it looks like you've started a blog. If you want any pointers or tips drop me an email:

    TheFrontlineGamerBlog@gmail.com

    Also when you have articles up and running I'll drop you onto my blog roll. Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Actually, I have two Blogger entries, my summer and winter squatter's shacks on the Web (the-armored-saint and nerdbasealpha), neither of them with any photos or text.

    Since I act as a homemaker and caregiver to my elderly mother, my hobby time and brainpower is often rendered short...plus I'm in hospital recovering from a broken leg as I type this. (Close to recovery and heading home, though.)

    Hopefully, I'll have some real content in 2012 (provided Quetzalcoatl or a Hive Fleet doesn't come to destroy the Earth and eat all my bitz) so I may join with the celebrated ranks of FTW and Int. House of Paincakes members...and yourself, of course. I'll be sure to mail you if I have any questions.

    Thanks for replying to my comments.

    ReplyDelete
  59. @Sean, no problem. I try to reply to everyone who comments on my blogs. I just think if you've taken the time to read my article and comment then I should at least give the courtesy of reading it and replying. Sounds like you're having a tough time of it right now, fingers crossed things improve for you soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to say that this pretty much sums up my current feelings to what I've been referring to as 'the empire' for some time.
      I entered this hobby about a decade ago purely because it had lord of the rings and I loved my first intro game in store.
      I even remember my first purchase at the age of 14, back when I had to save up for toy soldiers instead of the rent.
      I had enough to cover a paint set with glue and clippers as well as a mixed box of elves and goblins.
      The store member serving me knew I had to ask the store member to put the spray paint back as I couldn't afford it, he just winked and threw it into the bag anyway.
      Since that moment I've done 40K and warhammer as well as some of the lesser played games like Battlefleet Gothic.
      I still buy their mini's because just like at the beginning I still like them and still play with them.
      Most of the things you've mentioned are what put me off GW now days in one way or another. The centres don't have the same relaxed atmosphere they used to, the product is too pricey to contemplate especially when the number needed for a standard game is increasing.
      Just this weekend I noticed in a borrowed white dwarf that all of the basic Lord of the rings warrior kits now have half the models you got when I started and yet cost slightly more than what I was paying back then. I suspect that the recent release of the new sourcebooks is an attempt to justify that (you now generally get 12 models a pack and warbands are conveniently made up of 12 models).

      As you've asked for some opposing feedback I'll attempt to deliver some opposing opinions in spite of the way I pretty much agree with you.

      Are the hobby centres meant to be for us long beards?
      Kids are the new generation of coin in the tills. While I as an adult can buy much more than I could at 14 I know I'll never have the time to paint/play with it all, as a youngblood I probably bought more consistently over the years rather than all in one hit as I tend to do now.
      Do veterans need to be looked after? We know how to paint, we know how to play, are the old guys hanging around the store putting off newcomers with our pre set cliques and social groups. Surely its the newcomers who need that space on the painting table just like we got ten years ago and if their parents are filling the till why do we need those tight fisted old timers?
      Computer games are cheaper? Well yeah some parents are put off by the cost and go via that route. Others however are desperate to get their kids away from the idiot box and out of the house. Granted GW isn't exactly the popular sports team the envisage their boy/girl playing for but it does get kids socially interacting, making friends, making enemies, coming back excited at the magical miniatures they've not only built but painted and then won victories with. It gets kids READING instead of pushing buttons as they delve into the background of their armies and get amazing at probability in mathematics because theirs a 5/6th chance Captain Aurialus with pass his sav...oh I rolled a one.
      Some of these are qualities are not immediately obvious at first but if it can get kids off the box and walking down to that store every day to see people, surely its worth the coin.
      I'm also not quite sold on the lack of geeks/nerds to fill the ranks (there's no offence intended there neither term holds any stigma for me) I do see lots of kids attend the local events at GW and while individual ex-GW customers may show their kids the wider world of Wargames, what's to stop the recruiting of the wider population of candidates who are only likely to learn about wargaming alternatives later in life.

      Once again want to state that I agree with your comparison in regard to the detriment of GW over the years, the comments are not really the way I see things but perhaps are the way others do.

      Have fun :)

      Delete
    2. In the end I chose to write my own response, to try and 'balance' things out a bit more:

      http://thefrontlinegamer.blogspot.com/2011/12/is-imperium-metaphor-for-games-workshop.html

      lol. Many of the point you raised in your response to this article I raise in the other. Nothing in life in truly black and white, just shades of grey. Thanks for taking the time to write such a lengthy response. ;)

      Delete
  60. Nicely written and well reasoned. Very apt parallels you draw. The solution seems clear to me though - GW simply need to adapt their business model to account for the long term gamer as well as the new recruit. They have the 'new recruit' store model down to a tee, in the form of the existing GW stores. New players can come and learn how to paint, buy a starter set and play an intro game etc.

    The issue is with existing players, who don't want to be continually badgered by salesmen, and want to play a game in their own time against a friend. These players know how to paint, have full armies already, and just want a place to play. I run a games club in Bristol, catering for long-term club members that come back week after week. What keeps our players interested is three things:

    1) Always an available table - no massed multiplayer battles on Tuesday night or squashing onto that 4x4 intro table for a max of 2 hours. You can use a 6x4 for your game, you don't have to share it with anyone other than your opponent if you don't want a multiplayer game, and you won't get asked to wrap your game up early unless you are really taking the piss with time.

    2) You can play any game you like. This is one of GW's downfalls. Gamers just want a place to play. If you provide them with a place to play, you have already won them over. You don't need to push one product on them - they are discerning, and although they might not buy GW stuff exclusively, the key is to run campaigns and stir up interest in the games you want to sell. If you run a 40K campaign, folks will buy more 40K stuff. Run a Blood Bowl league after that. Then Necromunda. Then do a WHFB tournament. The players that are there already at the club playing Warmahordes, Malifaux, Infinity and the rest will get on board when you play an inspiring campaign.

    3) Serve refreshments. Gamers like to stay all day and play, and the more things you can give them that eliminate the need to leave the gaming environment, the more time they will spend there playing games.

    GW needs to have stores like these for existing gamers that don't need to be 'sold' the game. They might be loss leaders compared to the sales figures of a 'recruiter' store, but the long-term gamer has a bigger wallet and more loyalty in the long run. One gamer spending money with you continually over 20 years is much better than 50 kids buying a starter set and then vanishing forever.

    Create the club and the gamers will be in your pocket already, that's the ethos behind the club I run, and it works well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They used to have those stores and they were called battle bunkers. They didn't make much money and any they did make was wasted on paying for prime retail space that made them no money back in direct sales. You can call it a loss leader, but in a company that is always skirting above the breadline so to speak those sort of endeavors are always going to go the way of the dodo.

      I agree with you to an extent, I just think they should do more to encourage and support local clubs... they used to do that too... but you know, the dodo thing again! :P

      I just don't thin they want gamers like me. They just want fresh blood, and it seems to be working for now so why would they change it? I guess we're back to that dodo thing again, right? Cheers for commenting and I pleased you enjoyed the article. Stick around read some more.

      Delete
  61. I know this is way after your writing this article, I am just finding out of it's existance. This rings so true. I tried to get into the hobby in 2006, and it was great fun the social aspect and all, and took a break for a while (school and living expenses took away my spare cash fund), and I try to return but I find that the prices are so much higher than before, I can't support my own local store because the items I want to order are direct only and rarely show up on time...it is outrageous to me. I was in sales for 5 years in the automotive industry, and if I had treated a customer the way GW does, I would have been fired on the spot, do not pass go, do not collect $200. I would hate to see GW go belly up, but at this time it seems like it is almost necessary. To liken it to what a friend told me:

    The current climate with GW is like a repeat of the Horus Heresy, with Privateer Press heading the way as 'Horus' with his fellow primarchs facing squarely against the Imperium...only this time it is more than half the legions flocking to the side of Horus. It truly feels that way and it is just more of me sitting on the sidelines and wondering when will the invasion fleet finally reach Terra, and will Horus be able to finally oust the Emperor?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No worries about leaving a comment on an old article. As far as I'm concerned there are no such things as dead articles on my Blog. I'll always be willing to chat about things... it's fun sometimes to look back on things I've written long ago and see how I feel about them today.

      Yeah the Horus Heresy and GW / PP parallels are something a few people have spoken to me about in the past. And I can see it. There are other parallels that can be drawn too. The fact that there two back-stories are stagnant and never changing... just like their business practices. Same shit different decade as a friend put it too me the other day. As to the customer service thing, hell yes!!! If I ever operated in the way GW staff routinely operate because HQ tell them too I'd have been fired over and over again. Just piss poor really.

      Delete
  62. Well I am glad it is not just us in the states that feel this way. Sure we have our own fair share of fanatics, but we also get the reverse of what you get as far as Privateer Press being based here in the States. Thank you for writing this article and sharing your thoughts, I have taken a look around the rest of your site, and really enjoyed what you had to say. If you ever want to speak hormachine, drop me a line.

    Are you also interested in how this GW vs Chapterhouse will be going down, considering how GW has stumbled through it thus far as if not expecting Chapterhouse to call their bluff? (Chapterhouse is based here in Texas, and the guy that runs it is a great guy, and I personally am happy he is sticking to his guns, but again it is another instance of how will this affect the hobby if at all).

    ReplyDelete
  63. back when i was 18 i went for a job interview at my local store and one of the silly questions i was asked is " how are the crew of a games workshop store like a squad of space marines ?" . after a few moments to digest this absurd question, i replied " they are plastic and require assembly ". For some reason i did not get the job

    ReplyDelete
  64. This article feels really weird in the current era, where things appear to be looking up again, if only in this specific niche.

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