It starts counting pens! It's an old joke that organisations normally start looking at the little picture when times start getting a bit rough for them; and they start doing stupid things in a desperate bid to stave off the wolves at their metaphorical, and sometimes real, doors. 'Counting pens' is a joke often told by consultant types, but if any of you have ever worked at a place where the stationary cupboard has been locked, and a guardian appointed to protect it, you'll be aware of how depressingly true the old joke about counting pens truly is. I've seen companies implode in this way from the outside, and indeed from the inside. They start attributing their woes to external sources, or not enough micro-management. When the going gets tough in the corporate world, quite often it's the stupid that get going.
Companies do dumb, counter-intuitive things when times start getting a bit tough for them. Rather than asking serious questions about why it is the case that the companies bottom line sucks, or the KPI's are going in the wrong direction, because that would be wise and sensible, they plough ahead, just faster. Nope, they tend to assume that if they do more of the same, just better, things will improve. Rarely will someone ask the sensible question "hey, guys, is trying to sell fridges to Eskimos such a great business idea?". Nope, they appoint stationary cupboard guardians, and set researchers off to assess KPI's in minute details, everything becomes too close to view properly and nobody can see the bigger picture anymore. When that happens companies start making rash decisions that are counter-productive and expose themselves to even more risks.
I think it is part of human nature when in such a company to never want to ask whether actually you are doing a good job yourself. Not if you are working hard enough, just asking whether what you do is needed, or indeed efficient. Everyone is on edge, and people do feel besieged and vulnerable; people put their heads down and motor on, thinking blood, sweat and tears will win the day. So where am I heading with this. Well I'm going to talk about our hobbies favourite topic again, Games Workshop. Over the past few months they've done some pretty dumb things haven't they? I might not have commented on the online sales embargo, or their restriction on free trade for independents; and despite sharpening my pen over their claim to own all literary uses of the words 'Space Marines' I've stayed silent.
Partly because I've been reticent in my maintenance of this here Blog... and partly because I don't want to kick that hornets nest again. Well stuff it, I think now is just the right time to kick it again. Maybe it's the sun outside, or the glass of cold cider in my hand, but given that these subjects seems to have cooled down a little, and the interwebs is back to hating their alien codices I think I can talk about these subjects sensibly, and hopefully without being a bit too ranty... oh wait!!! What the f*** have they gone and done now? In spate of what can only be termed as idiocy in the extreme, the great tactical and business centric minds that have been assembled at Lenton Lane have decided now is just the right time to pull another dumb-ass maneuver. You know, because they don't get enough bad press and they apparently have a thirst for more.
Now I could've gone off into a rant yesterday about fair usage, freedom of speech and done exactly what everyone else has done in the Blogging sphere... but that's not me. I've waited a short while to see what the upshot of the BoLS outage was, and tried to get in touch with various people over the taking down of Faeit 212. Turns out BoLS is back up and it had nothing to do with a DMCA order. So that's good news. On the other issues I've received no reply, and it looks like Faeit 212 has been shut down by the over zealous actions of Games Workshop. Let me be blunt here, this is one of the most blisteringly stupid actions Games Workshop has EVER taken, for a number of clear reasons:
- Natfka, the chap who runs Faeit 212, is clearly one of the worlds biggest fans of Games Workshop. His blog was filled with nothing but love for them and their product. If I ever wanted a positive spin on GW I'd always head there first. Why attack a site that is giving you such good free publicity?
- I hope Natfka doesn't mind me saying this, but he's hardly the worlds biggest blog out there. Hell he's probably not as big as some other gaming related sites that have reproduced pages from within early copies of White Dwarf. Why go after a small fish and not some of the big fish that actually do attack Games Workshops product?
- This action just proves all those people, myself included, right when we say that Games Worshop just do not 'get' the Internet. I famously likened the Internet to the powers of Chaos, and this action shows my analysis was spot on. Way to prove to everybody how paranoid and out of touch you are GW.
I took a lot of flak off of people for daring to say that Games Workshop was paranoid about not being able to totally control their message online. I was told I had no clue about what people up at head office were thinking. Some people got so arsey I received threats... well guess what suckers? Seems I was 100% right after all... so go suck on my meaty man truncheon.
I want to be clear here, I personally think Games Workshop have every right to get screwy about people publishing rulebooks, and codices online. I really do. Whether you think they should follow the examples set by other companies and offer their rules for free is a moot point. They don't. As such we should respect the fact that they expect us to pay for the fruits of their labours, even if the fruit is decades old rotten work we've all already brought a bazillion times over already!!! You lazy motherf... any way, they have the right to protect their revenue streams, IP and Trademarks. Where I get a bit lost though is over their White Dwarf rag. What is White Dwarf for? You see I thought I knew, I thought it was a blatant partisan advert for their product. Nothing wrong with that. An example of a one-sided diatribe passed off as factual and even handed coverage. Nothing new, companies do that all the time. Seems Games Workshop don't see it that way.
|Many are sad to see them go... who will be next?|
Because, if they did a blogger showing pictures of miniatures contained within its pages would be the exact sort of thing they'd want to see. You know, people talking about their product and promoting it. Saying "hey guys, look at how cool this is!" But no, Games Workshop doesn't really like that it seems. I'm going to let you all into a little secret, I do know people at GW HQ... shock horror!!! They all report the same thing about White Dwarf, the hierarchy thinks ever hobbyist should be buying the God awful rag every month because... because... well they just should!!! They gave it a face lift, but it still remains a piss poor excuse for a magazine, it's still nothing but a shameless advert and has no editorial content worth reading; or journalistic integrity. It is crap. Honestly I haven't felt the need to buy White Dwarf since I was a little kid, because, well when you grow up you can spot when somebody is trying to rip you off.
But they think we should all buy it, and I assure you their moves to stop people publishing any of its pages will continue. This is what this action is about. They think if they stamp out all sources of information people will be forced (note the word 'forced' and not compelled) to buy White Dwarf again... erm... no. There's a classic logic fail right there. Many others and myself will never buy White Dwarf again, I used visit sites like Faeit 212 to keep up to date with the latest wonky looking plastic crap to roll off of their production lines. I'm not interested enough to waste £5 or whatever it is on White Dwarf, and neither are many of their fans... because it's been crap for years! The clear aim of White Dwarf has been to advertise new product, it's a paid for advert; except it's the punters who are paying. So when the Internet is suddenly awash with their blatant propaganda they should actually be happy that it has done its job. We're talking about them. Awesome. So to see them take such draconian measures tells me they're counting pens. Rather than accepting White Dwarf as promotional pamphlet that it is, they see it as a cash generator and want to 'protect' it.
|If you can find it for sale buy it just to stick two fingers up to GW.|
It's not just attacking little sites with DMCA's though is it? As I pointed out earlier on, it's also the dumbass decision to claim all Space Marines are Games Workshop Space Marines in a Trademark dispute that got them a lot of flak. It's the restriction of trade... on their own goods!!! You see, often people will look at these three issues and see them as separate topics, and the only commonality is that the company resorting to such crude tactics is the same Nottingham based antiquated organisation it has always been. There is however a more telling reality behind these actions, that I think points to a mindset I've witnessed all too well in the past at other places. They're scared and worried. I've worked with some companies recently who have been struggling to make ends meet, and who wanted new marketing strategies and to find new customers. Rather than ask whether the product they have is the right product for the customers they have, they just need to find new people willing to buy their stuff. Sound like any company you know? Always after new starters?
At their root, both the ludicrous claim that all Space Marines are Games Workshop Space Marines, and the restrictions placed on independent traders can be seen as nothing more than a retraction to protectionism. The shutting down of Blogs (trust me there will be more) can also be added into the case for the prosecution. Companies get all worried about such things when they feel threatened, or that they are on shaky ground. There's no question that GW have had to face some pretty tough potential infringements on their IP, see Chapter House. In a sense you could view the restriction of trade agreements with independents as a sort of counting of the companies metaphorical pens... that they are hoping to drive sales to their own stores by starving independents of stock. And you could certainly see their treatment of Maggie Hogarth and her book Spots the Space Marine as a company that has got too close to the KPI's to understand the wider reality they find themselves in.
|Just who copied who?|
It's almost as if those people at GW HQ don't realise just how flagrant the plagiarism in their own universes is. For instance much of 40k is lifted directly from other people's works, such as the novels of Robert A. Heinlein or the visual stylings of 2000 AD. Nobody back there seems to remember just how much they've stolen themselves, and just how little any of what they think they own the rights to they actually do. They're the biggest IP and trademark thieves there are! They were always unoriginal, and nobody minded, because it was done with a reverie and love for the source material. The truth is Games Workshop have opened themselves up to a massive risk with this lawsuit and C&D action, if tested in US courts there is no way they can win (first Amendment anyone?), and their trademarks might be thrown out as the clear bunkum that they are. You can't own the rights to something somebody else produced over 20 years before your company even existed; and that has been in common use before your company existed. How stupid are these people?
I've heard all sorts of theories about why these things are happening. Business reasons, economical arguments, marketing arguments and even protectionist arguments. Justifications that all seem plausible to a degree, but ultimately miss the motivations for such actions. We're talking about a company that has cut its staff to the point that some stores are one man bands now, that are lucky to be able to open more than 5 days a week. Major stores like the one in the center of Birmingham; previously one of their flagship stores is no longer open all week, and rumours are that is going down to a one man store soon. There is a clear desire to cut costs regardless of impact, and to maintain their business empire at the same time, and they plan on doing that by doing more of the same, just more efficiently. You see efficiency is the Holy Grail for companies struggling to respond to new market conditions... in other words it doesn't really exist.
I'm going to talk about the dreaded VI now, or Vertical Integration. Perhaps I'll let Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy explain, in Games Workshops case substitute in Finecast and Liquid Green Stuff. VI became a very dirty phrase in business during the 80's, 90's and indeed early naughties. It was seen as being bad for companies and bad for consumers, leading to shoddy product that was sold at exorbitant prices... hang on, Finecast, Dreadfleet... hmm; shoddy expensive product. The idea is simple, Games Workshop designs it's products, it then produces, distributes and sells them. They control every aspect of their business, it's kinda like Heinz owning shops that only sell Heinz's product... yeah that'd dumb right? But it can work, if your business is small enough, it's arguably best if you control every aspect yourself early on, farmers taking product to market themselves for instance will yield bigger profits often that way, than if they sell product to a middle man or supermarkets. However, Games Workshop has long since passed that point and is now only perpetuating a monopoly and protectionist racket in my opinion.
For VI to work you need to know for, which part of the business all others are working. In short, which part of the business is the one you want to be profitable and why! Games Workshop no longer knows for 'which part of the business' all others are run. If any one link in this vertically integrated chain is weak, it has compound impacts on the rest of their business. If manufacturing is poor, that costs distribution and retail big time. If the product is weak everyone suffers. If your retail chain is manned by lobotomized gibbons it'll hit every other department exponentially. No one is insulated against the shocks of everyone's utter crapness!!! Their retail chain is being slashed so hard that you'd argue they were only keeping it going to sell their product. But their product line is so bloated and unwieldy that no part of their retail chain could stock it properly... so why keep it? But the Bloat in their product line could be seen as an attempt to force more sales to support a retail network... It's all a bit of a mess. Nothing seems optimized.
It could be argued it is a strength of the organisation that they do indeed do everything, but it is also a dead weight around their necks too. They seem wed to the one way of doing business, and it seems they are going to continue swimming against the tide of change, that not just exists within our hobby, but in the wider world. This leads them to making the crass and counter productive decisions we've seen them make over the past few months. They aren't really sure what they're doing anymore. No body seems to know what the goal is. Yeah, OK so 'profits', but you need a focus on how you are going to make them. Shoveling shit, and flinging shit is not a strategic direction any organisation should be taking, but it seems to be the route that Games Workshop are taking. I've often said the hobby needs a strong Games Workshop, honestly... I'm not so sure anymore. I'd be happier if they just died. Bad companies should be allowed to fail, and Games Workshop are terrible. They're determined to stagnate and force the rest of us to stagnate with them.
Now when Maggie Hogarth was attacked she had literally hundreds of famous authors and public luminaries from nerd culture lining up to support her. Now that's great, and I was really very heartened to see this outbreak of common decency and support. But spare a thought for the likes of Natfka. Which famous comic book artist or science fiction author is going to come to the defense of Faeit 212? I'll tell you who, nobody. All we have as a little blogging community is each other. As hobbyists all we can do is stick up for each other, and offer support. If you're reading this Natfka I'm here for you buddy. If you think there is anything I can do to help (I've fought off my own C&D orders and DMCA claims) I will help. But if you really want to help this hobby, and the industry then please, please, PLEASE, never buy another Games Workshop product. EVER!!! They are not deserving of anyone's cash. Peace out!