Monday, 6 June 2011

Some random thoughts on GW.

Good old Games Workshop has been taking a load of flak recently, although, to be fair, that is nothing new.  What I've found unusual is the combination of different complaints.

First is the pricing issue, triggered by their annual price increase (mostly in line with UK inflation) which are never popular.  Price rise rage is always there (Warseer, B&C anyone?) but GW's business model has evolved to reduce the model count per box whilst, at the same time, increasing the amount of boxes required to play the game efficiently.  For instance, the Fantasy Orc Boyz kit has over the last couple of years been resculpted and repackaged; the net result being that it's now the same price for ten figures that it used to be for sixteen.  At the same time, Warhammer Fantasy 8th edition made it practically mandatory for players to field them in units of 40 or 50.  Also noteworthy was the cries of "bargain" when the Dark Eldar Warriors box was released, ten figures for only £15

The second criticism has been their recent distribution policy and release schedule.  Distribution outside the EU does not obviously affect me, but I can certainly understand our antipodean cousin's anger at the result of this.  Btw, with my economics hat on, your currency is being held artificially high - talk to your government.  There are also rumours that GW will not be releasing rumours of new products.  I can't say I see the sense of this either.

Thirdly, has been the release of Finecast.  I've no experience of this yet, and probably won't for a while at least.  However, in PR terms, it's been a real stinker of a release.  Firstly GW, don't place the Finecast release in relation to rising commodity prices and then stick a price increase on top of the current price.  Have a bit of common sense - have the release, rave about the quality then introduce any increase in a few months.

Also, prepare and reassure people about what to expect.  On the GW site, I found 61 words regarding working safely with resin (and now mention of sanding or resin dust.)  On the other hand, I've bought my first resin kit about 12 years ago and have had twelve years of warnings and liability notices of the hazards of resin dust.  I'm inclined to believe GW when they say their own "secret recipe" is absolutely safe - but 61 words do not easily counteract years of caution.

So not a lot of good press recently.  However, they still have a lot going for them. . .

They have a great range of products - still the best plastic kits in the industry.  Excellent quality and lots of customizable options.  They also know how to innovate their range when they need to - "annoyed you're going to have to buy more infantry?  Here's a huge fuck off spider or walking robot to keep you sweet!"

They have the best IP in the industry, essentially because they've been running for 20+ years. They've created two existences that are detailed enough to follow individual strands, but large enough to create your own story-arch without treading on any of the "canon."  Add in the Black Library and Fantasy Flight ranges, I can't think of a larger, deeper commercial fictional IP (maybe WoW?)

Lastly, GW have generated an immense personal following.  The only store you can play a game at in my city is the GW store.  I can turn up there and have a pick up game, basically, whenever I want.  I know the guys there by name.  When I was getting bored with 40K, the Black Library released the Horus Heresy series.  GW released Battlefleet Gothic - there best EVER game.  So many reasons why, contrary to all financial sense, they still keep me interested.

This post was prompted by my decision to rationalise my relationship with GW.  I'll still read some Black Library, still keep up with the Fantasy Flight range, still keep my main armies for 40K and Fantasy (even though I don't play either very often.)  I may even still buy the odd mini to paint "just for the hell of it."

What I won't be doing is collecting anything other than my two main armies (and even then, purchases will be mostly through the 'bay or Maelstrom Games.)  I'll offload some stuff I know I won't use.  I'm not sure if I'll still read White Dwarf, but I definitely won't subscribe again.

I think this is known as a "holding pattern."  Not a reduction or escalation, but just a period of calm to see how GW behaves over the next year or so.  of course. . . this frees up a lot of resources for the recent wave of board games, ancients rules and skirmish games that have sprung up recently. . .

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