Friday, 17 January 2014

GW - What's Gone Wrong - A Personal View


GW Hammersmith at Grand Reopening in 1987 (photo from Level 2 Blog).

I have to make a confession. My association with GW as a customer and supplier of articles goes back to the Livingstone & Jackson days when it was a single RPG and boardgame shop in Hammersmith. My relationship has waxed and waned over the years but has been fundamentally unchanged until recently.

I am afraid my attitude has hardened in the last few years after a series of recent bruising encounters when I felt some company representatives showed contempt for me as a writer. OK, maybe I can be a bit precious but that's not unknown amongst creatives. :)

Nevertheless, I liked their product and continued as a customer. But you know, I have bought virtually nothing from GW in the last year. So why is that?

The bottom line is that they have failed to produce products that excite my interest. They've fired all the creative people that produced the stuff that excited me. The key turning point for me was when they dumped Rick Priestly, a games designer I have always admired. He was the person that made it all possible, the bedrock of the company's success.

The continuous way above inflation price rises are a factor by making me reluctant to take a risk on unknown product. This is especially true of the rule book costs: £50 every time they decide to tweak the rules plus £35 for every army plus every allied unit. Two year cycles for rechurning of the rules and codexes, oh come on guys!

But I reiterate, the cost is not the key factor. I am an impulsive model buyer. I have bought Forge World titans, for God's sake. Fire my enthusiasm and my wallet drains when it comes to shiny toy soldiers.

As a general point, it is difficult to see who is their customer base these days. They have dumped the kids upon whom their growth had been based. Saving money by firing most of the retail staff means that there is no one to teach each new crop the games. The turnover rate among the kids is huge. This will be a major customer base just wiped out in a couple of years.

This is a massive change to a successful business model.

So who will replace the kids, adult wargamers? Hardly!

GW have regarded the rise of social media as a threat not an opportunity with increasing mad IP-protection attacks on their adult customers online. Witness the Space Marine debacle with Amazon and the failed Chapterhouse court case that resulted in their lawyer leaving the company. Then add the astonishing closure of GW's Twitter and Facebook sites because of the hostility the company has generated online.

Indeed, apparently GW now thinks that their customer base are toy soldier collectors.

Really?

Collectors buy diecast models and rarely take them out of the boxes. Model-makers buy a handful of one off sophisticated kits a year. Only wargamers buy boxes of toy soldiers to fill out armies.

Oh well, wargaming can survive a GW implosion should it happen but it will be a sad day.

47 comments:

  1. I agree with all you say....I just hope they see out the last of the Hobbit movies and few more figure runs for that before they implode! Thereafter I would simply pray (long shot I know) that someone buys the 'Tolkien' licence and their molds to continue the figure run... the WFB and 40k stuff I couldnt give two hoots for...

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    1. I'm sure they will see out the films even as a worst case.

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  2. Sad to say I think you are correct. The hobby will survive of course. I was a wargamers before Warhammer was released so there will still be an influx of people IF GW folds.

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    1. The hobby would survive in the worst case scenario but I think the flow of new recruits will be throttled.

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  3. Ive been on and off with 40K for a while. My eldest is now just starting to get into the hobby and because his friends are getting into 40K he wants to. But, the stuff ive bought to date has been through independants because they simply sell things cheaper. There are so many other rules though, currently with Andy Roalfe we are focusing on the battlegroup (kursk, normandy) 20mm system for WW2, 40K is okay for me to play with my son but i dont see it as a serious game to invest £100's in.

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    1. Give my regards to Andy: he's the gamer in the photo on the JTS masthead. Kinrade has done a first class job on his WWII rules.

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  4. A sad state of affairs to say the least. The only stuff I buy nowadays is their paints and that's because I bought the boxed set over 15 years ago and so just top up as and when.

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    1. I use GW paints. They and Valejo are the best.

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  5. Fell out of love with the prices and the finecast debacle to be honest I could not care if they fold as many others produce far better figures at better cost

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    1. I can't seem to paint Finecast models. They never look right for me.

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  6. Well, there's not much to add to that John.

    I will have to cash in my pension though, if FW have a closing down sale.

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    1. LOL, don't do that Z. You'll need that pension to buy toy soldiers in your dotage.

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  7. I've not bought any GW for years. I played WH & 40K in the early years but my main passion was for LOTR, for 10 years I built full armies of every LOTR race brought out until the massive price-hike of the plastic Lothlorien elves and the introduction of Failcast - not bought a thing since, certainly not going to pay £12-£15 for an inferior Failcast hero, and if I'm not going to buy the heroes, then there is no point in buying the troops.

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    1. The cost of the LOTR models is eyewatering. It has put me off playing the hobbit.

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  8. It it's any consolation I really enjoyed Wolf in Shadow and I do hope that it has done well, and that you are working on the sequel, as I really want to read what happens next. Sod the company representative.

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    1. Why thank you Ashley. I am just finishing the second novel in the Citizen series at the moment. After that....depends on my publisher.

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  9. The GW business model is a joke. They have priced themselves out of the market and instead of keeping their main customers-kids with pocket money they have aimed for adults who know that there are better deals to be had.
    A very sad end is coming to a once fine company.

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    1. I don't understand dumping the kid market. Their success was based on this.

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  10. Like several of the commenter’s here I haven't bought anything from GW in years (tell a lie, I bought one overpriced flying base last year and immediately regretted it!).

    I'm going to suggest something controversial now... I think it might be a good thing for the industry if GW did go to the wall. I'm steadily coming round to the idea that having a behemoth like GW suqatting in the market is actually stifling other companies from bringing new and exciting products to us. I'm not suggesting that all of GW's current customers will just up and switch to other games (although many will) but given the erratic and transient nature of their current customer base I can't see it hurting the industry in the long term.

    I think its high time GW went to the great convention in the sky and stopped being the zombie in the room.

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    1. Oh and btw...although I'm not in that picture, I'm pretty sure my mates and I went to that reopening in '87. I remember the queues were absolutely huge, the excitement was palpable and - when we finally got inside - the games and models on offer we so good we all spent more than we had planned. Happy days.

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    2. It was a great shame when the Hammersmith shop fell down. Part of my youth went with it.

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  11. I agree with what you said. GW also has been total idiots killing their Fanatic line as well, with the drop in large army gaming and move towards Skirmish that is where they should have pushed to redevelop their brand. Instead, they flushed it down the toilet.

    Also, they really have pushed away from supporting the community which hurts excitement of gaming. Remember the web campaigns? Tons of fluff? Etc...

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    1. Yes, where's the excitement and buzz? GW has become a vacuum of empty corporate suits.

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  12. our group has been a stubborn defender of wh40k some voices asked for other games but the quaity and ivested money precluded any other game until last year when Warmachine gained a foothold and other games are no being seen as viable, sad to see GW fail as I really like they products but thw wallet cannot afford that ferrari or apple like pricing. for something that is a hobby

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  13. I haven't purchased anything from Games Workshop in a year. The willy-nilly price increase(s), poorly written rules, and the one aspect that really frosts my cookie- dumping customers that purchased physical copies of their rule books. I haven't seen an FAQ or errata from Gee Dubs in months, however, digital rulebooks, supplements, and data slates receive stealth updates all. of. the. time.


    I spent a lot of dough on 6th edition books, only to find out that in less than a year (after the Heldrake FAQ) that only the digital versions of the product I had invested in would receive support and updates from the Company...
    I haven't spent a red cent on Games Workshop product in a year, and have no intention to do so in the foreseeable future.
    Dropzone Commander by Hawk Wargames is scratching that itch for me in the meantime.

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    1. I hadn't realised they were updating the digital copies but not the dead tree ones. That will present issues.

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  14. You and I are on the same page John. Move over a little, you are take up too much page ;)
    But seriously. I started in the GW hobby (cause ya know it isn't just wargaming) at age 13 and over 25 years later I'm now done with them. I'm tired. Kaput! I have a Black Legion army mostly composed of 1987 renegades. Very little of my army is even 2000. I have most of the 6th ed rulebooks (and a couple current codexes) Except to crack them open for a peruse. I have not played one game.
    Now that Rick P has left GW. I'm watching intently to see what he is doing on his own and so far I really like what I see. The same for Alessio Cavatore and his work on Mantic's Warpath line. Though it seems Mantic prefers to do sci-fi boardgames and isn't really advancing Warpath. Unless I just am not following the right news sources.
    Anyways. That is one of the reason I started DLCD. I not only want to make affordable terrain and model vehicles. I also want to bring out a sci-fi wargame I can be proud of and people will find entertaining.

    GW just seems to be working against themselves full tilt now. And I don't understand why. I made a joke based on a phrase from the core rulebook "But the universe is a big place and, whatever happens, you will not be missed…." To which I changed it to: "GW's fan base is vast and your dollars will not be missed"

    Cheers!
    Steven "Demo" Rohde

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    1. Jim Baen always said (wrt to publishing and DRM) that an industry at war with its customers cannot prosper.

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  15. To be fair, at my current rate of painting, I certainly qualify as more of a "collector" than a gamer or painter. I think the same is probably true for quite a number of their customers... at least back when things were cheaper to buy.

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    1. Maybe customers like you are the future of a slimmed down GW. Who knows.

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  16. John.

    Oh, John.

    You're right, and it's a little sad, really.



    But only a little.

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    1. It's kinda like woolworths closing. Part of one's youth has gone.

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  17. I can find nothing to disagree with and I think you maybe right.

    I will miss White Dwarf, but I really miss Olde Skool White Dwarf more.

    Tony

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  18. Half year results just out - sales down by a good chunk, the shares have dropped about 25% and no interim dividend - which is disappointing. However... we are still talking about a business that has moved £60.5 million in the six months to Dec 1... that's a great deal of money. Even in Australian - a market where GW struggles especially hard with price and reputation - they shifted £4.6 million over he same six months. Most wargames companies struggle to turn over £1 million world wide. I don't know how is buying this stuff anymore - I'm not even sure why they're buying it - but plenty of people obviously are!

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    1. Yes, it's easy to forget what a whale among minnows GW is and it is still in the black. But giants do fall, e.g. Blackberry. It's not good that profits are based on hollowing out the company. It must be mortgaging the future.

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  19. It's a shame they have ended up this way. I stopped buying GW stuff here in Downunder lands a few years ago. I was astonished when they opened a store here in Darwin recently. Especially when a shop here already sells the product.

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    1. The cost of GW models in Oz is truly extraordinary.

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  20. Heh, after fifty comments I don't have anything worthy to add! Well said on all counts John, thanks for the insight.

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    1. Thanks, the article is just a personal opinion, of course.

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  21. Really sad and unfortunate for all of us that have grown with them (and made them grow!), but plain true.
    As mentioned, very worthy insight on the matter, congrats.
    A.

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  22. Indeed, I would be sorry to lose them.

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  23. Good post and many good comments.

    Being a little behind the times with GW anymore and across the pond I must profess some ignorance, on many things, but in this case regarding Rick Priestley. I know that Rick left GW several years ago and has since been working steadily on some cool rulesets. Stuff like Hail Caesar, Black Powder, etc. etc.

    I never did hear how or why he left GW.

    Anyone have any detail on that?

    I too have felt that when the old guard left that the soul of the GW I entered tabletop gaming with is gone. It seems like guys like Rick, Andy, Alessio Cavatore brought so much just plain fun as well as continuity to their designs. I don't know if Phil Kelly is there anymore (I assume not?), Andy Hoare, Pete Haines, or Graham McNeill. I really can't stand anything they've produced in terms of game rules since 4th edition 40k. I didn't mind the new Dark Eldar codex too much .. wasn't bad. Really everything else in the post Rick Priestly era (PRP) has been completely uninteresting to me.

    I really wish things would change. I am not one to wish for the old days. I'd be perfectly happy to see them take things in new directions. But for me that would need to be real skirmish level options, more reasonable pricing on their product lines and overall more support (here in the US it is terrible) for their product line.

    But I don't think any of that will happen. So I personally have moved off to stuff like Song of Blades and Heroes, and my gaming club is tinkering with the idea of Oldhammer, etc. etc.

    Sad days ...

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  24. Try the free In the Emperor's Name rules off the internet for 40K skirmish: Ospey's In Her Majesty's Name is based on them and is very good.

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