Tuesday, August 9, 2011

40K Neotube: Mini War Gaming's Open (Video) Letter to Games Workshop

I know I am way behind the curve on this video.  Honestly I really hadn't perused much in the way of online 40K videos since I had tabled 40K Neotube as a regular feature.  I pull it out every now and then when a new trailer from Relic comes out, or if something is making the rounds that I happen to see.  But in this case, I didn't see it until this week.  So before I play the video, I want to discuss my thoughts on Games Workshop and the players who play 40K.

Games Workshop has been around a long time, and it is obvious they have transitioned from being a company run by wargamers who loved the hobby to a global corporation with multiple divisions.  Part of this has been due to the success of the games they created, part of it is due to incredible backstories and worlds they have created around their games, and part of it is because of the quality of the product.  This transition has not been painless.

Many players who have been in the game a long time bemoan how different the company is now to how they used to be.  Complaints about their legal department, complaints about management, complaints about pricing, complaints about game imbalance seep through the fanbase like a cancer.  Combine that with GW's apparent lack of interest in the fans since they continue to do the same stuff people complain about over and over have created a bitter resentment between the fans of GW games, and GW.

I hate it.  I really do.  I see this attitude all the time.  I've seen it in computer games and other areas where fans are passionate.  Once somebody makes a decision that seems counter to our interests we cry and complain.  I'm not sure if part of this is based on our sense of connection with the hobby, the anonymity of the internet, an overdeveloped sense of entitlement or all of the above.  But let's face it.  Whatever we think how GW should act, the fact is we have a track record of how they will act.  And being negative about GW is doing nothing but poison our hobby.

Do I like everything GW does?  Hell no.  Price hikes affect me as much as everyone else.  I think some things (starter sets) are way over priced.  Not necessarily for what is contained, but as starter sets.  $100 USD to start a hobby is a lot to ask of people, especially in the current economic environment.  And in that kind of environment people tend to look for the best deal.  And for me that best deal is rarely, if ever, a direct purchase from GW.  I tend to buy items on sale, or through eBay.  And if it's outside my price range, the impulse buy doesn't happen.

Also, I recognized that GW has a PR problem before MWG mentioned it in the video.  I'm not sure if it's hubris, or lack of respect for the fan, or a dangerous combination.  But the fact remains that GW has made some blunders.  Finecast came out with quality issues.  Annual price hikes coincided with the Finecast release.  Busness practices that MWG mentioned that angered a lot of people.  GW has really handled all of this with the subtlety of using a sledgehammer to push a thumbtack into corkboard.

However, all this has done is exacerbate an environment where people seem to be waiting for GW to mess up so they can bitch to high heaven about everything GW does.  GW is evil.  GW are nazis.  GW hates the gamer.  No, none of this is true.  GW doesn't hate us.  They may not respect us, their business model may not please us, but GW is not a bunch of evil nazis looking for ways to piss off the fan.  They are a corporation who, I think, doesn't realize how savvy their customers are, and so when they make the decisions they do we can critically analyze them.  However we are also a bitter and angry fanbase that then uses our critical insight not to improve things, but wail away at how bad GW is.

That is until MWG came out with their open letter.  They put a critical eye to the situation, recognize GW's business model and PR issues are helping to erode their monopoly on the wargaming industry, and rather than cry, whine, and throw epithets upon deaf ears (because honestly if I was GW, I'd be hesitant to listen to some of the crap my fans spewed at me too) they offered suggestions and solutions.  Not, suggestions like "Lower the price or else," but suggestions on how to support local and internet game stores.  Suggestions on how to handle their global business empire.  Suggestions on how to treat fans.  There is a lot that was said here, much of it I agreed with.  It was said calmly.  It was stated in a way that wasn't your normal "OhMyGodIHateGamesWorkshop!" rhetoric.  And, it was offered as help to Games Workshop not because they are evil overlords intent on sucking the souls and wallets of gamers dry, but as a way to help the industry grow and to help them, to help local and internet sellers, and to help us...the fans.

There are two videos.  The first is the open letter to GW, the second is a follow up with information from a survey in regards to the idea that sites like Mini War Gaming steal customers from brick and mortar stores without bringing anything to the game.  Both are worth watching, both deserve your full attention, and both hopefully have put a bug in GW's ear.

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