Thursday, January 16, 2014

GW & Stock Price Problems

Funny that this is post #300. Originally this was a Facebook rant, so the formatting is a little off for Blogger. I'm assuming you'll forgive me.

Well, every other one of my gaming nerd friends has said it, I might as well say it as well...

Problem, GW?
Games Workshop's sales fell 12% last quarter, causing their stock prices to plunge 24% in a single day. I want to laugh so bad, and to a degree I did at first, but could this be bad for the hobby community? I'm a bit worried that the loss of the "gateway" into wargaming will cause the expansion of the player base to dwindle. It is with a heavy heart that I have to stop "ROFLMAO-ing" at them and actually get a touch worried.

True, I prefer the company of grown-up gamers to Little Timmy across the board who I have to hold the hand of throughout the entire game, but Little Timmy may eventually become one of those adults who continue to play the game as they are more able to comprehend the nuance and complexity of the game and become competent opponents. I want this for the hobby (by which I mean wargaming, not Games Workshop), as it spreads the word of the game, brings more people in, and despite the natural attrition of such a hobby, further increases the player base. Wake up GW, it is the community, *the players of your game*, who spread the word. If nobody wants to play your game, they WILL NOT bring new players in, and get this- your sales will dwindle.

Took me a bit to find a hydra with three heads.
Now, why (in my not so expert opinion) is this happening? To me it is a three headed monster. The first, and most obvious head of which is the one everybody knows- price points. The tidy sum of $100 for the rules to the game and two unbalanced and not even playable by your own rules armies. Oh, wait- you wanted to play games using those little plastic dudes? Sorry, that's another $100 JUST FOR THE RULES FOR YOUR ARMY. That's right, if you want to know how many points and what the capabilities of your troops are, you have to fork over $50 per army rulebook. For those of you keeping track, we're at $200 just for the bare minimum needed to play. Wait a minute- now that I've written an army list and checked the charts to build my armies you have discovered that not only is one of the armies ILLEGAL, the other is drastically under the point cost of the other, and so you have to buy more stuff to make both of them work. For army "A" you're looking at $37.50 just to make the army legal. At least twice that much for army "B" to have a fair chance against "A" on the table. Total outlay *just to start playing the game*? For those of you who are non math inclined like myself, $312.50 is our total JUST TO GET ON YOUR FEET. Let's just throw in the glue you'll need to put your mans together, a bit of primer (I'll ball-park it and say you need three cans), and the paints & brushes to get your dudes looking spiffy. There's well over $400 right there. Oh, you wanted to play the game on the correct sized surface? That's another $350 or so for the board (assuming you have a table to put it on). Oh, let's not forget (easily) $250 for the terrain features the rules call for. Yep, we've cracked the $1,000 barrier right there- just for you and a friend to start playing the game. Obscene.

Head #2; alienation of the player base. I already explained why this is a Very Bad Thing above, but why else are players leaving? Rules. Bad ones that are unbalanced and poorly written. I'm talking basic grammar here. The singular of "dice" is not "dice", it is "die". Not only that, but the rules are vague, contradictory, and frequently bland. But rules can't be all that's wrong, right? Righto, bucko. Veteran players are treated like crap. The GW business model is to suck teens in with oodles of disposable income (by the way, tell me when you see one of those), grab as much money as you can from them, and then discard them. Look, attrition (as I stated above) is to be expected. As these targets become older they frequently become "too cool" for the game and drop out. Some stay though. They gradually get to the point where they actually really *do* have disposable income, and then they buy your plastic crack en masse. They are also good for the developing player base (and granted, there can be exceptions) as they, like myself, will take the time to teach these newbies the tricks of the trade. How to get a better paint job, why that squad with four different types of heavy weapons doesn't perform as well as the one with nothing but anti-tank kit, how to maneuver on the table to maximize your position and stymie your opponent. Learning these things makes the game more fun, and in an environment like your Friendly Local Game Store (where let's face it, most of us grognards game), means your employees will actually have people going above and beyond their own job description free of charge. That makes those kids (who you wanted to make a money grab from) much more likely to stick around, even as "closeted gamers". I have encountered some people in my day that you would least expect to be standing across the table from me- don't count anybody out. GW no longer runs tournaments (in fact they actively discourage them). One has to wonder why this is. Could it be unplaytested rules that are horribly lopsided? Hmm... If you're not the aforementioned Little Timmy with his mom's stolen black American Express card in hand, they think you won't buy anything and you can just get out of the store and pound sand. Oh, the fact that in their own stores they constantly push product on you doesn't help either. Oh, and why preview product to build hype? Let's just sue anybody who posts a picture of our unreleased stuff on their blog. This all stems from being a publically traded company which only focuses on short-term profits, but I digress here.

Get it? Alienation?

Head #3; competition! Games Workshop likes to act like they are the only fish in the sea, but there are growing shadows. Privateer Press, while just as expensive on a per-model basis (don't argue this one, I've been pricing stuff) requires fewer minis to play their games. This lowers the cost of entry barrier. They actually, get this, playtest their rules! While this doesn't mean that some models aren't better than others in terms of "value" per point or are more synergistic than others, everything *tends* to be more balanced. They also actively encourage tournaments with prize support, and they promote their stuff ahead of time. These guys are growing at what should be an alarming rate for GW, But they *actively* bury their heads in the sand. If you want to wargame, you've gotta go GW. Not any more. Corvus Belli makes amazing stuff. Mantic is actively targeting the players who GW have driven away by ceasing to (even passively) support the favorite games of. I'm looking at you Necromunda, Space Hulk, and Blood Bowl (also further examples of alienation). Vallejo and Reaper make superior paints and painting supplies. The list goes on.
Remember these guys? Owned by Hasbro.

Oh, let's not forget games like Magic, which admit it or not DOES suck away players.

Look, I'm not just going to sit here and club GW all day. They make some amazing looking stuff, and I *want* them to stick around, but come on. Shape up or ship out guys.

...And by "ship out" I mean "get bought out by Hasbro like every other floundering gaming company".

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