Saturday, July 9, 2011

GW vs Privateer. Locally.


So instead of getting in some ETC practice I've got some thoughts about my local gaming scene. There's been a few things that have come together to inspire this post. VT2's rant on 3++ , the calmer Back40k response  and the changing conditions in my own FLGS. The photo I've used is from Goethe's Erlkonig which to my mind at least sums up GW's attitude to their customers, and to a lesser extent, Privateer.

The story goes that a father and child are riding through the woods when the child spots a spirit that begins to haunt hm and the father tells him it is his imagination. When the child complains that he's been attacked the father rushes him home only to find that it is too late and the boy is already dead. That, and it was the inspiration for a Rammstein song (Dalai Lhama) for whom I just got a ticket for their gig in Dublin next year. Das ist sehr gut! :D

The not-Celtic Tiger boom

There's been an explosion in the number of Whoremachine players in my local shop (Other Realms who are redesigning their site) - there's a core of 40 regular gamers and about 25 of those have factions. I've played a few games and I like the system as it's relatively simple and its also much cheaper than 40k (or God forbid, Fantasy) to get started into.

I haven't taken it up yet though. My gripe is the models. The Hordes ones aren't too bad on the whole but the Warjacks are, with few exceptions, shockingly bad. I can't stop laughing at how terrible the Khador & Menoth jacks are in particular. It's like something that GW did about 10 years ago.

Compare this:
to this:

While the GW Dread is a bit clunky it doesn't look as top-heavy and as goofy as the Jack. Or as if it's dancing. There's also the problem that Privateer's models are largely metal for the time being. Thankfully PP do have some very pretty Hordes monsters that I've got my eye on (Skorne & Legion). I'm really fond of plastic models as they're much easier to build and maintain and I'm probably going to hold off until they have a lot more of their range available in plastic.

There's also the fact that I'm playing Malifaux. €40 for an army and I'm done? Yes please. Although I'm not happy about having to work with metal models there is the consolation that games tend to be capped at 5 or 6 guys (35 soulstone games) so I can take my time building and painting. I've got Zoraida as my Master in case you're interested. I'm in love with the Stitched Together - they're the reason I got into the game and I've built my warband around them. It's the same with 40k - I've played Wolves since 1993/94 and I started them because I liked the models.

Shooting oneself in the foot

Something that springs to mind are GW's latest antics. We're all aware of dicking the antipodean convicts & kiwis by restricting the sale of Gw-stock to non-EU destinations (there are grounds for a legal challenge here I reckon) but there was a meeting in Nottingham recently where the Indy stockists let rip at Gw's sales people. A few things cropped up but I'll try to keep it brief:

Maelstrom undercutting people is pissing off retailers. 

Obviously. I'll set my stall out right here and say I'm a fan of the free market. However, Indy places set up shop, customers come in, price something, look on their phone at Maelstrom's site and buy from them. Indy places are paying to advertise and demo stuff and Maelstrom is cashing in.

That's fine with GW: if GW allowed indy shops to pay in Sterling (rather than charge an exorbitant mark-up in Euro) then they'd be able to undercut Gw shops directly. Maelstrom selling stuff cheaper isn't a problem as they don't compete directly with GW shops - the kiddies that buy stuff from GW don't tend to be as savvy and aren't aware of internet-based businesses the same way the older gamers are. Nor does Maelstrom have a high-street presence. Thus, the indy stockists are basically stuck charging prices very similar to GW's own retail prices. That, and Maelstrom's apparent multiple flagrant breaches of contract that GW has done nothing to stop. I've been informed of 400 Razorbacks being sent to a single address in Oz before the embargo came into effect. This annoyed people as one of the major GW conditions is that you cannot supply other retailers...

I reckon there's also the problem of younger gamers wandering into an indy place and finding out about other, cheaper games systems. GW claim that PP aren't that much cheaper than them model-for-model and their own quality is much higher. Both true. But, you only need a maximum of 20 models to play a game of Whoremachine compared to the multiple of that to play 40k (let's not start with Fantasy). With PP starter sets being very good value for money - rules, a model that you need (caster) and others you'll use - they blow GW's battleforces out of the water.

What? No rules in the battleforce? No mandatory HQ? Seriously? You're not forced into buying a Whoremachine faction book like you are a Codex if you want a unit's rules. There's no little teaser to get you hooked. And all for double the price? No, thanks.

Mystery shopping

Another thing is GW's mystery shoppers. They base their shopping experiences on a person that is making impulse buys in an indy stockist/GW outlet. With €300 to spend. Yes, really. GW class a €300 spend as an 'impulse' buy (with Euro/Sterling exchange rates of 1:0.88 that's almost £300). That's an army right there. I don't think I know of anyone that has ever said to me they had 300 snots they'd just splurged on a spur-of-the-moment purchase of GW stuff: it's always been pre-meditated. I'm not sure if GW are taking the piss (there's a big recession still ongoing) or if Kirby (Tom Kirby) is just trying to line his pockets before he jettisons GW off to an interested party (Hasbro) but this is completely unrealistic.

GW's product is a luxury, not an essential so it tends to lose out in people's spending habits. Are there so many people so messed up that they'd buy an xbox 360 even though they're 3 months behind on their electricity bill? No, I don't think so either. Ok, fine, there's always one. Granted, GW are targeting the children of families with lots of disposable income but these people won't hang around and play the game forever, especially as GW's focus is on getting new people into the game instead of concentrating on newer gamers - people spend more money getting started than they do on maintaining an army, even with new codices/editions every 4 to 5 years.

This is why GW has dropped its Specialist Games from WD: they don't allow them in their stores because those games are much cheaper to play and don't contribute nearly as much to GW's bottom line. It's a pity too as Blood Bowl is the best game GW have ever made. Stelek suggests that having a single creative team and too many suits in Nottingham is causing them to pump out a poorer standard product. I'd believe it having heard the above.

PPP (the extra one is a typo)*
Privateer aren't having it all their own way though: they've had to cancel the release of upcoming models to catch up on their back orders as they can't keep up with demand. If they can meet their orders quickly they'll keep their customers. If not, they'll walk.

It is a good problem to have but it is still a problem: if someone can't buy your stuff they'll get pissed off waiting for it and take their money elsewhere to someone more reliable. Probably to GW whose stuff will be on the shelf in front of them. As long as its not Finecast. Oh wait - that's not on the shelves now is it? Actually, I lie: I've spotted a soitary Tau Ethereal on the shelves.

Der Erlkonig
So what does the poem have to do with GW? Well the child is the customer giving GW warnings that GW isn't paying proper attention to. As a result it risks endangering their fanbase who will die off and abandon them. GW will have no-one to blame but themselves for their troubles.

Their product isn't so niche that it is irreplacable. They need to get that out of their heads and out of their investor statements and they might start making more money because cutting corners cannot be done indefinitely.

*A pint for the first person to get the reference.


  1. Purchasing power parity?
    Pretty poor product?
    Piss poor performance?

    I can go on... ;-)

    Good article, unfortunately its nothing that hasn't been said before but it doesn't seem to make a difference how many people point it out I don't think GW are going to change, at least not before its too late.

  2. The reference isn't to the letter(s) P itself.

    Thanks for the response. We've all seen steady price hikes and the whining that goes with it but GW have apparently kept their prices behind the rate of inflation over the past 14 to 15 years. I'll wander through Dethtron's site to find the article that states this. At least I think it was Dick Move that posted it.

    With PP on a charm offensive and not having their own shops they've got more of a vested interest in the survivability of indy retailers than GW do which is why they're not willing to dick about with them as much. Apart from being unable to fulfil orders.

    It's nice to see alternatives to GW picking up steam (Malifaux, Infinity, FOW among them) and put the boot to GW's overconfindent ass. They won't be as worried if Space Marine and the Dark Millennium MMO take off but if they don't they'll have to scramble to turn things around.

  3. Come to Homer's BBBQ? Pint for Donal. This Warpath Beta is turning a lot of heads too, not to mention I just got a look at infinity models too. Some good stuff out there GW, no need to pretend otherwise.

  4. One Ma-hoo-sa-hive problem GW have is with their retail stores conceptually.
    We all know they're a concentrated nerd haven, but they now run counter to what they should be doing.
    The stores physical presence, in the same way WD used to be, is to provide a point of entry. Some place bright, airy, friendly staff, enough stock of the entire range. With hobbyists who espouse the best about our hobby. As a gateway.
    Now, all the stories you hear about GW stores (and experience) is pushy, no-shit-given staff, dark, oppressive stores. Next to no stock or promotion, and the worst that wargamers have to offer.
    Last time I was in England I stayed in the store for exactly 5 minutes. And that was in Oxford street. Supposedly a big store, revenue wise.
    Store wise, GW need to take a leaf from Apple's book.* They never intended for brick & mortar stores to be significant, yet these days they do fully 1/3 of their sales of computers alone from the stores.
    Ask yourself, would you spend more in a store if it meant you could sit down, chat, paint and discuss, like the image GW project in WD, as opposed to what they actually are?

    *(Not that Apple are perfect, mind, but their retail stores are a known success, and therefore a good example.)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...