I've found these "hot off the press" articles to be extremely easy to write. The trade-off is they're not particularly helpful. Because I'm under no journalistic standards, that means I'm not obligated to try and be fair and balanced in my 'reporting'. Which is good, because yesterday's (July 11th) pre-order launch of the ninth edition "Indomitus" box set was, well, pretty ordinary - and sends a dangerous message about the future of Games Workshop.
This article is a mix of dogpiling and a wish to have a personal reminder that big companies are not your friends. It is a lesson that publicly traded companies can and will turn their backs on their business partners, to chase growth for their shareholders in a matter some (including me) would argue as destructive.
The cliffs notes of yesterday's release is simple. Games Workshop declared the new box set a limited release. Local game stores had their supply of the limited release starved, with Games Workshop showing favor to its own online and brick and mortar operations. The extent of the supply constraints varied from store to store. Anecdotally, my own local only recieved half of ther desired stock levels - and that was projecting for one box per customer.
The local game stores sell out quickly with such limited stock with customers limited to a single box. When Games Workshop finally allows preorders on their platform, customers are able to secure multiple copies and the box remains on sale for two hours before preorders close. The evidence is clear for anyone at a distance. Games Workshop burned independent retailers to make more money through their own channels. It is a clear message - Games Workshop wants your money, and doesn't wish to share.
But that's not all. Games Workshop was due to release a companion app for the new edition. Outlined in this article here, it was intended to be a companion app to ease the transition to ninth edition. On the release day, Games Workshop abruptly postponed the release date. Innocuous at first - until you realise that Games Workshop was releasing Chapter Approved alongside the indomitus boxset. The implication is there, if a bit of a reach. Don't release the app with all the updates until consumers have first purchased the companion chapter approved content. If the decision to reserve stock for Gee Dub's own platform was dirty, this was downright underhanded.
Whilst my enthusiasm for Ninth Edition remains high, the decisions made around the release of Indomitus have shaken my confidence in NuGW. Forcing customers to engage GW directly allows for higher profit. This is a decision rooted in the desire to promote stock growth and boosting shareholder confidence, rather than to promote goodwill amonst their consumerbase or engender favor from local game stores already struggling in the midst of a global pandemic. I don't begrudge the right of a company to make money - after all, if there's no GeeDub, there's no future for 40k. But as Jim Sterling once said, this isn't about making money - this is about making all the money.
In the past six months we have seen a distrubing return to the form of the previous regime. Price rises, decisions taken rooted in economics instead of quality products or good game design. This time, the glib line "it's a business and their goal is to make money" doesn't cover GeeDub's sins. Every company aims to make money, but it should never come at cost to their consumers or those entities who actively promote and provide space. Games Workshop is not alone here. After all, Wizards of the Coast also realised they can make more money for their parent company by cutting game stores out of the loop.
But that's not the whole story.
Outside the consideration of Games Workshop and Wizards is the fact that local game stores provide advertising for their products. Not to mention ancillary services like gaming tables, regular tournaments and experienced players to promote the hobby to new players. The fact is that Games Workshop doesn't provide these services and often is an entirely retail dedicated space. Without places to play Games Workshop games, there is no Games Workshop. It's a bit dramatic to suggest that local game stores going out of business will destroy the hobby, but the truth is far closer in the middle than Games Workshop (or Wizards) would care to admit. That is dangerous thinking and does not fill me with confidence for the future of the hobby.
I can only hope that Games Workshop learns from this. There is lots of goodwill from Games Workshop, thanks to finally learning how to communicate to its userbase, but wargamers have long memories. 2015 isn't that long ago. It would be disturbing to find that Games Workshop hadn't taken its lumps and is instead going to fall back on old habits.
Only time will tell. What a disgrace.
Catch you next time,
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