Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Customer Respect?

This is obviously the way to shut GW up
So, I do have a couple posts just about ready to go up, a battle report, and a model showcase, but don't expect those for a while until I've reconsidered my own position in the community.  I've got a bad taste in my mouth, like many hobbyists right now, so I apologize for the rant that will follow.  Jump to about the 5th paragraph if you just want to read the more level headed observations.

The new GW policies had me concerned, I do almost all of my wargames shopping online.  The major reasons are that the local store doesn't keep much stock or provide much support, and I usually have other products that I have to purchase that the local store doesn't carry at all.  Those online retailers are often US retailers like the Warstore, primarily because of the secondary products that I'm ordering, not the GW products. So the changes in the GW trade agreement will limit my primary source of GW models in two ways, first a number of the potential online sellers will disappear because of the online selling restriction.  Second, because a number of those retailers are in the US, so they technically cannot sell GW products to me.

So the one online Canadian store that I do order from is MiniWarGaming, they have become a great hub in the online community providing a number tutorials and battle reports, even extending to starting a small wargaming television network.  Of course, the Apocalypticon event is a signature collaboration with Black Knight Games in Hamilton.  If you've visited and watched some of the various discussion videos you will know that Matt and Dave started the store from a love of gaming, and slowly expanded it into the online venue it is now to try and make their loving venture profitable, or at least viable. Unfortunately, the online sales restriction with a combination of a low profit margin from the online store means that MiniWarGaming is closing it's store, with the GW trade agreement changes being the final major factor.

This absolutely infuriated me, a visible hub that has worked tirelessly to support the community and the GW brand, with no help from GW, is having the rug pulled out from under them because GW thinks there may be an extra penny for them.  This is more of GW's historic us versus them mentality that they have with their 'trade partners' and the player base.  There are any number of horror stories about dealing with the GW trade reps, and their ridiculous minimum order requirements, it's the primary reason stores can't survive in a smaller market, and if the market is big enough, GW want's to stick their own store in to take the sales.  They don't respond to any client feedback, shutting down forums and facebook pages, disabling comments on what social media they do put out, let alone give any timely FAQs or go back and fix rules for the new edition, or even proof read the rules in the most recent books it seems.  God forbid that they do anything to promote the community, cancel and scaleback Games Days, no support for any of the independant Cons even when they are GW only.

So why don't we just quit GW and move to something else?  I had to stop and think about this for a while, and it made me realize a few things.

Really, the biggest reason that we don't switch is because there isn't really anyone viably competing against the Warhammer properties.  We are at a very young stage in the development of any competitors in the table top space.  Off the top of my head the major names that jump to mind are Warmachine/Hoardes, Malifaux, Dropzone Commander, and Warpath.  Currently, none of these are on the same scale in some form and I think that's where they fail to compete.  Dropzone Commander is physically not on the same scale, the smaller models in my mind make it harder to emotionally invest in and customize.  Warmachine and Malifaux while on a closer physical scale, are not on the same scale of conflict.  They are both skirmish games, although Warmachine can be bigger, it still revolves around the caster/general.  Warpath is obviously the most likely candidate to compete against 40K, but it needs the time to develop it's story and expand the universe to something more than just a 40k clone. They are still pretty early in the modelling process too, much of the work feels like that 2nd edition 80s GW work, which is also something they need to move away from.

GW does work at putting out high quality models at a scale that is easily accessible, and has a decent customer service to ensure the quality of the models are maintained.  They also have a long history, they've been doing this since the 80s, they've had time to expand their universe and provide enough variety to appeal to most players.  It also means that most people have heard of the game, so there is an established playerbase.

The biggest reason GW keeps going is WE enable them to.  We are doing all the work of promoting the games for them.  Major independant tournament circuits, huge conventions and events, numerous blogs and message boards.  Most of us are too invested in the games and have become complacent to the idiocy of GW to step away forever, sure we may leave in protest, but the nature of their business model will draw us back in.

I know I'm one of those players, I would like to boycott them and say I won't play anymore, but I enjoy games with friends, and the few events I get to attend.  I don't want to work to play, and promote some other game.  I did that already, I know it will destroy the new game for me and I don't know how to solve that.  But I know there are people out there that can, so I'll continue to watch what the independent circuits are pushing and make sure I give the alternatives a try.  In the mean time, I am going to let my dollar speak, and drastically reduce the number of GW products I purchase, look to more scratch built stuff, and alternative models from other companies,  like GW's bestie Chapter House.