An Open Letter to Games Workshop…
Please Note… I stopped buying Games Workshop products a long time ago as it was clearly becoming too expensive and I really took umbrage to their treatment of the GW gaming community on Boardgamegeek so I don’t really have anything good to say about them as a business other than I did enjoy playing their games back in the day. But I couldn’t in good conscience recommend them to anyone I know, particularly because their target market are young boys who will hound their foolish parents for a LOT of cash to feed their hobby and these kids will quickly drop away from gaming when their parents wake up and they have to fork out for themselves.
Here I have posted an open letter from a rather angry and frustrated friend, Chris O’Regan of the Super Happy Fun Time Show who has decided to throw down the gauntlet and start a campaign, not to put GW out of business but to save them from themselves.
Please feel free to post your views here for Chris to respond to. All I ask is that you keep it clean guys, no matter how angry you are or I will have to delete the comment. I’m happy to let the discussion begin here…
I recently purchased a copy of Dread Fleet, the limited edition stand alone board game you recently released from my local Games Workshop store. While there I began to browse the shelves for figures. I was doing so to see if I could use any of them for the Skaven Blood Bowl team I am currently building. As I did so I was dismayed at the price of the collections of plastic miniatures you had on sale. To say they were excessive is an understatement. I can see little justification to charge £25 for a collection of plastic models, especially when the same set would have cost a fraction of that a few years ago. I also noted the total lack of metal pewter figurines on display and the fact that only Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000 and Lord of the Rings products were on sale.
I spoke to many of my table top gaming loving peers about my experience and observations at the store and they all said the same thing; ‘I stopped playing Warhammer because it’s far too expensive now’.
This led me to carry out some research on the history of your company and how you came to be in the state you’re in now. In the late 1970’s you were once a pioneering company that brought niche, hobbyist games into Europe, most notably Dungeons and Dragons. After getting the sole rights to European distribution of Dungeons and Dragons from TSR games did Games Workshop became a profit making business, all thanks to an act of altruism which was driven by a belief in a product that you did not make, but wanted to share with others.
From that single distribution deal with TSR Games, stores started to open up nationwide and sold a variety of games, none of which were available from other retailers. After this Games Workshop had cornered the market and ushered in a new era of tabletop gaming. You published celebrated RPGs such as Call of Cthulu, Traveller and Runequest. You even started to make your own games in the form of Warhammer, Talisman, Blood Bowl, Fury of Dracula, Warrior Knights to name but a few.
It was all going so great until one day a fateful decision was made following a management buyout that would seal the fate of Games Workshop. You dropped the board games and distribution rights to products made by others and poured all of your efforts into selling Citadel Miniatures for Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 tabletop fantasy and sci-fi war-games. You even went so far as to sell off your rights of board games you made previously to Fantasy Flight Games and then refuse to sell them in your own stores. From these actions you demonstrated that you stopped caring about games and focussed on profit, to the exclusion of everything else.
Over the years you have abandoned your roots as an innovator and instead became a pariah of the tabletop gaming world. You are now universally reviled throughout the tabletop gaming fraternity. I say this for I struggle to encounter much in the way of supportive words of Games Workshop’s recent actions from within those circles. Instead I hear tales of overpricing, exploitation and worse of all; bullying. For your actions against Board Game Geek tabletop gaming web forum in May 2009 by demanding they purge all game-play aids for games on their site that you no longer produce, was an abhorrent act that sends a single message to everyone; you care for naught except profit. The irony is that ultimately this will likely lead to your undoing.
But then of course you have continued to commit even worse acts than what I have described above. For your school based events that you run to encourage new players to take up Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 is nothing short of exploitation. You catch young impressionable children and get them hooked onto your products and then have their parents pay out the extortionate prices you place upon them. As these children grow up they abandon the game thanks to fact they need to pay for the products themselves and can no longer afford to. To overcome this, you simply replace the last generation of children with another via these school based events, and so the cycle continues. If that isn’t a cynical and abhorrent act of profiteering via grooming, I don’t know what is.
The fact is that you are no longer the sole provider of fantasy based table top game warfare products. War Machine and Horde are both taking a significant amount of market share from you and also cost a great deal less. Then there is Infinity, a skirmish based combat game that requires less than 15 miniatures to play. This game also costs a tiny fraction of what you charge for the same number of models and is actually a better game than Warhammer, in many respects thanks to its innovative rule set.
So how do you turn things around? I suspect that you don’t believe you need to ‘turn things around’ at all. Indeed, in your arrogance you probably have long since ascertained that placing a ridiculous premium on your products while pursing the contents of the parents of young teenagers’ bank accounts is actually a sound business model and one that will stand the company in good stead for many years to come. You are very much mistaken. For becoming a publically owned company was terrible mistake you made, as you now have to answer to shareholders and thus profit has become your sole modus operandi. As a result, any acts by you that do not lead to an immediate increase in profit, no matter how small, are rejected.
In essence, you have lost the sense of altruism that gave birth to your company in the first place. Games Workshop came into being thanks to the desire to share a weird and wonderful game from North America with others. I challenge you that you would carry out such an act now. The mere suggestion that you would champion a game that is made by someone else and agree to distribute it would likely result in your entire directorship receiving a vote of no confidence by your shareholders.
So what’s the point of the above litany? Well I’m getting to that. You see after carrying out my research and seeing what has become of Games Workshop, I have decided to launch a campaign to bring you to your senses. Games Workshop has to be saved from itself if it is to survive, as I contest that your business model is both morally bankrupt and unsustainable. You continue to cater to an ever shrinking market that is being strangled by your insistence to place an obscenely high premium on your products. If ever there was a case for diminishing returns for the sake of an immediate yet moderate profit, then Games Workshop is a perfect case study. Nintendo found this out after the failure of the GameCube and broke free of this way of thinking by developing the Wii and broadening its audience many fold. Games Workshop could do the same, if it were to simply look to its past.
So how do I plan to do this? Well I will centre my campaign on a charter. This charter will be signed by game fans across the world and presented to you. The Table Top Gamers Charter, as it will be known, will be a list of demands made by the players of table top games to you. Akin to the Magna Carter of old, its aim is to make you see sense and embrace the hobby of table top games in all their forms as you once did and prevent your inevitable slide into oblivion. For as much as I despise your current business practices, I certainly don’t want you to cease to be.
The charter is attached to this letter and has been sent to you by way of a declaration that will be endorsed and presented with signatures at a later date. How you respond to this declaration will dictate my actions following it. Know that if the Charter is rejected wholesale by you, such a response will be regarded as evidence of your distain for your audience and the hobby you claim to support. It will also cast light onto your obsession with the pursuit of short term profit and you will be brought to account.
I certainly hope it does not come to that. For it is my belief that there are those amongst you that have a love for games and can see the benefit of thinking holistically about the hobby and not see it purely as a means to extract money from the parents of teenage boys.
I thank you for your attention.
Chris O’Regan Author, Founder and Caretaker of the Tabletop Gamers Charter
Tabletop Gamers Charter:
1) All retail prices of models sold within Games Workshop to be reduced by a third for large single models and half for the collection of smaller units and single special characters/units.
2) Table top games in all their forms, be they board, card or miniature war-games by other publishers to be sold in Games Workshop Stores and via their online store.
3) Pen and paper RPGs to be sold in Games Workshop stores and via their online store.
4) Games Workshop is to work with other publishers to create miniatures designed for RPG and board games it does not publish itself.
5) Games Workshop to hold gaming night events for local groups in their stores for games by other publishers as well as Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000.
6) Both Space Hulk and Blood Bowl to be re-released and in the case of Blood Bowl have its current price dropped by a third. Blood Bowl team and star player miniatures to also be re-released with a similar price drop.
7) Games Workshop to sponsor, support and attend consumer based gaming expos such as PAX (Penny Arcade Expo), UK Games Expo, Dragonmeet and Spiel AKA Essen.
8) Historical fan made game-play aid bans for games no longer published by Games Workshop, to be rescinded along with a formal apology for the original banning.
9) White Dwarf magazine is to abandon its current remit as a brochure for Citadel Miniatures and instead act as a table top gaming editorial that covers all fantasy/sci-fi war games, RPGs and board games from any publisher. It is also to include a letters page, features and a special section on game play aids and variants for table top games.
10) Games Workshop to cease its policy of running school based events.
Well, I broadly support Chris’ views, particularly because of the insidious way GW goes after young teens. And the schools are in on the act. PARENTS – Don’t let your little boy drag you into a Games Workshop store. Its an insidious trap! There are less expensive and excellent quality game systems with models that won’t cost you a fortune.
For starters look at -