Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Apparently GW thinks only 20% of us game. Thoughts on the GW investor article (RANT)

First of all I suggest you read the article from an Investor inside of GW's recent annual investor meeting. This guy is not a hobbyist himself, but an actual investor. What he has brillantly done though is gone through the internet and looked at competitors products to get a good idea of what the communities concerns are, what we want and are looking for, and what is important and topical to today's market.

Games Workshop AGM: A relentless profit machine

That title says something we really all know already right, but I am going to pull out a few highlights. RANT MODE ON! (There will be no foul language, but know I am cussing out loud when I write this).
Here is a highlight from the article "I’m told that the word “Game” in Games Workshop encourages the misconception that games are its business, but that only about 20% of Games Workshop’s customers are gamers."

This is coming from a company, who in their own financial report have the following
"The Group does not undertake research activities." and the words market & research cannot be found anywhere together. I am pretty sure Tom Kirby even bragged about this in past reports.

They have no reliable data to form this (mis)conception. Sure they have figures on total sales and sales in their store, and in the UK most of the gaming happens in the "warhammer shoppe", however most US gaming is at an FLGS or at HOME! I know I have played WAY more outside a store than in one. At least ten times as much. I have NEVER played any games of Fantasy or Specialist Games in stores, but that does not mean I have not ever played them!

As well, if 80% of us were collecting and only 20% gaming, how come there is an EXTREMELY PROLIFIC and LUCRATIVE Ebay aftermarket. This aftermarket is driven entirely by gamers looking for cheap pieces to get onto the table top.

As well, if 80% of us are collecting, then why did you Nuke WHFB and come out with AoS (I will let you decide what the S stands for)? You have an awesome lore and background. You even spend a whole WD right before AoS dropped bragging about that. So why did the game fail if we were all collecting? And why did you have to competely re-invent the world and mechanics for only 20% of us. I will tell you why. Because WHFB rules had become entirely unbalanced and broken in 8th. It WAS THE GAME that killed it. Because people bought and collected WHFB to play the game. And if (I personally believe when) AoS fails, it will be because of THE GAME. Same goes doubly for LotR, which should have been twice as collectible as anything warhammer related, but it did FAR worse.
And don't base your expectations of AoS off of "other metrics, downloads and Sigmar themed magazine sales," that "management seems more than satisfied" with. NEARLY EVERYONE downloaded the rules out of curiosity. They were FREE so why not? I wonder how many went into the recycle bin after the first read. Furthermore, the WD came with a free model. I specifically bought it for that and a copy of the rules, out of curiosity. What was $4? I wanted the model for terrain TBH and used it as such. What you should really look at is your inability to move the core box set and limited edition books. The equivalent Limited Ed in 40k sell out IN HOURS.

On top of that, how can they reconcile that statistic of "20% gamers", which is at best a guess and at worst irresponsible ignorance, with their stated goal and business plan to recruit teenagers/young adults? Especially this generation know for its gaming and gamer culture. Another indicator should be the resurgence of board games and the wild success of FFG and Privateer Press. People want games. If I wanted a collection I would choose one that has potential value increase... which for 95% of hobbyists our paint jobs don't do that. I consider myself an above average painter. Not professional, but I rarely meet people in person that can match me IMO, but I still don't expect to get back the cost of the model for most of my work (which is why it becomes a collection rather than me selling it off).

Also from the article is this "I’ve got bad news for disenchanted gamers complaining on the Internet. The company’s attitude towards customers is as clinical as its attitude towards staff. If you don’t like what it’s selling. You’re not a customer. The company believes only a fraction of the population are potential hobbyists, and it’s not interested in the others."

Yet this is what Mr. Rountree claims in the Financial Report ". I'd like to think our Hobby - modelling, painting, collecting, gaming - is for anyone."

So what they are putting on record and actually telling investors seems to be two different, and irreconcilable things. Sure they may not have bluntly put it like the article's author, however that is the perception and message received by investors. One of exclusion and no compassion for the costumer, without whom the company would FAIL btw.
Games workshop stopped being a hobby company when they started only focusing on making models as they come in the box. Games, conversions, conventions, events, all make you a hobby company. You are a now model, or even TOY company, but stop feeding us the line that you actually care about a hobby. Unless by hobby you mean buying outrageously priced models, because that is what you seem to think hobbying means. So to deem FFG as a lesser company, as you do in the article:

"When another shareholder asks if the company would sell games with pre-painted easy to assemble miniatures like the popular Star Wars themed X-Wing game, there’s a collective growl from the Games Workshop people. It wouldn’t be a hobby business then, it would be a toy company."

You are DIMINISHING the entirety of the HOBBY of WARGAMING. I think NO LESS of my X-WING brethren than I do of a 40k player or Blood Bowler. Just because they are prepainted doesn't mean it is any less HOBBY. It is easy to do a repaint. BUT not everyone wants to just paint, or has the ability to paint as well of even the prepaints. To them this is an attractive way INTO THE HOBBY.

Really GW, you are no different than LEGO. They also sell high priced, highly regarded IP based, unfinished plastic kits. To a very wide array of collectors and "gamers" ie people that play with legos (of whom there are FAR more than collectors btw).

You will be a hobby company again if you start caring about all aspects of the hobby. Like you said Mr. Rountree, it is "modelling, painting, collecting, gaming" SO DO ALL OF IT ALREADY.
Then there is this: "I asked one of the board members if he played, or if he modelled. He used to do both, he said but now he finds running businesses is even more fun. Not for the first time that day the thought crossed my mind that Games Workshop’s management might view staff, customers, and investors as figures on a tabletop that they must manoeuvre ruthlessly to victory."

One major problem indicated in the article is leadership no longer invested in their product. I trust apple and Microsoft to try and make good products users want because they too use these very products. I get the feeling from GW that the customer is distasteful and they sully themselves by making our addiction, but there is a dollar to be made so they do it anyway.
And by the way, your profits keep falling GW. So maybe, JUST MAYBE, your attitude is affecting that.

My final thought on the article is not so much a thought, but a love for the closing, and very poignant, statement

"Sigmar sounds like a good product, and I think maybe I should buy it for Joe for Christmas. But as I walk back along a tow-path to the railway station the spell wears off.
He just wants to play. He’s not an anointed one. He doesn’t have Warhammer DNA. I don’t think he’ll ever walk into a Warhammer store because he wants to paint a Stormcast Eternal.

Maybe we’ll get him X-Wing instead."

I could keep going on, but I shall give you a reprieve. I will leave you with this. Over 16,500 people have signed at the time of this article. There is one month left of the Petition. If you feel that GW is laying the bricks on its own path to its demise, you are welcome to sign.

Refocus your business model on the sale of a game and support of a gaming community vice the pure sale of collectible miniatures.

Or GW could keep doing this