Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Look And See: What GW Could Be

by SandWyrm


Let's talk websites. Specifically, what Battlefront does with theirs vs. the fail that is the Games Workshop website.

First, let's look at the Games Workshop Website:


It's very "BUY! BUY! BUY!", isn't it? Maybe if we click on the Warhammer 40K link, we'll get some more focused content.


Well, we get a more focused selling page at least. As every picture and link leads to a catalog page with nothing but a little paragraph of text to sell it.

As for new products, there's aren't very many. We have the relatively new Tervigon/Tyrannofex kit, a Finecast version of Canis Wolfborn, and the new Thunderwolves. That's it. Everything else that's being showcased is old product. Some of it is more than 10 years old. For a miniatures company that also does rules, they don't seem to be all that into making/releasing new models. What are we down to now? Two new codices a year? Cutting development staff will do that.

Where's the non-catalog articles for 40K? Oh, they're not in this section. That would be too easy. No, they're over in the 'Gaming' section.


Where we get still more catalog pages.

There are in fact, only 2 links here that lead to non-catalog content. The second, 'Errata and FAQ Articles', is really only a shortcut to a section of the first. So let's click on 'Gaming and Collecting Articles'.


This is it. This is all of GW's non-catalog website content.


Under 'Collecting', this is what we get. A 'Gift Guide' that just provides more links to the catalog, and some articles on collecting Space Marines and Empire. It's so nice to see the rest of the factions so well represented. Look at the dates too.


Hey look, under 'Background' we get exactly one article. From 2008. Joy.


Under 'Sample Army Lists' we get more content. But it doesn't cover even a quarter of the factions for any of the games. The last update was over a year ago. These aren't additional sections either, they're single articles.


Here's 'Scenarios'.

GW probably cut back it's web team to the bare bones over a year ago. Under the excuse of nobody looking at their content. Which nobody could find in their badly designed site.


'Campaigns'. Is anyone still playing Mighty Empires? I didn't think so.


Here, of course, is the only reason any of us visit the website. To get the latest FAQs.


'Downloads'... meh.


So GW's site is an unfocused mass of catalog entries. With no forum, little in the way of new products, and very little in the way of supporting articles. Evidently they don't really want to make new stuff or even tell us much about what they sell outside of their expensive hobby mag. Which has lots of nice glossy photos, but very little in the way of good hobby content. Meh.

Would this company still exist if it wasn't for the Black Library and Forge World?

Now let's look at what a gaming website/store SHOULD look like...


Hey! There's so much stuff on the front page that I actually have to scroll!


They tell us when they last updated the page. That's nice. Then they describe what's in this week's update. Yep. They update every week.

First up they have a link to their YouTube channel, a link to a page of articles for new FoW players, and a couple of embedded videos that describe the basic mechanics of Flames. It's like they're trying to attract new players to the hobby or something. What does GW do? It raises prices to deliberately shrink the player base and make it both more 'elite' and marginally more profitable.

We then have a clever link to the Forums to encourage people to go there. Forums? What's that?


Then we get a nice long article on the classifications of various British tanks. It has a purpose, of course, of increasing players' interest in running something other than cheap Shermans from the Plastic Soldier Company in their British lists. Smart.

After that they give us a tantalizing glimpse of their upcoming American/German rulebook for late war. Look! Here's all the units you can buy now to use later with this book! Excited yet?


Next up is a link to a tourney that's run by a different organization than Battlefront. Yes, really.

Then we get 11 free German army list PDFs that have been updated for 3rd Edition. These are all that you need to play with your models. BF knows that these lists are an important tool for pulling players into the hobby. Who will then buy their other models, books, and terrain.


Four new releases this week! All for stuff in previous books. The Rocket Battery is nice because it pulls together a lot of stuff that you used to have to buy separately at a higher total cost.

These are also remarkable because they not only include background info and pictures; but also instructions for assembly. Which is something that BF customers have been wanting for some time. It's the number one problem with their models and they're addressing it properly. On the front page.


Hey look, they have a hobby magazine too. So they update the Website IN ADDITION TO the mag. What a concept.

And... Just in case you're like "Horses? WTF?", they provide another long history article that explains how over 75% of the German army in WWII was horse-drawn. They're not just releasing the models and hoping for the best (cough... Pyrovore... cough), they're SELLING them. 


The 3rd Edition rules reduced the number of airplane models that you needed to represent air support from 3 to 1. So here's the repackaged kits. Airplanes now cost you $17.50 instead of $45. What a concept! Reduce the price and sell more!

After that we get a link to a fan blog. Yes, they're actively using their community to sell the game to new players.


Next we get some tourney info for an event in New Zealand. Followed by more introductory articles and some free reference sheets that help you remember everything in the game phase-by-phase. Man, they're really pushing this new player thing.


Even more tourney information. ETC Championships... North American Event Info... Tourney news for other regions...

Their tourney system might have issues, but at least they understand the importance of competitive events. Especially in America, which gets it's own section. We do like our competition. :)


Recent articles... WAIT! Is that a schedule of upcoming releases? NO WAY! You mean they tell me what's coming up to a month out? That's dangerous. I mean, it might build excitement and lead to more sales!

And fellas, this is only THE FRONT PAGE we're looking at here. You can search the site and find all sorts of archived content. All linked to catalog items for easy purchasing. And when you go to the catalog... Hey! You can pull up a list of articles for each item! How... logical.

What you won't find is much in the way of FAQ documents. What they have is mostly for older (pre-2nd Edition) books. You see, they write the rules so well that they don't have to go back and re-explain them later.

The site is also focused just on Flames. There's no corporate/investor info. No info on any other games they might make/sell.

Go to www.warhammer40k.com and all you'll find is a cyber-squatter. If you spell 40,000 out completely (who does this?), you'll just be taken to the main GW page. They couldn't even bother to link it to the 40K catalog section.

In the end, it's the difference between a game company that thinks it's a public utility, and one that realizes it's a game company that needs to sell new products.

23 comments:

  1. I would like to add that neither site is mobile friendly.

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    1. GW's site is better than Battlefront's in this regard. As BF's online store simply breaks on the iPhone/iPad. While I can at least look at the pics on GW's site. Navigating in either on a touch device is a real pain though.

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  2. Your prejudices are showing through :)

    That being said, I have to agree that the 40k site is crap. Its also slow and makes my IE sad. I know its wrong to look back but the old GW website was so much better. Maybe not as navigable but had lots more stuff. Conversions, showcases, guides etc.

    I am also heading the direction of FOW. Partly because of lots of what you have mentioned (rules, codex creep, price etc) but also because the 40k where I now live is very poor.

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    1. Of course they show through. I'm not hiding them. :)

      I'm not going to argue that anyone should change games based on a website, but what's interesting to me is the difference between how the two companies approach the marketing of their very similar products. The big guy (GW) can't seem to afford a real web presence, community outreach, or even a decent product release schedule. Whereas the little guy (BF) seems to have no problem releasing new products every week, telling us about them in detail, and doing everything they can to grow the hobby.

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    2. Battlefield has to compete with other companies for every thing they do with FoW. Their models can be used with other WWII game systems so they need to give a reason to by their rules over Command Decision. Their rules can be used with any miniatures so they need to give a reason to use their miniatures over Plastic Soldier Company's. There's also many places to get into the history of WWII. They have to do everything better to justify their existence.

      GW, on the other hand, seems to think they have no competitors and acts accordingly. I hope one day they'll get treatment for their severe case of cranial rectumitis.

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  3. Have to admit, the huge differences in the web sites/presence have become hugely apparent as I break out FoW stuff I haven't touched in years... Their site is friendly, informative and easy to find what I want... And CURRENT... GW's is very much not... I am also very much against buying direct from them if I can avoid it... If I'm paying full retail anyway, why not go through our local store? But another discussion :-)

    Now, if they just had the US Airborne stuff as a PDF... :-) Am a little unclear because I have a few ways to buy a company, which is the correct one?

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    1. I'm not sure what you mean by the 'correct' way to buy a company. Can you clarify this?

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    2. Well, I can build a "Parachute Rifle Company" through the "D-1" book and the "Stars and Stripes" (yeah, having read the paper, still have a hard time saying it without chuckling)... Different options, different point costs, etc... Not planning on hitting any competitive tournaments or anything in the near term, but I also don't want to cheat by taking a better list... Mind, the "D-1" is the one I'm really looking at, but I like a lot of the support options there :-)

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    3. AFAIK, any list/book from the same period (Mid-War, Late-War) is legal. When there's a point difference, it usually means that their motivation or skill level is different. Or that they have some different rules that apply to that company.

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    4. actually, the easiest way I've found to tinker with FoW forces is Easy Army. You may have to spend a buck or two to get access to the books you want to try, but I think it's well worth it.

      There are older books that are out of use. Afrika being one (it was replaced by North Africa).
      BF does a decent job letting you know which books have been re-done on their website. if not, the wiki entry has good lists.

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    5. Cool, thanks much! Have to snag a few more toys, but this is a good start... Back on topic, REALLY nice having the company's web site really be helpful... And a tournament scene that is actually acknowledged and presumably supported...

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    6. Actually, all the books are legal and valid. The Stars and Stripes book was Ed1,D+1 is 2nd ed. The points cost shift depending on when the books were written, and what the game balance was at the time. You might play out of Stars and Stripes and be at a disadvantage, but the list you play is perfectly valid for all game play including tournaments.

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  4. nicely exposed, I loved the old Sites way better but from about 3 years ago the site is a sorry excuse to sell and that is that matters not that is not even properly designed to entice the purchaser. at least in the old days the site had articles that helped you to desire more models, not anymore

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  5. As fun as it is to mock GW, am I the only one that didn't expect their website to be anything more than a glorified storefront in the first place?

    Maybe it's just coming from a background of online gaming, but official sites are always garbage. The official forums, for anything, are always garbage. Articles written about games for the purpose of being put on the game's official website are a particularly strong brand of garbage.

    It's all a joke, because it's being written and controlled by people who obviously can't be unbiased. You think people are foaming at the mouth for strategy advice from some generic dude in the web department, or even the Codex writers themselves? Glance at the battle reports in a White Dwarf sometime and tell me you need to see more of that.

    Official forums only exist because if they (inexplicably) become successful it allows the company itself to control that facet of their public image. I am THRILLED whenever anything I'm interested in doesn't have public forums--there's absolutely no need for them, fan sites will inevitably do it better, and the complete lack of official forums is the only thing that prevents some fraction of people from getting caught up in the one-sided, hilariously overmoderated pit of uselessness that those things invariably are.

    Of all that glorious filler-content you just pointed out on the FoW website, the only things that garner even the tiniest bit of merit are the page of upcoming tournaments/events (which GW has, it's just never updated with anything relevant at all) and links to reputable blogs. And that second one is only taken at face value--plenty of companies use links on the "official" page as a means of controlling the output of blogs, which is an easy way to ruin a community by essentially forcing positive opinions out of independent writers, lest they lose their traffic-generating official page link.

    Having to click through a giant advertisement of a website to get to the FAQs is just fine with me, because getting the new FAQs (aka, official content for the game itself) is the only time I want to be on any "official" website in the first place. GW doesn't need to be doing online community-building, because they'd be awful at it, just like every other company. The internet at large does just fine at that sort of thing, and I'd much rather it be in our hands than dealing with the repercussions of whatever they'd try to force down our throats.

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    1. "As fun as it is to mock GW, am I the only one that didn't expect their website to be anything more than a glorified storefront in the first place?"

      Yeah, GW has bred a culture of low expectations. Still, it wasn't until I actually sat down to compare the 2 sites that I actually realized how pathetic GW's web presence is.

      Official forums may be consistently sub-par (like official tournaments?), but that is your communication line to the company. BF is known to actually (gasp!) listen to what people say on it's forums and make changes to rules. The assembly instructions on the new kits came out of that process.

      When a company doesn't have forums, it means that they're not interested in listening to their customers. Some, like Apple, may seem to ignore the problems that are pointed out there. But invariably they will eventually address any issue that stirs up enough discontent.

      As for what garners merit on BF's front page, well that's a matter of opinion. I like to see the new releases. I like the teaser for the new book. A month ago they had a free PDF campaign up for North Africa that let you create your own leader (warrior) that gained abilities through experience. That's exactly the sort of content that will pull in the less competitive players, which are the lifeblood of the hobby.

      All good companies cultivate a pool of preferred journalists/fans. From a corporate perspective, it's necessary. The best content though, will always be from the independents.

      Like you, I was used to not caring about a company's hobby site. But I keep finding myself coming back the the FoW site to see what's new. No, they're not the only place I go for Flames content. But it's quite nice to have them involved. It means that they give a damn.

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  6. In GWs defence you didn't mention the 'What's new today' page. This is updated at least once a day and given the release of the paint sets it was three our four times. Of coures it supports your argument that most of the posts are to support selling more product, but there is the hobby aspects, and the flickr pool that does bring in the community side of things, a bit.

    It's not perfect I agree but a lot has happened over at http://www.games-workshop.com/gws/wnt/blog.jsp since the new webmaster/blogger came along. It's integrated with their Facebook group, which was an unthinkable reality more than 12 months ago. Things are improving, of course the site is more catalog, so is White Dwarf, the biggest loss is I think some of the articles and more DiY hobby articles seem to have been culled. I keep finding links to building templates that no longer exist or are buried somewhere in a GW US sub-domain. Worth exploring What's New Today even if it's just to compare GWs daily updates with Battlefronts weekly ones

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    1. They have a what's new page? Where? How are we supposed to find it?

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    2. It's the two pictures in the right hand bottom corner of the first page, their choice for featured content is relevant for what ever they are selling at the moment. Usually they'll pull some images from Flikr that are exactly what the new thing is and say "Wow! Gary painted these and they are awesome! Look, you can go here and buy these from us directly!", I'm pretty sure if they could they would just link directly to everyone's bank accounts and skip the annoying convince you to buy our stuff part.

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    3. It's position is a legacy of where it used to be prior to the new guy coming on and updating regularly. I think there also used to be a link in the top menu bar. Indeed the site could be better arranged but that info is also fed through to their Facebook group and you can access it through their RSS feed [which I have] and presumably by twitter [which I don't follow] so there is some semblance of social and community sides, certainly more than they used to. They just obviously haven't reached everyone, perhaps because their primary concern is the selling of product. That's no excuse, it supports your point but there is more there than at first glance.

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  7. The Whats New TOday page is buried deep under links and menu's, not front and centre liek it should be in a sensible design...good post, good point, and something that even smaller companies could do with learning from...have you been to Old Glory's site?

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    1. (looks at Old Glory site)

      Pretty basic. Easy to get around, but not much there in terms of content. Very mid-90's.

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  8. As someone who's "FOW Curious" I can't say the FOW site impressed me much. It's cluttered and it's hard to find the articles I wanted (force org pdfs and unit guides).

    On the other hand, Corvus Belli really knocked it out of the park with their Infinity website - it even has a built-in army builder!

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    1. Their army builder doesn't work on the iPad. Fail.

      At least Easy Army manages this.

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