Wednesday, April 16, 2014

GW: Is It All About The Anticipation?

by SandWyrm

I ran across an interesting video today. It's part of a talk by Robert Sapolsky about how Dopamine (which triggers reward-seeking behaviours in the brain) responds in relation to a rewarding activity. After watching it, I couldn't help but think of Games Workshop and it's inconsistent quality control. Is it the very inconsistency and randomness of their rules and financial results that keeps our attention focused on them? Are competing games/companies just inherently more boring in comparison?

Have a look. The video is only 5 minutes long...

Cool. Now let's think about this in a wargaming context...

A company like say... Battlefront releases just as much or more game product in a given year than GW does. But they tend to have a relatively consistent level of quality. Fans' dopamine is elevated in anticipation of releases, but only to a point.

Games Workshop, on the other hand, has historically had wildly varying levels of quality. Codex A will be good. Codex B will be utter crap. Then Codex C comes along and blows away both A and B. Then Codex D kinda sucks... and so on. So according to Sapolsky, that ongoing uncertainty would trigger a massively higher amount of dopamine in fans prior to their release. Which would translate to more attention.... Which would trigger more sales in response.

But then I think about 6th, and the general decline of GW's sales. Is it simply because GW is getting more consistent, releasing more and more books that are always meh or bad instead of wildly good or bad? Making them... less interesting over time? Especially when they no longer release info about what might show up next week?

Going back to Battlefront... Is Late-War their most popular period simply because the LW releases have been so much more varying in terms of balance than early and mid-war? I've seen lots of people complain about Late-War, but I still see folks playing it more than anything else.

Fantasy Flight would seem to be the exception to this, with their consistently good X-Wing rules. But maybe they've just tapped a different uncertainty vein. After all, we don't know all of the cards a ship comes with until it's released. Just the few that FFG dribbles out to us ahead of time. :)

New Tie Defender Maneuver Dial

Or what maneuvers it will have on its dial. Ohhh... a white K-Turn!

There's also the (intentional or not) issue of FFG's supply problems. Will that cool new ship be at the store when you want it? If you don't get it now, will someone else buy it? When will new stock come in?

Makes me wonder what the 'ethical' devices of increasing uncertainty are. Or does it really just boil down to cost-to-play?

And of course there's always the uncertainty involved with GW's financials, lawsuits, and internal dramas. Which keep some of us watching even after we walk away from the games themselves.



  1. FoW LW lets people play with the most 'cool toys' at a higher point level. It's also the period most people associate with WW2. Most WW2 movies are set in '44-'45.

    although I personally like EW a lot, LW has grown on me. As long as you leave the Naval Gunfire out of it. Normandy NGFS is bonkers. Rudel's (and his Hammer from the sky) also a bit crazy for the Germans, but can be countered.

    Part of what I like about Battlefront IS the consistency. Kinda refreshing.

    1. Yeah, but would Flames be as refreshing/interesting if crazy old GW wasn't there for Battlefront (Or FFG/Privateer) to be compared to?


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