Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An Open Letter To GW

by SandWyrm

Kirby has his own open letter up today on 3++, but I thought that instead of re-posting it, that I'd write something more personal instead:

Dear Games Workshop,

You're in the process of losing me as a loyal customer of 20 years, popular 40K blogger, and leader of my local 40K gaming community.

I have already cut back my 40K related spending by roughly 75% in the past year. If your current trends of insane price hikes, sloppy Army Books/FAQs, greedy rules design, and lazy community service continues, then you will lose me completely as a customer within the next 1-2 years to your competition. Either Flames of War, Warmachine, Malifaux, Video Games, or some combination thereof.

I have already either purchased or been given, for free, the models and rules required to play Warmachine and Malifaux. The reasons for why I am actively seeking alternatives to your products are as follows:

1) Insane Price Hikes

In this time of continuing global recession, you are still raising your prices significantly every year, contrary to every other hobby related manufacturer; who have stuggled to maintain or even lower the costs of their products.

Instead of making it easier to enter this hobby by reducing the complexity and cost of your products, you are actively making changes ("Finecast", Full-Color rules/army books, decorative templates) that increase the end-cost to your customers even as some of them ("Finecast") reduce your own long-term production costs. The fact that you would raise prices while reducing your own costs is particularly odious.

I know (from reading your annual report) that GW management considers your industry to be a niche luxury hobby that is largely immune from the problems in the larger economy. However I believe this view is very, very, flawed. The 40K players I see every week in our 5 local game stores are not rich. Most of them are students, single guys with low paying service jobs, or married middle-class professionals with very limited hobby budgets. Many have no job right now at all. They are buying your products on ever-diminishing credit. I have more disposable income than most of them, yet even I have been forced to cut back on my hobby spending drastically as the costs of gasoline, food, health care, and other necessities have risen and continue to rise every month. While my family's income has fallen more than 25% over the last 2 years alone. Before inflation.

Raising your prices, instead of doing everything you can to lower them, is bad business for you. You may see some gains in the short term, but the hobby (and your customer base) will continue to shrink the longer you continue this policy. It's unsustainable in the long term.

2) Sloppy Army Books

It's become increasingly obvious that many of the 40K army books that you have released in the last 2 years were not properly finished/tested before release. The Tyrannid codex stands out as a prime example. The rules for that book are so sloppily written that a FAQ was immediately needed upon release. When that FAQ did finally appear many months later, it's rulings were so arbitrary and inconsistent with similar rules in other books/FAQs that I saw the number of Tyrannid players in my area plummet by half. In addition, this bad FAQ has cast a pall over every new codex. As players wonder if their choice of army (and the cash used to collect/build it) will be invalidated six months after a new book is released.

That is bad for your business. You should be doing everything possible to proof-read your rules ahead of time. As well as releasing timely FAQs on a MONTHLY basis to resolve issues and evaluate previous rulings. You do not want potential players delaying their entry into a new army because of FAQ-fear. Or comparing your paltry rules/FAQ output to what Privateer Press is able to accomplish with their much more timely updates.

3) Greedy Rules Design

I, and many other players, do enjoy the changes that come with a new codex or game edition. It keeps the game fresh and gives us something new to collect and learn. There is a point though, at which so much is changed that we cannot base a meaningful amount of our new army on the figures and models we had before.

Case in point: The Grey Knights.

When the new Grey Knight book was released, I was disappointed to find that none of the Grey Knights, Stormtroopers, or Imperial Guard models that I already owned could be used to field a competitive GK army. Options for them existed, yes, but it was also obvious that the rules had been designed in such a way that an army containing those models would be very uncompetitive.

If I'd had a competitive option for these models, I would have bought into the codex and purchased several boxes of Grey Knight models to fill the army out. But you did not give me that option. You wanted me to buy all-new instead. So I traded the GK models I had to someone else. This deprived you not only of new sales to me, but of some sales to the person I traded with. That's bad for your business. You would make more from 10 players upgrading half of their armies than from 3 players that buy all-new.

Again, it's a bad economy, and you must adapt to the new reality of that. I and many, many, others no longer have the free cash to buy an all-new army. For the foreseeable future, I will either upgrade an army I already have, or I will not buy at all.

Along these same lines comes a warning: If 6th Edition 40K requires me to rebuild my entire army as the switch from 4th Edition to 5th Edition did, it's over. I'm gone. I will not rebuild 50+% of my army in order to play 6th competitively. Instead I will either continue to play 5th (and not buy anything new), or I will simply quit and play something else.

4) Lazy Community Service

I know from talking to the individuals involved that GW management had to be BEGGED by multiple people both inside and outside the company to let Forge World attend Adepticon, North America's largest wargaming convention. Even then, they were only allowed a reduced presence that required 12+ hour days from their staff.

In case you're not aware, let me tell you some of what Privateer Press did at the convention:

  1. Gave away a free $50.00 starter army and introductory rules booklet to the first 1000 attendees.
  2. Had 3 Warmachine/Hordes demo-game tables set up between the doors to the 40K hall.
  3. Had a complete booth set up where you could purchase Warmachine gear.
  4. Had an official corporate involvement in Adepticon's Warmachine tournament. Including prize support.

Those are the actions of a company that cares about it's community/customers. Not only that, but they have an official competitive tournament format and ranking system for players. Plus timely rules updates and FAQs. Which is something that you, as a company, constantly fall down on.

Why does PP show up to events like Adepticon and make such a showing? Because they know that every player at an event like Adepticon is a representative of all the players in the local community where they live. If they can "flip" one of these players to their game, it will encourage many more in their local communities to give their products a try. That's why the local Warmachine community here in Indianapolis has grown from a couple of players at the back of the shop to a large group with it's own night that rivals the regular 40K crowd.

To simplify, PP is perceived as a company that listens to and supports it's community. While GW is perceived as a company that has not only abandoned it's community, but continually bleeds it with ever-larger price increases. That is bad for your long term business.

In Conclusion

I want Games Workshop to make money. I want you to prosper and continue. GW has been a huge part of my hobby life over the years. But I see you continually engaging in bad business decisions that emphasize short-term gains over the long-term health of both GW itself and the community you depend on to buy your products. It's time to re-think the way you do business for the better.


SandWyrm & The Undersigned

Leave a comment if you agree. Permission is hereby granted to anyone that wants to re-post this elsewhere. -SandWyrm


  1. Here here!

    BOXERSAINT(Caps lock is the John Hancock-style of the Internet)

  2. Can I get a harrumph?

    Harrumph, harrumph!

  3. I started to write a letter to GW, and stopped. They MIGHT listen if I sell off my 40K stuff and buy into FoW for less than I'd drop on a new 2000pt 40K army.

    I agree. Price increases, poor Cust. Relations, lack of support.... GW's looking less and less appealing.

  4. Amen brother.

    Dan "YoungWolf7" Smith

  5. I agree. The devotion to an auto-cannibalistic business model is a recipe for failure in and of itself. The antagonistic attitude towards customers and resellers is merely extra icing.

  6. Signed a thousand times over. I can't believe we're even having this discussion. I re-entered the hobby less than 4 years ago, and after watching prices explode and my work in building armies constantly scuttled by new rulebooks, and in the case of Tyranids, that awful FAQ, I'm getting comfortable with the idea that my army might just be something that goes in a display case. I certainly don't want to spend any more money on the thing.

    Wyrd has done some interesting work lately, I'm checking them out this weekend.

  7. excelent piece of writing, as ever.

  8. It hurts to read this, just because of the fact that your post above is the truth that I wish to deny, but I can't. I am in the hobby for almost 8 years and I feel like the hobby is slowlt dying. Heck, I am tending to PP whilst I didn't like it at first. I hope GW takes this letter serious and please, please let it be a eye opener!

  9. I agree wholeheartedly. I already had to give up about 75% of my models to cover insane car repair prices, rent, and all the other bills because I lost my job recently, and to get all them back, I'm looking at nearly double my original investment! I would LOVE to keep playing 40K, but if the prices go up then I'm going elsewhere.

    And if the prices go up any further, you'll see people stop playing the game, painting, etc because they're afraid to break their multi-hundred dollar (or higher) investment.

    Put my name on the list!

    --Christopher "bladebaka" Creason

  10. in the end for me, the one thing i keep going back on is what foodie and i talked about earlier. i flat out said, with the current price hikes, even at my own discount i get, there is NO WAY i will buy into another army for the forseeable future. i think thats what gets me. i havent said anything to the gw price hikes for 3 years because i was fine with the small increases, with exception to the AOBR and codexes. but the finecast thing seems like a larf. i mean i know its a new thing for a huge company to invest in, but to raise the prices on many models by more than 25%????????? honestly. bad form, and its a shame i dont like warmachine, good thing i like malifaux.

  11. @Uberdark


    My IG are done and painted. I haven't decided yet whether to sell the extra models that I have. Right now I see them as a sort of 6th Edition insurance.

    My Blood Angels are done. Once I paint them, that's it. I may even sell them off soon after.

    Malifaux comes first though. That's what I'm excited about right now.

    I got a load of Tau in trade for my GK stuff, but I'm not going to put any money into them before the new codex drops. Even then... well, we'll see. I might just eBay them too.

  12. I completely agree! Thank you for writing this and putting it so well.

  13. Farmpunk costed out what it would take to start Flames of War today. About $250 - rules included. Not including the cheaper options for WWII minis from other manufacturers. Hard to argue with that.

    Malifaux was only $130 for the rules and 2 crew boxes. That's a steal too.

  14. Sandwyrm,
    This is a great letter. I've noticed a drastic shift to Warmachine in my area as well amongst the serious 40k players. We haven't given it up outright (yet), but we've been playing alot of Warmachine and very little 40k in Raleigh lately. I think its the rules support more than anything that gets us. The price gouging and corporate policy seems to be the final straw, though. GWS has always been an 'industry leader' in pricing, but the way they've kept it up in spite of economic conditions is mind-blowing. For me, it was your piece in their CEO that made me stand up and take notice.

    For me, I find Flames of War to be everything I want in a wargame. The rules are well written, the game is well supported, and the models are great. I've been playing sporadically for a few years now. I've just stared Warmachine and it is truly mathematically elegant. I feel I need both to fill the gap of 40k. I love the 'micro-situations' I find myself in during games of Warmachine and I need the grand strategy of company sized operations in WWII.

  15. Put me in. I cannot afford to pay for product if I have to pay $4 a gallon to drive to the store to play it. Stock holders might not understand a price decrease, but when we stop buying everything, they will really be in shock!



  16. I'm on board with this 100%. I've been part of this hobby for twenty five years. The choices that GW has made, and continues to make have ended that 25 year relationship for me.
    Perhaps Privateer Press might be the better choice now, they're home office is even within driving range for me.

  17. in the past 3 months i have bought 2 boxes of lootas, and have started switching to apple barrel paints, which btw work pretty darn well. and the lootas were bought with money from prize support at the games 2 die 4 tourney last week. all said in 6 months, ive put in probably $50 into gw. a year ago at this time, i bought stuff every month, and could afford it. gas, life, and all the amazing money i make as being a teacher have cut the spending i do on gw to 1/10th of what i spent last year. so when gw raises prices THIS MUCH, it puts me off. will i continue to play? yes, but i will not be buying that new army i have been eyeing. ill have to make do with the orks for now. sad really.

  18. Vallejo paints are very nice too. Cheaper, with better bottles, more paint, and more pigment than GW.

  19. Agreed. I'm finding myself replacing more and more unit options with alternative models that are more affordable and original. Ok no GT and other big tournaments but I don't really care. I've been playing more and more alternative games, while my GW games slowly creep into the dust.

  20. Probably the best response I've read. My gaming group has been moving towards Warmachine more and more, and I'm lobbying them to try Malifaux and am seeing some interest. I've got two unbuilt 40K armies and two unbuilt Fantasy armies (almost entirely bought secondhand) that will keep me busy for the foreseeable future. I need a few Grey Knights models to complete that army, once I buy those I don't see myself buying any GW product for a loooong time.

  21. It is about time GW starts listening to their customers. I fully understand that sometimes a business needs to raise their prices, but I can't understand the ridiculously large price hikes.

    As a fairly new player to the game, with a limited hobby budget, that would still like to expand his army, I find myself constantly postponing buying new stuff as simply my hobby budget won't allow it.

    After playing for a while I finally know what models I need to make my army more competitive, but I simple don't feel like spending this much money on it. To a point where I am regularly thinking of selling all my stuff on ebay and getting out of the hobby altogether.

    I believe this is just a big nasty way of doing business, especially as anybody who can afford it in anyway is loured into buying up large right before the price hike. That would be a great raise in turn-over every year!!! And after that GW just raises it's prices and does the same thing again in a years time.

    I might try collecting stamps instead...

  22. I think people should stop fooling themselves that switching to a new game system is going to save them money. I won't argue that the cost of entry for FoW or Warmachine isn't lower that GW, but when I actively played both those games, I spent just as much money on them as I do GW. With Warmachine you end up buying every release that comes out. Both systems have some prohibitively expensive units. Gun batteries can cost 50-80 dollars for maybe 15% of a FoW army. A platoon of Russians costs the same as a company of any other army. Let's also not forget the new $90 Warmachine models.

    Even if you can keep yourself from endlessly expanding your army, face it, we're games. You'll just start another one.

  23. @CaulynDarr

    There's some truth to that, but my complaints aren't solely about cost. If it were I'd just suck it up like I always do.

    It's about the Marine-only metagame, the lack of creativity, the awful, awefull (GK) fluff, the constant slaps in the face to competitive gamers, the lask of service...

    Then comes a higher than normal price increase (up to 20% on some plastic kits, like SangGuard), plus the "FineCast" idiocy, which is being marketed as some sort of premium wonder-product worthy of a markup; when the reality is that it's a cost-cutting move on GW's part.

    The cherry on top of the fail is the embargo on overseas shipments. Not that it affects me directly, but it still pisses me off. If they get away with this, the local resellers will be the next ones to be screwed over to line Tom Kirby's pockets.

    Screw 'em

  24. GW is a cooperation, I don't expect them to act the same as PP or battlefront. Both those companies are still run by the talented people founded them.

    I stopped being emotionality invested in GW; they are a faceless corporation. I don't see GW doing anything that any other company at their size does to their customers.

    We as their customers make the mistake in thinking that a bunch of suits trying to make a profit care about us. It's tough because the other companies in the miniature gaming business are still mom and pop operations. They can interact at a more human level. They have the control of their companies to take risks and to tell it strait to their customers.

    But it's a cycle. As a company grows they'll eventually lose the human connection to their customers. Customers stop being Bob and Jim who you had drinks with at the last con, and become customer 12970-435 on a spread sheet.

  25. I agree. That Distopian Wars Mega Bundle is looking better and better.

  26. on a side note: anyone wondering what happened to my last post on the facebook gw rant, it was taken down due to some unforseen issues that evolved from said post. ill leave it at that and put nothing else up on the matter.

    sandwyrm: posted here because it seemed to be the most relevant article to go with.

  27. Completely agreed Sandwyrm. Which is sad since I'm just getting back into regular and competitive play after a few years away and when I finally have some time off work. Looks like my new SW's will be m last army for a looooooong while and my dream of resurrecting my pure Elysian AirCav army is on indefinite hold.

    Honestly,if this trend at GW continues, I may look into FoW, but more likely than not I'll just leave the hobby world altogether and focus more on my other fun pursuits

  28. I think I reluctantly agree with Caulyn, we're enablers. GW succeeds in spite of its stupidity because the community is in its own way complicit in the poor behaviour.

    Yes we "stupidly" keep buying their overpriced products but more significantly we also make good the shortfall in actual player support.

    PP gives out praise and badges but both companies are dependent on their fanbase to proselytise the product and support new gamers.

    It really would be nice if they'd acknowledge it like PP does. Badges and some free loot does go a long way even if at the end of the day both systems are perfectly capable of sucking up as much money as you're willing to throw at them.

  29. This is the first time I read your blog, but take a look at infinity.
    100% agree with your letter, I am a player from Argentina and if I bought here it is 50% to 100% more than buying from Maelstrom.
    I am turning to other games, I dont need more miniatures, me and my friends are going to stuck in 8th or 7th eddition.

  30. Good ponit Caulyn Darr! Companies do what they must and want based upon their business plan and the direction their board wants them to go. They want to maximize profits and cut costs at the same time. My company does that. They squeeze us, the front line operational management teams to get more with less. How are they any different. I do agree that they have an issue. Remember they also have a different mindset than a lot of US players. That isn't an excuse but an explanation. All that being said, I am disappointed that they don't have a customer based approval metric or system in place. Most large companies have a way to monitor their customer service levels. GW should invest in that.

  31. Here Here.

    I collect GW stuff over 20 years now, started with hero quest, then warhammer quest and ended up with warhammer itself.

    Builded several armies that are now obsolete (DoW, Kislev, Middenheim, Bretonnia is almost obsolete),

    Bought several collector guides, to find out that (most of) the (broken) parts aren't available anymore, (Hey it's a game! you might drop something! - and find out it's sometimes beyond repair...)

    I mean where did the HOBBY part go?
    The game is off balance, often not even well tested, armies that have a 70% probability to win a game, regardless a general, rules that change about every 4-5 years, armies and (BEAUTIFUL!) models that can't be used anymore
    (DoW, Kislev, Chaos Dwarves, Former edition characters and formations like the arrowhead)
    or aren't worth their points. - which will end up in standard army lists that everyone uses... only to win a game...

    To me the most balanced gameplay of WFB was the 6th edition. And, back then, it was a HOBBY!

    So GW, go back a decade or so, bring back the fun of playing uncommon army lists with beautiful models and don't think a 'niche' market will be sufficient.

    The future of warhammer lies in the youngsters and if you make it impossible for them to collect an army, the 'niche' market will become so small that there is nothing left!

  32. @SandWyrm said...
    Totally agree, been buying the Vallejo
    'Flames of War' paint sets and have a nice variety of colors. I have never had one dry up on me, even after months of sitting.

    I have played 40k since '98 off and on(missed 4th entirely). Mostly its my small group that plays each other so we have a good variety of forces so we dont have to play Marine on Marine. Though we have also started playing mostly 1250-1500pts instead of 2k like we used to, hard to afford a variety before but now...

  33. AMEN!

    I WAS planning on supplementing the DE army I got secondhand with some new models (basically buying an entire Haemonculus Coven army), but now I've decided to stick with what I've got.


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