Thursday, January 26, 2012

And So It Begins... Some Advice To GW

by SandWyrm

We've talked about 3D printing and it's threat to Games Workshop before. but now the Huffington Post is reporting that 40K-Infringing objects have begun to show up on the Pirate Bay.

Pirate Bay Hosts Physical Objects - And Violates Games Workshop Copyright?
Huffington Post UK

A model listed by an anonymous user as a 'Tabletop Wargaming Robot Model' - but identifiable to the Huffington Post UK as the likeness of a Warhammer 40000 Space Marine Dreadnought, which is a trademarked design of the UK-based Games Workshop Group PLC ...

I'll offer this advice to GW:

Look at what has happened to Music and Movies. You can't stop this trend, you can only co-opt it.

You can make money off of 3D printing if you move NOW. Use the time you have left (about a year) to set up a paid service that (within limits) allows your customers free access to your IP; so that they can mix and match model parts to their hearts' content. A head from this line, a chainsword from that one, a custom fan-sculpt of this other torso from the Horus-Heresy era.

Change poses, add a scenic base, and...

Then you print our models on your own high quality equipment and ship them to us at a tidy profit. Or you charge a set fee to let us download the customized model (to your protected printing app) so that we can print it ourselves using your own protected software. You can also offer creators of new models a cut of whatever their designs sell for.

Your model to follow would be Apple's iOS App Store. In addition to selling your own models, you want to leverage the creative efforts of your 3D-talented fans. So that you can then sell those models back to the 3D-untalented majority. Apple takes a third of what it's developers make selling their apps, there's no reason that you couldn't do the same with fan-made models. And... Just like Apple, you could charge "Model Developers" a fee to start working with your IP. With full control over what models get approved and which ones don't. So that you can provide a consistent level of quality.

An iPad/iPhone "Custom Model" app would be a great place to start. You can control the user experience much more easily, and these platforms are less hackable. Which protects your IP from being copied.

Get this thing up and running and you'll be amazed at the possibilities. Want to compete with Flames of War more directly? Just publish some 15mm 40K/Fantasy rules and the models will spring forth from the community over time. Providing you with additional sales without your having to do very much at all.

Then you can decide at your leisure whether there's enough interest to warrant full plastic production of a particular model line. Which could use some or all of the same sculpts that your fans have made already.


  1. 23 downloads is going to really effect GW's bottom line.

    It's not going to be a problem until 3d printing is wide spread and cost effective. If you can buy a 3d printer for less than 500 dollars and have some other legitimate household use for it, then GW might be in trouble.

    As it is, home 3d printing is a niche hobby. We're years away from a 3d printer in every home. I think we'll get there eventually, but GW can't base it's immediate corporate policy on technology that might be widespread in 10 years.

    Whose to say they don't have a contingency plan for that eventuality? Those are the kinds of secrets a company like GW should guard at all cost. This is a possible future that would effect toy companies like Hasbro and Lego too. If GW has a plan that could give them a leg up on those companies, there's no way they would advertise it.

    If you got a good idea to get a head of the technology curve, you should do it yourself. A start-up is much more suited to for that than an established company with investors to keep happy on a quarterly basis.

    Secondly, I think it would be a bad idea to crowd source GW's model design. GW is better suited by keeping tight control over its art direction. GW's IP is its most valuable asset, and you don't want it diluted by amateur modelers attempts to make their own custom space marines.

  2. @CaulynDarr

    The tech gets exponentially cheaper every 2 years or so. So it's not 10 years off at all. It's 4-5 years off maximum.

    GW has about a year (before other major companies get established) to co-opt the 3D printing market for it's own IP. Else it'll happen without them.

    GW's first competitors are the web-based service shops like Shapeways. After that comes the home users once the tech gets cheap enough.

    GW could do it. Their IP currently gives them the lever to enter the market on their terms. Whereas if they have to catch up later it will be on someone else's terms.

    What they don't want to be is Sony. Who COULD have come up with their own version of iTunes and owned the digital distribution market for music/video. But when they dropped the ball, Apple picked it up and now Sony has no say over the pricing of their own media products.

  3. If GW gets into it now, who are they going to sell too. The 4 or 5 of their customers that happen to have built Thing-O-Matics? Its a chicken and the egg problem. You can't support 3d home printing if no one has 3d home printers, and you won't have 3d home printers if you have nothing to print.

    3d printing will happen when you can use it to cost effectively produce common house hold items. When you can print out a fork and save over buying a 100 count bag of disposable ones, we'll see normal people buying 3d printers. Being cost-effective for 40k players will probably come sooner, but it's not going to get 3d printer in every home. GW won't back a technology that will only lock them in further to a select set of hardcore hobbiests.

  4. Also, public companies have a hard enough time planning further ahead than the next quarter, let alone the optimistic estimate of a few years until widespread 3d printing.

  5. @CD

    "If GW gets into it now, who are they going to sell too[?]"

    Did you read my post? They would offer custom minis that would be printed centrally and shipped to homes or stores. You use their software to make your character-o-doom from a library of parts and it appears at your door 3-5 days later.

    LATER as the tech gets cheap and ubiquitous, they could expand their tech to allow printing to whatever machines are popular. In either case, they diffuse the market for 'pirate' 3D files by offering a reasonably priced alternative with higher quality than the pirate competition.

  6. So GW has to spend millions of dollars buying enough in house 3d printers to make it work, only to throw it away in a few years? In the mean time, you end up with a product that is only marginally different from what you get now, but probably more expensive. You now have new production infrastructure that you have to amortize.

    I'm sure they can sell that to the stock holders.


  8. This has a lot less in common with the music industry freaking out over online piracy and a lot more in common with the music industry freaking out because they thought everyone was just going to record songs off the radio onto cassette tapes.

    One involves no work and results in a perfectly identical product in the end, and the other (at least for the next 5+ years) is at least mildly annoying (time consuming for the modeller, expensive for each user) and results in shoddy product.

    There's also a huge psychological gap between "free" and "a couple of bucks," which has been clear for a long time on the internet. Pirating movies or music is 100% free--printing models requires whatever the plastic blanks will cost by the time it's even remotely affordable.

    For instance, how many people do you see running around with bootleg Codexes? It's not like it's hard to find them for free on the internet, so why isn't everyone just printing them out and using ~$5 (maybe $15 if you wanted to get it bound at a copy shop) worth of paper and ink rather than a $33 book from GW? In all my time playing, I've seen exactly one person with a bootleg Codex, and I knew for a fact they owned the real one anyway--just had Kinko's print them a new one with all the fluff cut out.

    That's not to say nobody will do it, but instead that even a minor cost will take an enormous chunk out of the potential pool of people who would.

    And I'm with CD on the timetable for any of this even mattering--in five years, MAYBE you'll be able to buy the awful, niche-tech style ones we're seeing today for sub-$500, and be able to make horrible blocky Dreadnaughts but nothing smaller than that. It'll be at least ten years before ones that print at a respectable detail level are even remotely sane for home use.

  9. "Did you read my post? They would offer custom minis that would be printed centrally and shipped to homes or stores. You use their software to make your character-o-doom from a library of parts and it appears at your door 3-5 days later."

    You mean kind of how like GW used to offer full bitz ordering, so that you could easily customize your own unique characters or even full armies, but decided that it wasn't worth having the extra stock/effort/whatever?


    I'm tending to agree that this tech is still far out for normal use. And GW models keep getting better and cooler with each release. They seem to have a standpoint of "ours is better now, and will be better in the future". They've pretty well held to that so far.

    Until you get someone who's pumping out GW quality models at "reasonable" prices, then there's not a whole lot GW has to worry about.

  10. I think the comparison with home printing is a pretty good one.

    Think about how many people print novels at home (none?).
    It's not worth it, financially and you have all the extra effort of actually setting up the layout for a correct print.

    Economies of scale more than compensate for the profit margins and cost of distribution. The strength of 3D printing is in making your own models. If they were as cheap as regular printers I'd probably make my own accessories and stick to GW for the mass production.

  11. @Foodie

    Running the old Bitz service required a warehouse and dedicated personnel to go find everything. They had to keep every mould they had ever made on hand in order to cast anything they didn't have in stock. If the mould wore out, they'd have to re-make it from a master.

    All for something they didn't charge much, if any extra money for.

    With digital printing, all they need is a $20,000 machine, materials, and a couple of guys to run it. So you just need a small production space and a loading dock.

    Anything you want can be brought up on the computer, printed, cleaned, and shipped out immediately. No overhead!

  12. Movies and music aren't the paradigm here.

    Nor is home printing for say, books and magazines..

    Photography is.

    these guys (GW) can be HP - get in on the deal selling printers and overpriced ink and paper.. or they can be Kodak.. thinking it wont happen then having to spend years playing catch up.

    I'm with Sandwyrm this thing IS happening.

    I teach computer game design, and by extension 3D modelling, I can sculpt something in zbrush and pop downstairs to the engineering faculty and run it off on the rapid prototyper faster than i could physically sculpt it.

    look at companies like DAZ3d who give away software, then sell the models.

    Your children won't buy toys, theyll download files and print toys.

    who wouldnt want a"replicator" in thier house? to go with this ipad and mobile phone... i'm just short the phaser and the transpoerter now...

  13. Having worked for GW, I can attest that I had a customer that had a 3-d printer and he was printing out bases. The only reason he had not printed out models was the resolution was to low for his otherwise picky tastes. Plus, it's frankly quicker (if you know what you are doing and if you have the equipment) to make a mold and just do a re-cast or mass producing bitz.

    Speaking of casting, I had three customers and two employees that I knew of that did just that. Once you get over the fear factor, making a pretty decently high resolution mold is pretty darn easy. The casting is also pretty easy which can go from shoving one form of green stuff or another in the mold or flat out putting them into your vacuum caster that you used to make jewellery from.


out dang bot!

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