On Game$ Workshop BoyCotts


To get into the spirit of Gamegrene.com, I figure I'd best begin with a rant. A rant about ranting, in fact: a metarant. This metarant is about a topic that's repeated time and again, online and off -- the call for a boycott of Games Workshop.

I've often heard people rant that Games Workshop's prices and marketing tactics are ridiculous. In fact, I've heard it so much it's become sort of a conversational platitude among gamers, like mentioning the weather or how much work sucks. It's everywhere gaming comes up: in Usenet, on individual web pages, on mailing lists, and in conversations at club meetings, conventions, and game shops.

What inevitably follows this statement (at least on the electronic forums, anyway) is a call to boycott GW, to hit them right in the money-pouch, where it'll hurt 'em most. "Until we make a stand," the poster will often type, "GW will keep taking advantage of gamers."

I think much of the 'net community is as tired of hearing this as I am. It's tiresome partly because it's become so self-mocking. On more than one personal page, I've read in the news section a vow to join the boycott, only to see a couple new GW models on the next update. And more after that...

People are also tired of hearing it because it's now an easy troll statement. (Or maybe it's an easy troll statement because they're tired of hearing it.) A statement like this, particularly on a forum devoted to GW products, is going to set off a couple rounds of flaming on both sides of the issue

I'm tired of it for those two reasons, too. But here are a couple more:

I'm tired of it because it's not economically sound. It's obvious that GW products don't cost too much, because hordes of people are still buying them. My last economics class was pretty simplistic (and it's been quite some time, in any case), but GW apparently agrees with my assessment. They think they've found a good setup with their profit margins and market share. And there's good reason to believe them, since they're publicly traded company with some impressive financial records. (Not too impressive last year, but generally good.)

I'm tired of it because GW sells hobby products. We don't _need_ hobby products. It might feel like it, but I'm reasonably sure that's the case. I'd be up in arms if they were gouging medical products or food. Hobbies are for fun, and if what's fun costs $69.95 for an entry-level set with lots of after-market add-ons, then get it. Or, on the other hand, don't. Whichever appeals to you. There are some reputable online and brick-and-mortar stores who offer pretty deep discounts on hobby stuff. It's even easier to get cheap stuff at conventions or after the heavy marketing ends. Which brings us to the next point...

I'm tired of it because their marketing practices are well-known to everybody. They're going to introduce a new game every year or two, and phase out an old one. Warhammer and Warhammer 40k will stick around, meantime. The fact that new products aren't being made has no impact on the playability of any GW skirmish game. I can still pick up a reasonably-priced copy of the Necromunda rules, and that game hasn't been produced for a couple years. Hell, I'm going to _play_ Necromunda this week with an opponent I just met. (I'm also going to pick up a Dreamcast, because they're cheap now that no new software is being produced...)

Finally, I'm tired of it because it's a potentially good idea that nobody ever seems to follow through on. There are advantages to having a publicly traded company, a company with sound traditional business ideas, in the hobby market. GW ensures constant exposure of miniatures and gaming to new hobbyists, for example. But there are more advantages to having two publicly traded companies involved in minis... and for that reason, my first suggestion is to instead support Wizards of the Coast.

They're coming out with a couple great mini lines, and are using some of the best sculptors in the business (Drew Williams, Jason Wiebe, and others). I'm of the opinion that two 800-lb hobby-product gorillas are a fine thing. They can whomp on each other instead of the littler guys.

And the littler guys are another group whom people can help support. Reaper Miniatures has a great range of miniatures by some fine sculptors (J. Wiebe again, Sandra Garrity, Bobby Jackson, my hero Bob Olley, etc.), and their pricing is downright pleasant. So's their customer service. They seem to remember their customers, and are willing to listen to them and make changes based on what they hear. They're a much smaller outfit than it might appear, as well.

Or go get some figures from Rafm, one of the last of the old, small-scale game companies. Or go help out Crocodile Games, a new company set up by Chaz FitzPatrick, a former GW sculptor. Or buy minis from Fortress Figures, which does the casting for Crocodile but also has its own line. Some of which are sculpted by the above sculptors. Or Jeff Valent Enterprises, another more or less one-man operation, with minis by some of the above sculptors.

I don't work for or with any of these guys, though I've dealt with all of them and found them to be fine alternatives to the GW machine. There are many, many others to choose from. Just a little research on Google or Yahoo would turn up quite a few.

Or, heck, go ahead and buy some minis from GW. I buy some miniatures from them from time to time. I just don't tell people I'm not going to.

Thank you for pointing out the obvious. None of us would be buying the minis and games from GW if we didn't enjoy them. When money is tight, I don't buy any new minis. When I got some cash. I go buy some. Like any other consumer, I'll gripe from time to time about having shell out $70 for the newest set of rules. But I don't have to buy them. I'll continue to buy GW stuff. I'll buy minis from other companies as well. You just won't hear me saying I won't buy from GW either.

My two cents: the gaming community is too dispersed to make a unified effort against GW. What do I mean? No one game dominates the market. There hasn't been one for quite sometime now. As a result,gamers are going to play the game that they know they can find opponents for and that game is presently WH/WH40K. Take a visit to the most remote games stores in the country and the one dominating product comes from GW. Guaranteed opponents, guaranteed play on your weekend rather than sitting at tables shuffling cards or fingering your dice waiting for that buddy of yours to show up so you don't have a one- on -one roleplaying session. Look at it this way: you don't have a bunch of football fans disputing about their favorite teams where they all have football in common. You have football fans, golf fans, baseball fans, etc. etc. but not enough people at any one game store
to do them all. So who's the biggest group? GW gamers that's who. So gamers with few aquaintances and who just want to game, will choose GW products.

My other cent: All games manufacturers make big mistakes. Look at the recent history of some select games companies in the last five years:
WotC: Chronicles (how fast did your cards depreciate?)
DP9: Scale change (HO scale to 1/144 or N-scale)
Too long to list.

Some companies make them more often than others. What can you do? You can write constructive critical letters to the company (and I emphasize "constructive"). If you get a non-satisfactory result, get that person's name and make a copy of their reply. Also, ask who that person's boss is. Everyone has a boss: even The Boss has someone they have to answer to. Write him (or her); show them the unsatifactory correspondence. Go up and up until you get a satisfactory answer. Use those unsatisfactory letters you get and show friends, store owners, etc. who sympathize with your cause. Get them to write. Numbers mean everything and not just ones with decimal points! So there you have it. If you haven't done that, read the comments

I think the comments are worthwhile, however I think posting them on Gamegrene was not. From what I can tell Gamegrene has a good standard of veteran gamer in attendance. They know the score, they aren't dumb, they all will likely agree with the above.

You could have tried posting the above somewhere it might get some mileage... But the people who DON'T know the above often aren't really bright enough to figure it out, no matter how many times they are shown.

Kudos to you for this article. It's right on. There's an old saying around here (and since you can't throw a brick up in the air in Seattle without it coming down on someone who works in gaming, worked in gaming, or is thinking of starting a game company it's probably true): starting a game company is a good way to turn a pile of cash into a slightly smaller pile of cash. The efforts of GW and WOTC to the contrary, gaming is a hard field to make money in. The customers can be fickle, and many of the products don't make money for the company after the initial sale. I'll continue to criticize GW when they do something stupid (and they have done it many times), but for the most part, I'm pleased with what they've done. Cheers!

By the way folks, check out Confrontation.
For once the French (at least I think it's them) have come up with a great miniature game. The figs are neat and not as expensive as GW. The rules are quite simple.

If you're local store doesn't carry the line check them out at cyberdungeon.com, they carry the figs and rules. Oh and I'm certain that you won't have to diss your figs in three months because because GW has found a new way to pump you for cash.

Cthulhu Matata

I think this forum was the right one, since elsewhere the discussion breaks down pretty quickly. :) At least it's intelligent in this case, if sparse. Thanks for the comments, guys.

The Confrontation minis are nice. I actually did a quick and dirty translation when the game was released on the net (a couple years back, I think). I queried the company about posting it somewhere or sending it to them, but never got any reply. :)

By the way Joel, the rules are available for free in French, english… and spanish?

Since they give them for free, they might have them online I don't have their adress, but I think www.cyberdungeon.com has it or that they even have the rules on their site.

C Ya folks

I wish I could be so charitable. I'm in a tricky position here because I have a number of friends who work(ed) for GW and it's hard to be unkind to them.


GW has a creditable marketing mechanism. They gave the customers what they wanted. They consciously built up their fanbase, produced lavish sets at conventions they set up. They know how to run a publicity event and they can organise a proverbial party in a brewery. Hic. They courted RPGers when they needed to build up a customer base and they know how to market.

Of the gaming conventions I've been to - you would be hard pressed to say the same. My experience is that an organised con is that rarest of events - no disrespect to the organisers who have to draw in separate suppliers and keep them interested. Still fun, but somehow scatty. Having not been to a US GenCon I can't say, I suspect even in the heart of WotC's main show, there is a bit of chaos. Please, prove me wrong.

GW may have forced retail outlets to sell only their stuff and not sell other RPG materials on pain of withdrawing a profitable, professional-looking stand and with it some regular customers. I know from bitter experience, the same cannot be said of some RPG firms who would rather whine about the fickleness of their customer base whilst cutting support to customer focus groups. It's all so hard for them! GW don't get kook mail like we do.

(cue hysterical laughter) Wanna bet? They just don't quite throw as big a hissy about it as you do. They just laugh quietly and continue to rake in the money.

If you antagonise your customers, they take business elsewhere. If you can't be bothered, then neither will your customers be. If you try to legislate against people writing about your stuff on the Internet - there will be a backlash. Does any of this sound familiar?

The worst thing about it is that the RPG industry let them do it. So if you do boycott GW, do it properly. Going back for one.. more.. figure won't suffice. Guess what - I don't buy GW figures. And never will. And if anyone asks, I tell them why. Even GW employees understand.

/rant off

GW has an excellent business model. They come out with a new edition every so many years to keep the game fresh. They are able to provide nice looking figures that young people with a disposable income done mind spending $10 for a piece of lead.

They run good conventions and their magazine (err catalog) is great advertisement (anyone remember the old White Dwarf with articles on AD&D?) When their core products are being reworked they come out with a new ersion of an old game..aka Gorkamorka, Bloodbowl..etc.

Once the new core rules are out they no longer ship or support anything for the old "mid-upgrade" range. They continue to do this every three years or so give or take.

Hats off to the Perry Twins as well for running their Foundry figure lines the same way.

Do I buy either, nope never will again. Do they have good looking stuff, sure. For the most part the games are good and fun to play. I disklike they way they treat their suppliers and distributers. The way they heavey handly make their shops sell their products and nothing else. I also do not like they way they treat their customers.

Buy GW dont buy GW. I really think they do not care either way. There is a hige line of younger people right behnd you willing to shell out big $ for that Orc Hero Wizard whatever.

Hmm, A few years ago I moved to Maryland for my Job. I am a old school RPG fan-Since 3rd grade;) But I could not find _any_ players of NON GW products. Well, 5 in 2 and a half years... But to my point: GW is a great big bully. They are the biggest kid on the block and they know it. And still all the smaller kids flock to them as they always do.

I enjoy WH40K but not as much as I do RPGs. However, Mini Games-GW in particular are nearly universal (as was mentioned by Wargamer). I moved to AZ in the middle of last year and I had a game before I had a place to stay. Maybe it's GW's overwhelming popularity that makes them a target for gamer animosity. Maybe.

I'll continue to play 40K and Mordheim and I will continue to wish I could find some D&D players...

And thank you for the eloquent rant on rnating:)


Those arguing in favor of GW are making the point for me. From a business standpoint they are to be applauded. I agree entirely. Oil companies should be applauded also. They all should be applauded because they have done a fine job of pushing a product's price point to the limits of customer retention. They should be applauded because they are able to prevent any major competition from arising. Gamers are hesitant to try new games because they are unable to afford to play multiple games in many cases and go with the one that has existed longer only because there are fellow gamers to be found thus keeping them broke and only able afford one miniature game. Well done GW!

The solution? There isn't one. Just because a company is a gaming company does not change the fact that it is an unfeeling business that works off of profit margin, not some illusionary loyalty to gaming.

Do those that are cheering GW's great business model believe that they thank you for it?

I have seen people denied tornament play because they used old school 40k pieces. Ones they bought directly from Citadel mind you, not from another gamer. WTF?

The existance of eBay and the ability to obtain digital copies of rules will hit them harder than any boycott ever could. And do I lose sleep because of the morality? Nope. A business is there to make money however they can while maintaining customers. Likewise a customer is there to get thiers however they can afford it. A company crying over customer's ethics is just are ridiculous as a customer complaining about business ethics. No hard feelings to GW or any other business. We only reciprocate your caring ways. If medication is too expensive we get the knock off or buy from Canada, if a book is too expensive we go to a used book dealer. A customer WILL buy your product if they can afford it. But when they no longer can should they cease play? After spending thousands of dollars on your product; cut the bitching when they download the seventh edition of rules they have purchased six times already.

I just quit playing all together instead of pirating. The black market is for weapons and drugs. When a GAME is so expensive that it's black marketted it gives me nausea.

How dare us gamers speaking against such a highly esteemed and sensitive company. GW will probably cry itself to sleep tonight because all it ever wanted was someone to love. *sniff*

Have no fear GW! Other gamers offened that someone didn't echo thier righteous omni-correct opinions will lash out and seek justice on your behalf! Maybe GW will name an executive's retirement package or parking space after you in thanks for your undying defense.

Oh.. and I could give a damn about my punctuation and spelling seeing as I am not writing wedding vows or an arms treaty.

Just though I'd beat the sharp shooters to the punch.

In your face anti-naysayers. <--------(not a real word but I recommend its consideration by Websters Dictionary)

I'll gladly have a pop at GW since this thread has been resurrected. At least, I'll explain why they annoy me.

GW are a UK based company who started life producing board games. Sometime in the late 70's they took to importing Dungeons and Dragons into the UK. They then started publishing the magazine White Dwarf which was a general-purpose role-play gaming magazine, covering a diverse range of systems.

White Dwarf was the main media channel in the UK for keeping people plugged into the hobby in those days. OK, there were the fanzines. There was also Dragon magazine, but this was a more expensive and harder-to-source proposition. Only the well-off bought Dragon. Most folks made do with WD.

Before long, Games Workshop also owned the largest network of hobby gaming distribution outlets in the UK.

Of course, what they did next made perfect sense from a business perspective. (I don't personally worship at the altar of business perspectives, but there you go). They created their own game. Just like a supermarket creates its own brands. Except imagine there's only one supermarket, and they also own the media as well.

By the mid 90's, Warhammer had eaten a huge chunk of the UK gaming market. This gave GW the muscle they needed to start serious expansion into other countries.

My main objections to GW are twofold. Firstly, from an ethical perspective what they did was pretty low. My second objection is all those stupid spiky shoulderpads and gigantic oversized weapons they foisted on the gaming world. Before the rise of Warhammer, gaming artwork and figures were mostly what I'd call near-historical, i.e. believable - those historical warriors of bygone ages wore the stuff they wore because it worked. If huge spiky pauldrons were actually a good thing to wear in combat we'd be seeing a lot more of them in museums and such. During the late 80's through early 90's the fantasy gaming world slowly turned into something resembling a GWAR concert, and it's never quite gotten all that crap out of its system since.

Sorry for being such a bluff old boring sensible simulationist with no sense of fun.

LOLOL!!!!! Gwar...lol...too funny. I hate that bands influence on metal (a topic very near and dear to my heart) for the same reason you hate GWs influence on gaming.

Well said my friend.