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.