At the time, GW was doing its semiannual price hike, and I was really sick of the Internet grousing. I was accused of setting up strawman arguments, but all of my points were culled from the meta. I was fairly defensive of GW's business practices (to a point).
But this week, they did something that I think may actually hurt them. Not in an Internet public relations sort of way, but an actual economic misstep. [read more]
They released this:
Games Workshop 2013 North American Dealer Policy (opens new window)
It's pretty straightforward and will look very familiar if you work in any industry that utilizes a protected dealer network. For dealers, though, there are two major changes.
Section II.A.1.and this doozy:
North American Retailers are not permitted to sell GAMES WORKSHOP products on any website, web-portal, third-party web-portal or other Internet-based platform of any kind. This prohibition includes any form of online shopping cart that would enable a Consumer to order or purchase GAMES WORKSHOP products on-line...
Section III.C.The result? Well the one result that my Facebook feed is buzzing about is:
North American Retailers are only authorized to resell GAMES WORKSHOP products domestically in their respective countries of origin. Accordingly, United States Retailers are prohibited from exporting GAMES WORKSHOP products for purposes resale to Consumers located outside of the United States. Similarly, Canadian Retailers are prohibited from exporting GAMES WORKSHOP products for purposes resale to Consumers located outside of Canada. Foreign sales of GAMES WORKSHOP products by Retailers can be disruptive to GAMES WORKSHOP.
Miniwargaming.com is shutting down.
Although I disagree with a few assertions that Matthew is making in the video, I can certainly understand his frustration. MWG has been really trying to up the ante lately with partnerships and content, so this must have been quite the emotional blow.
And now GW is going to try to prohibit the selling of bits by retailers. This will be a boon for ebayers and a hit for many more online retailers.
So now the Interverse is up in arms again about how shortsighted and evil Games Workshop is. I'm not going to debate that again here. But I am going to make some predictions:
Nothing is going to change for Games Workshop. Protected vertical markets are not unique to them. In fact, most manufacturers with dealer networks try to protect their territories. It's a business decision to prevent your product from becoming a commodity. Is it a good decision? Who knows at this point? We certainly will know at the end of the year or beginning of next year.
The meta is going to change this year...for the better. This is something I'm sure of, but because "better" is such a relative term, let me explain. With this new super-accelerated release schedule along with allies, the Internet is scrambling to find their footing. Before they can poke holes through one codex, another appears.Minmaxing is hard to do when the elements keep moving and changing. I think this will make for more dynamic games and less monolisting. My wish is to see a bunch of single-god CSM and Daemon lists, but the experts haven't had time to playtest anything, at least as far as I can tell. Look, 40k isn't chess. The rules are NEVER going to be modified to the point where you can play truly balanced games. But a constantly changing game that gives you opportunities for narratives and themes, is compelling to me even if it makes tournaments a bit more chaotic. Also, due to pricing and allies/double FOC, I think the move to 1850, 1750, and even 1500 points by tourneys is going to trickle down to FLGSes. I haven't seen a game under 1500 being played in a store in 18 months.
This may help many FLGSes, but I doubt it. Brick and mortar retailers are being a bit quiet about this. The ONE store left in my area has very little to no 40k play, but I imagine their GW sales are about to increase...a little bit. This is where I agree with MWG Matt; fewer independent stores is really bad for the hobby.
Online sales for GW are not going to change, and a few (very few) online retailers are screwed. Obviously MWG leaned heavily on GW product and sales to the U.S. to keep the rent paid, otherwise this change would not have shut them down as a store. What about Spikey Bits? It depends on how much ManBoyGenius' margins are...I imagine that they are significant. Taking apart a box you bought at wholesale and parting it out is probably lucrative, but the volume you need is most likely the limiting factor. These new policies probably put the finsl nail in the coffin of "professional" bits sales.
What about the WarStore and their ilk? I don't think it changes anything for them. They do not violate any policies in the document except for possibly selling outside the US. I think there might be some trouble for people who sell GW stuff on Amazon, but I bet those folks don't make a significant amount of sales on that platform.
I think ultimately, GW will also be hurt. They are fairly cavalier about their user base, and it will eventually bite them. I think they have the notion that they have decades of momentum to counteract the negative repercussions of any drastic changes they make, but they are running out of steam in that regard. They are also testing too many variables at once, and that strikes of desperation. If you accelerate your release schedule, lock down online sales, eliminate bits, and restrict international sales simultaneously, how are changes in sales revenue going to be attributed to the right factor? I work for a major international retail holding company, and we are absolutely militant about our online testing and the need for controls and single variable tests to determine what's working. This is the only thing I'm surprised about in this document. What exactly does GW hope to achieve with this suite of fuckovers? And how will they track its success?
And for me personally? I think it's a shame. GW has the power at this point to really do right by this community AND shareholders at the same time. Or they at least have the opportunity to be more transparent. Their justifications in that document above are too bland and lawyerly. Just tell us what you intend to do, GW.