Apologies if this post is a bit rambly, I’ve been swilling some thoughts around in my head for the last couple of days and want to get them down on “paper”. I’m going to be touching on the relationship between GW and the community and so if you are sick and tired of all the negativity by all means give this post a miss but for everyone else, hopefully you will find what I’ve got to say useful. Miniature posts are incoming and I’ve been working more on the Grey Knights so expect something on them very soon. Before we proceed with today’s post, some context so this hopefully makes some sense.
Context- My perspective
For many years I’ve been a fan of Warhammer 40k. I think I was around 13/14 years old when I first saw the artwork in a codex and it completely blew me away. The world looked dark but so highly detailed that I had to take a closer look. Then I started reading the lore and it captured me. Being a child, I didn’t have a lot of money but I saved what I could and then one day headed to my nearest GW store. I bought a space marine starter box which came with some plastic glue & paints, and I did my best to paint them like the box art. Since then I’ve been off and on Warhammer as life took it’s course, but I always found myself back with a brush in my hand once things quietened down again.
After I graduated university I decided to try to find some people to play with. I’d had games here and there in the past but I never really got into the gaming side of Warhammer. Finding my nearest games club, I took a 1000 point World Eater army and went along. When I arrived I was basically told no one there played GW stuff but instead they where playing Pathfinder. I’m not one to shun new things without a try so sat down, got a character and gave it a go. That was my first time playing a TTRPG and though I felt pretty damn insecure acting out my character, I had a great time once I got over myself.
I decided to stick around with the games club and in the process made some good friends. In those early years GW was a bit like my dirty secret. I’d talk about it here and there but no one wanted to openly entertain products from the company. Still I kept listening to audiobooks and painting, not really understanding the hostility, but I knew what I liked so kept on doing my thing.
7th edition saw a switch in the way GW interacted with it’s fanbase and with it a change in attitude from my friends at the club. Suddenly GW was making videos, streaming announcements (Gathering storm) and even bantering with us. I was able to openly talk to others at the club about 40k and they where excited to engage with me about the lore. The storyline was moving forward, we where getting loads of new miniature announcements and GW had a friendly public face. It was a good time to be a fan.
In the last 6 months or so, things have started to sour again. I’m not going to rehash everything which has happened… if you are reading this obscure internet blog about a niche hobby, I’d wager you are fully up to date on current industry occurrences. Regardless to say, the fanbase is divided at the moment and there is a lot of negative emotion surrounding GW. What’s more, while my games club still discusses and enjoys GW products, there is a looming shadow which has been growing.
The Fan Problem
Fan: A fan or fanatic, sometimes also termed an aficionado or enthusiast, is a person who exhibits strong interest or admiration for something or somebody, such as a celebrity or a sport or a sports team, a genre, a politician, a book, a movie, a video game or an entertainer.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fan_(person)
Fanatic: Fanaticism (from the Latin adverb fānāticē [fren-fānāticus; enthusiastic, ecstatic; raging, fanatical, furious]) is a belief or behavior involving uncritical zeal or an obsessive enthusiasm.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanaticism)
It’s fair to say I’ve been a fanatic, or fan of GW’s work for a long time and what’s more, I’ve enjoyed “riding the hype train” as we have been teased with new announcements and lore developments. Being a fan can be incredibly fun when things are going your way and it’s fair to say on the surface, this has very much been the case for the last few editions of the game. However taking a step back, we need to consider the entities who are controlling the things we are fans of. In the case of Warhammer, we have a publicly traded company.
Now as I understand, a business such as GW has a duty to it’s share holders to maximise profits. This means if it’s possible to raise prices it will. This also logically means if they can save money in the manufacturing process they will. E.g. Developing a new technology which reduces production costs or hypothetically reducing the content of a product thus reducing product development/production time.
So what happens when a Company who is driven to maximise profits discovers it’s customers are fans? Well I think you can follow my train of thought here…
Prices increase, value for money decreases as does the quality of the product. However despite the reduced value the fans keep on buying because they love the I.P and are already invested in the product. What’s more, if the fanbase is well established then the I.P is prime for expansion. The end products of this expansion don’t have to be good or even achieve what the buyer wants to a degree, it just has to be relevant to the I.P and the fans will eat it up. (Sound familiar?)
So who is to blame for this? It seems easy to point the finger at the “greedy capitalist corpos” who are changing the product for the worse but take into consideration the players involved and their motives. One is an emotionless entity focused on making as much money as possible, as easily as possible. The other is a human being who is emotionally invested in the I.P (perhaps since childhood,) and wants to interact with the product because at some level they get joy from it.
What I’m trying to say is that we are the problem with Games Workshop because we have become fans of the product instead of customers. We have become emotionally compromised and that is being used against us within the relationship. There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a product produced by a company, but when you find yourself devoted to it, the relationship is cancerous at best.
Furthermore, there seems little point in fans trying to engage with the company to show their distaste for the changes or decisions being made because they ultimately do not care how you feel, only that you are buying the product whatever that may be. When fan communities grow loud enough, this is ultimately drowned out via labelling them as “Toxic” and while the behaviour from some members of the community likely is toxic, (remember you are dealing with someone who is emotionally compromised,) it’s likely the vase majority are just disappointed or feeling some sort of betrayal. If you need a case study for this phenomenon, look no further than the Star Wars community.
So how do we get out of this rut and develop healthier relationships with companies moving forward? I think by simply remembering that we are customers.
Customer: In sales, commerce, and economics, a customer (sometimes known as a client, buyer, or purchaser) is the recipient of a good, service, product or an idea – obtained from a seller, vendor, or supplier via a financial transaction or exchange for money or some other valuable consideration.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Customer
Though it may not feel like it, you as a community member ultimately have the power because you can choose what you want to buy with your hard earned money. If you don’t like what a company is doing with their product then simply don’t support it. Though easy to write, this can be a very hard for a fan as we are emotionally invested. We love the worlds and characters and want to continue to enjoy them but in order to be savvy consumers, we cannot be lead by our hearts in a one-sided relationship with a company. Take a step back from the hype train, realise that you may be being taken advantage of with limited time releases etc and actually consider the product you are buying. If you still want to invest after looking at the situation with clear eyes then go for it, but do not be lead into making a purchase you may later regret.
GW isn’t going to change it’s ways because it’s behaving exactly as you would expect it to in order to meet it’s primary objective. (And business is booming!) So if we are to improve the situation for ourselves, we need to be smarter. Continue to enjoy the games you love by all means, but take a step back and remember that you are primarily a customer and you are not obliged to support a substandard product. Thankfully, miniature gaming is a rapidly growing industry and there are plenty of alternative companies which you can purchase from. Broaden your horizons and continue to enjoy your hobby but be a customer, not a fan.