Friday, March 22, 2013

GW: New Policies Kill Online Retailers

Hail Brothers/Sisters of Nerdom!

Hope you are doing well, as we have survived a chilly winter and are venturing toward spring. Winter is Coming and I bet a good number of us are waiting for the magical date: 3/31/13.

Today, I will be writing about a recent sales policy change that affects North American Warhammer fans., a Canadian online miniatures retailer, recently announced its closure due to GW's new retail policies. That speaks a lot on how drastic (or unfair) the new policies are.

Matthew, co-owner of provides an articulate look into the new policies:

The last time I heard such uneven terms was the Treaty of Versailles. You can read it in its entirety here.

The main point of the new policy: Online retail of GW products in Canada and U.S. can ONLY come from GW's website. You can still buy online, but through other indirect means (discussed below)

To quote directly from GW:

"To prevent online retailers from free-riding on the significant investment made by in-store Retailers in promoting the hobby, and to better protect its intellectual property, therefore, GAMES WORKSHOP adopted its 2003 Policy."

Some background, the 2003 Policy forbade all U.S. online stores from selling GW products and letting customers put them in their shopping carts. GW believes that their post-2003 success was due to their 2003 policy, and as Matt points out, ignores other factors such as market growth and GW's own expansion. You have to watch Matt's "Tiger and Remote Control" analogy!

GW has unfortunately taken a simplistic view of online retailers, and "free-riding" certainly does not apply to Matt and Steve are clearly passionate about their business and they have contributed greatly to the wargaming community, such as their online videos (battle reports etc.), being involved with the local community, hosting an online forum, providing DVDs that help gamers with painting/scenery...these admirable efforts do not churn them a massive profit, and add to the wargaming experience. In alienating online retailers, GW is killing off a business that helped them succeed.

For a sense of completeness, here is Dan Richardson's response, which is far more critical of GW:

So how should we as wargamers and hobbists respond? Do we continue like Miniwargaming in supporting the Warhammer hobby? Or do we boycott GW and go into other game systems?

I'm a fan of GW's stuff, particularly the Empire, Dark Elves, and Chaos Space Marines. The mythos is well done, the stories and backdrop pull me in, and Warhammer has been a big part of my friendship with JQ. Some of my best memories came from Warhammer, and the novels (Horus Heresy series, Eisenhorn) have been amazing reads.

However, I am not a fan of their corporate moves, and how they see us as sheep that obey and are ready to be fleeced. GW has been aggravating me consistently for the past few years: ridiculous price increases, inability to fix international pricing (which other companies deal with), and rigid restrictions on its IP (they trademarked the term "Space Marine" and even tried to get a book off from sales but failed). GW has acted mainly for profit and I do not wish to give them more money to fuel their profits. If we continue to purchase GW's stuff, it would be a signal to them that being a corporate bully is fine and encourage them to serve the shareholders's interests.

What do you guys think?

PS: I am kinda split on this issue, and I'm thinking of going into other game systems, such as Dust Tactics and GHQ, or support Miniwargaming in getting my last few GW minis. In fact, GHQ is perhaps a polar opposite of GW when it comes to corporate decisions.

PPS: There are some ways to circumvent GW's new policy if you're uncomfortable in contributing money directly to GW, but do not speak as loudly as a boycott. Ebay sellers do not purchase directly from GW and can still sell at discount/bitz, buy used armies, or email/call orders to online retailers for 20% off GW prices (eg. the Warstore).