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Thread: The parallels of GW today and the last two years of TSR

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Somewhere between a rock and a hard place

    The parallels of GW today and the last two years of TSR

    There seems to be a LOT of discussion lately about the health of GW considering the disappointment of the last period financials (with a 10% drop in top line revenue and a hefty reduction of cash on hand) in spite a time of rapidly increased product release schedules. For someone who has been involved in gaming as long as I have (since 1977) the parallels with the decline of the previous industry behemoth, TSR, and GW of today just seem a bit to familiar.

    Before going into those I see, let me clarify a couple of things. First, during the last years of TSR, I was one of those who blindly defended them despite all the warning signs around me and the discussions of my regular D&D gaming group of 8 people. Also, I currently own several 40k armies (Ultramarines, Imperial Guard, Tau, Tyranids and a HUGE Eldar army), a few large Warhammer armies (Empire, Chaos and High Elf), a complete copy of Warhammer Quest with all expansions, including White Dwarf supplements, two large Epic armies, three Necromunda gangs, six Mordheim warbands, and three Battlefleet gothic fleets. So I in no way WANT to see GW go away, but the current parallels cannot be ignored.

    So let's look at these parallels:

    Named Designers leaving: In the last two years of TSRs existence, many of the names that made them famous moved on for greener pastures. Many of them were long term employees of TSR. GW has seen the same loss of Rick Priestly, Andy Chambers, Gaving Thrope, Jake Thornton, among others. These are the people close to what is going on, and an en masse departure is not a good sign. Warning sign number one.

    Accelerated Release Schedule: TSR was cranking out stuff near the end, much as GW is doing today. Yet that still didn't stem the tide of mass exodus of customers.

    Thinking they were more than they are: In the end, TSR products were drastically overpriced compared to competitive products because they believed it was D&D and people will pay anything for it. Coupled with the decline in quality, it didn't help. People began moving one. With GW we have a similar situation. Most competitors sell 256 pg, full color, hard bound rulebooks for the $40 US to $50 US range (or $0.15 to $0.19 a page) while GW sells a 104 pg, full color hardbound book (avg. Codex) at $49.50 (or $0.47/pg. or 161% more than comparable products). Likewise, most model paints today are running at about $0.15-$0.17/ml and are of better quality than GWs, while GW is running at $0.33/ml (101% more than comparable products). Like TSR, GW is putting WAY too much faith in their brand power (and D&D is a MUCH stronger brand than Warhammer ever was).

    Drop in Product Quality: The quality of TSR products went down hill fast leading to rumors that Lorraine Williams, then CEO of TSR, had forbidden playtesting of products. Many employees from the final days denied this but did confirm that the relentless pace of getting products out the door did in fact lead to little getting playtested. The latest products from GW are showing the exact same thing. Did anyone test D-Weapons in standard 40k games? Why are they issuing FAQs only one week after a book is released?

    Cramming stuff into an established paradigm that doesn't belong: TSR tried to put everything they could around the popular D&D title where they should have been there own games. Instead of Buck Rogers RPG, we got Spelljammer crammed into the fantasy universes. Likewise, GW is adding superheavies, mini-titans (Riptide, Wraithknight, and Imperial Knights) and flyers in a 28mm game where they do not belong.

    Abandoning everything around one brand: TSR uses to have many RPGs - D&D, AD&D, Boot Hill, Star Frontiers, et al. In the last days, TSR thought that their other products were detracting from sales of core D&D, thus they abandoned all the other titles and focused on making D&D versions of them. So, as they abandoned Star Frontiers and went with Spelljammer in fantasy worlds, we had Traveller and a few other RPGs fill in the spot. GW has the same attitude. Focus around two core brands because our other products detracted from people buying for those brands and ignore that the competition is picking up (and growing) by this conscious decision to leave them an opening into the market). How shortsighted and stupid can anyone be about this. Did Apple stop selling the iPod because the have the iPhone, no. Because they realize there are different markets for these products.

    Increased pricing: TSR started rapidly increasing prices in the end as their customer base dwindled. When coupled with the materials being absurd additions (Spelljammer) and the noticeable drop in product quality, people began to feel ripped off by TSR and started using other products. Once that happened, and they realized other companies could produce products of like or better quality, the acceleration away from TSR quickened. GW is facing the exact same thing today, yet continues to operate in a complete vacuum of ignorance like TSR did then.

    View of customers being suckers: It is no secret that Lorraine Williams held gamers (their customers) with high contempt, and she made no secret about it. She considered them blind sheeple who would buy and love anything that TSR put out and, ultimately in the end it showed in their products, but not in the sheeples buying attitude. GW has A LOT of customer and channel relation issues right now (not to mention their absurd pricing) and they, like TSR, seem to be sticking their fingers in their ears and saying "La, la, la, I don't hear you. Everything is fine..."

    Soullessness leading to market disconnect: As the previous point mentioned about the CEOs attitude, TSR became soulless as a result when they used to have passionate people who designed good materials because they also played the game. Heck, Raistlin Majere, the famous wizrd from the Dragonlance series, came about because of the active playing of the game. Likewise, GW seems to be all about the money today with no passion for the game anymore from the staff.

    Ignoring and Enabling competition: White Wolf Studios benefited immensely from TSRs mis-steps. So did a few smaller publishers. Today, I give Hasbro/WotC credit for recognizing 4th edition D&D was a huge mistake (thus why they have stopped sales of 4th edition and haven't put out a new product in over a year) and have decided the wiser course was to focus on D&D Next to save the brand. Why did Hasbro recognize this? Because Pathfinder/Paizo has stolen marketshare by sticking to their old formula. In other words, they recognized the threat of competition. GW refuses to see the rise of Wyrd, Corvus Belli, Privateer Press, Cipher Studios, Hawk Wargames and Fantasy Flight Games during a global recession as any threat, or as a result of their mis-steps giving the competition an opening into the market.

    Aggressive IP defense: TSR started going after fans and anyone they felt remotely came close to infringing on their IP, gaining them the moniker T$R. GW seems to have adopted the same policy that was proven in TSR's time to be stupid and damaging to the financial health of the company.

    TLDR: It is hard to ignore the similarities of a previous industry behemoth, TSR, to GW today. GW of today seems to be following the exact same patterns as TSR in the last days which eventually lead to TSRs demise in very quick fashion (it is safe to say it was an actual collapse). Could GW possibly suffer that same fate considering those parallels?
    Last edited by Wayshuba; 27-02-2014 at 12:17.

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