***PLEASE NOTE: This was another article 'Lost in the Warp' that I just recovered***
Not that I want to get off on a rant here, but I have issues with Games Workshop. I'm sure most of you reading this know exactly what I'm talking about. If you don't, here's the recap: In recent months Games Workshop have put into place several policies which I feel are counter-productive to the hobby, and more or less a slap in the face to their loyal customers. They have been routinely rising prices, with little-to-no justification, they've put a media blackout in effect to control how information about their product is released (namely, only by them), White Dwarf subscribers now get their magazine 10 days after it hits the stores (and they even had the gall to tell their subscribers that they get the 'opportunity' to come to a Games Workshop store to 'preview' the magazine), the switch from white metal to 'Finecast' (a cheaper material offering a lower quality product... at a higher price!), trade embargoes all over the place (EU can't ship outside EU, America can't ship to Canada... NO ONE can ship to Australia), and disallowing independent retailers any 'sneak peeks' unless they purchase a special sneak peek box 'which they will not divulge the contents of until you open it up). All of this adds up to some serious bad karma within the gaming community.
(Totally off-topic, but I'm going to throw in some pictures of my old Tyranids, just for fun. More after the break):
Games Workshop seems to be re-focusing their marketing and business model on the 10-12 year-old set. Also known as the 'fire-and-forget' audience, these are usually bored kids in a mall, who's parents will buy them anything just to keep them quiet. They usually aren't even return customers, but since there are always more kids being born, there are always more ten year-olds. Not that I have anything against kids, I'm merely pointing out that Games Workshop has shifted their focus from repeat business and loyal customers to a more 'disposable' clientele.
They also seem to be building everything around impulse buys (which also favors the younger crowd). However, most of their loyal customers tend not only to be in that younger bracket, but also have a much harder time justifying an impulse buy at the prices they now are charging. A couple of years ago, I might buy something I didn't really need from a Games Workshop, because it in the range of an impulse buy. Nowadays, any Games Workshop purchase comes with careful and measured consideration, buying only the bare minimum of what I need, and usually looking at independent retailers or online stores to find the product at a discount so that it will be affordable. I don't have this same problem with Privateer Press or Wizards of the Coast products, because they have kept their prices at a reasonable level.
In fact, in recent weeks, I've had the opposite response from those two companies. Wizards of the Coast, for example: I bought the 'Castle Ravenloft' board game from them (which if you've never tried, you really should, it's awesome), and after my first game, I noticed there was a piece missing. So I contacted their customer service via email. the first thing that impressed me was that I got a response in less than half an hour, on a Sunday Morning. Secondly, once I explained the problem, their team was happy to send me replacement parts at no charge. Thirdly, when the parts did arrive, I noticed not only had they given me the missing piece, but also a second set of the other 5 pieces in the set. Did I mention no charge?
Privateer Press is my other big example. I ordered a Cygnar Battlepack Set from them during their Anniversary promotion. The deal came with a Warmachine rulebook. However I already had a Warmachine rulebook. So I emailed them and asked if it was possible to get a Hordes rulebook instead. They responded that day (which considering how busy they were, was a feat unto itself) and said they could do that no problem. However, when I receieved my package, it had a Warmachine book in it. So I emailed them again asking what could be done about this. I was fully expecting to mail it back to them and then have them send a replacement. But that was not the case. the apologized for it slipping through in the rush to get everything out the door, and said they'd send me a Hordes rulebook right away, at no charge. And to my surprise, when it arrived, they'd sent me a Hardcover of the rulebook!
This is goodwill and PR that is beyond a price. This is customer service and a proven devotion to their loyal customers that has made me a customer for life of both brands. And that is what Games Workshop desperately needs. Goodwill and some word-of-mouth PR telling people they aren't just trying to milk the cow dry. It's sad, but the only types of stories of this nature I've heard come out of Games Workshop have been horrible screw-ups. I had a friend who did a big order with them (using his Grey Knight points, he didn't actually pay for anything), and they ended up shipping the order to him twice. He never reported the error, because he wanted free stuff. I'm willing to bet though, that if Games Workshop showed more care for their customers, they wouldn't do things like this. I can say for sure that if Privateer Press sent me the wrong thing, I'd make it right with them instead of sneaking off with 'free' stuff.
Games Workshop can turn around from this. But they are going to have to work really hard to re-earn the trust they have broken. They need to get the quality up on the Finecasts. They need to listen to their customers, instead of telling them 'what's good for them'. Most of all, they have to realize they aren't the only fish in the pond anymore. World of Warcraft has the very same problem right now. They've bled off almost a million subscribers with the last 6 months because they were telling people how to play their game, and were looking for every opportunity to make a quick buck rather than service their customers with the quality that is expected of them. (Don't get me started on Blizzard... the for-real-money auction house they are putting into Diablo 3 has made me boycott all of their games in disgust). Customers have to be treated like people, and valued people, not walking ATMs for big companies to pull money out of. Once you lose sight of that, it's a very quick fall to the bottom, and there are a lot of hungry competitors out there looking to take your spot. I'm just sayin'...