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Re: [GZG] Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi!

From: "Robert Mayberry" <robert.mayberry@g...>
Date: Tue, 8 Jul 2008 09:02:17 -0400
Subject: Re: [GZG] Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi!

On Tue, Jul 8, 2008 at 3:58 AM, Ground Zero Games <> wrote:

(Actually Beth wrote this first part)

>>And this is where my main objection to GW comes in I think. My very
>>first thought response to this is "but for how long?". In the 16 years
>>Derek and I have been together now I can't say how many editions of GW
>>products I have seen come and go. That is true of many products
>>admittedly, and it seems a perverse aspect of human nature that many
>>people can't say "oh that's nice but I'll stick with the one I like
>>actually....". With GW in my experience the push to new has been
>>exemplified. Whether that is because they are trying to entertain a
>>younger audience I'm not sure. Now as a marketing tactic I can
>>understand where they are coming from, but as a consumer this is a
>>summary of what grates with GW (I'm not flaming just stating the
> irritants for me, which may not hold for many others):

This isn't just a marketing tactic. Its marketing value is that people
tend to respond to waves of promotion (where you promote something for
a month or two, then go quiet for a month or two, then promote again).
So if you have 3 or 4 new armies coming out each year (and by new of
course I mean the n'th revamp of the Elves, for example), then you'll
see the maximum psychological impact for your advertising dollar.

It also has a product management dimension. Every army has its own
things that people don't like. Maybe a particular figure is
over-powered. Another is under-powered. Still another (or the army as
a whole) uses an awkward mechanic. Perhaps a miniature isn't as good
looking as you'd like. Or maybe consumer tastes have changed. Periodic
product refreshes let you address all that. The idea is to continually
improve your product. Doing it periodically by army rather than trying
to revamp your entire line at once mitigates risk.

Of course you're also trying to drive revenue. Getting people to keep
their armies up to date (or enticing them to build a new army) is
important because if you have a huge player base that isn't buying new
figures or rules then you're going to choke. I suspect that that's
behind GW's focus on kids: there's always a fresh supply who want to
collect and paint their own armies. So of course the rules, artwork
and tone are focused on their customer base.

Finally, there's an operational reason, which I don't think enough
gamers recognize. If you're going to keep a staff of writers, painters
and sculptors, you need something for them to do. If you're
underutilizing them, then you're better off either laying off staff or
employing them on a contract basis (which has its own problems for
product quality and continuity). For many game companies (and GW is by
NO means alone here, just look at White Wolf or WotC in the RPG
space), the solution is to keep a constant stream of re-writes and
supplements going out the door. It may be less profitable, but it sure
beats firing your friends. And there are business strategy theory
reasons for keeping the staff in-house, too, which I won't go into.

>>10) The shop front bully boy tactics of the GW company itself used to
>>disgraceful (holding up shipping to people supplying competing chain's
>>lines etc and effectively financially bullying people into towing the
>>line and nothing else). That may well have changed in the past decade,
>>but it can take a long time to live down such ma  reputation down.

I've heard stories about their heavy-handed channel management. When I
said they had great customer service, I was referring only to their
mail order staff.

> One of the things that did a lot to sour GW's reputation in the UK
> was their practice in the '90s of finding a town with a good, healthy
> independent games shop and initially supporting them up to the hilt,
> giving them loads of incentives to become a major GW stockist (often
> to the detriment of other lines they had been carrying) - then as
> soon as GW's marketing boys saw that said independent's sales of
> their product were up to a certain level, they would move into the
> same town with one of their own stores and effectively withdraw (or
> at least massively downgrade) their support for the independent
> store. Of course, in most cases this meant the independent went
> under, which left the GW store with a monopoly on the gaming scene in
> that town, especially among the kiddies. It's almost impossible not
> to imagine the maniacal laughter ringing through the halls of their
> marketing department as another hapless games shop proprietor loses
> his livelihood before their unstoppable master plan....
> I suspect that different business laws in the US made this tactic a
> bit harder for them to implement over there, which may explain why
> the attitude of many US gamers is less vehemently anti-GW than is
> often the case over here - but this happened a lot in the UK, and
> those who were in the hobby at the time have long memories.

My understanding (and while I am a marketing guy, channel management
is not my specialty) is that this is just normal vertical integration.
If there was a legal problem with this at all, they still wouldn't run
afoul of anti-trust laws for quite a while, as the industry is still
pretty fragmented. Also, the courts in the US tend to be
time-consuming, expensive and capricious.

There's a very good store my area which pretty much ran afoul of
exactly this. They sold GW, a vast array of historical figures, even
retailed the GZG line. And, of course, the standard line of board
games, models and RPG's. Then GW built a retail store nearby. A couple
years later, the independent had to move to a smaller, less accessible
location to stay afloat. Then they went out of business. So I
absolutely know what you're talking about.

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