Monday, July 18, 2011

Consumer or Fan - How Does GW See You?

Rough times for Mr. McCourt
Major League Baseball's All-Star Game has passed, the second half of the season is underway and I've had baseball on my mind.  For residents of the greater Los Angeles area, including myself, this season has been full of off-the-field drama up in Dodger-town.  At this point, Dodger owner Frank McCourt is persona non grata to most Blue-Crew faithful.  When he first arrived on the scene in 2004 many viewed him as a carpetbagger from Boston and after the details came out of how he the missus milked the team to fund a lifestyle of excess his reputation sank further.  The Bryan Stow assault has not helped Frank's rep and now the MLB is in the process of wrenching ownership of the team away from him.

So what the heck does any of this have to do with warhams?  In the aftermath of the annual round of GW price hiking, coupled with subsequent gripping and threats to quit the hobby, I though it would be good time to bring up a topic I've touched on twice before - the idea that wargamers are not so much fans as they are consumers.  You'll see where this analogy is going when we take a look at the other MLB team in the Los Angeles area - my beloved Angels.

The Angels also have monkey...

The Angels are presently owned by Arte Moreno, who's philosophy about running a MLB franchise is much different that McCourt's.  His focus is about putting a good product on the field and creating a family friendly atmosphere in the stadium.  ESPN's Ultimate Team Rankings, measuring how much American professional sports franchises "give back to the fans in exchange for all the time, money and emotion the fans invest in them," has ranked the Angels in the top 10 of their list since its inception in 2003, the year Moreno bought the Angels (who peaked at #1 in 2009).  The Dodgers have never ranked higher than 50 on ESPN's list.  Many commentators have postulated that Frank McCourt's perspective on Dodger fans is that they'll show up to the stadium no matter what - the Dodgers are a "storied franchise" that fans will always be loyal too and spending a summer's night at the stadium is an essential So-Cal experience.  This season's low attendance figures have shown otherwise.  So we have a poorly run baseball franchise and a well run franchise.

Does GW treat hobbyists more like lemming-mined fanboys a la Frank McCourt, or do they recognize the fact that we are cunning consumers?  Being a wargamer is being both a fan and a consumer.  As a fan, I like to escape life's daily grind and be passionate about my sports teams or my Warhammer armies.  But at the same time I won't pay for a full-priced ticket to a game if the team stinks and I try to avoid paying full retail for new mini's.

If you play GW's games you were probably drawn to them by the back story and the excellent miniatures.  GW may not have Vin Scully and Jackie Robinson, but they have Space Marines - GW's equivalent to the "storied franchise" element.  Many hobbyists feel that GW leans too heavily on this and has been pulling a Frank McCourt on them, abusing their fan loyalty and ignoring the consumer element of the equation.  Personally, I'd hope to see less of a disconnect between GW and the people who support the hobby with their time, energy and money.  Since I'm not a business expert, I do not have a solution aside from a  philosophical shift.  I'm not saying that GW is going to run things into the ground, I just hope things don't come to the point where playing GW games requires borrowing another sports analogy:


  1. When I started reading this I was thinking that being treated like a fan was better than a consumer but you went the other way about which side is exploited.

    I see the fans(not to be confused by fanboys) as people who have to be built up and nurtured and need attention while the consumer side is more the churn and burn on the preteen and early teen players which they try to get the most money out of in their 12-18 month time with the game.

    GW is not a sports team with sort of the built in family loyalty(getting that way as a lot of early players now have kids of the right age.)
    They need to work at building the evangelical fans that they used to have but started to poison the well.

  2. @eriochrome: Maybe this point isn't true for younger/newer players, but if a fan is not nurtured, the consumer element kicks in and they'll take their entertainment dollar elsewhere. I believe this is why people leave the hobby and it is why the Dodger's attendance figures are so low this year.

    Good point about the "evangelical fan" being needed to grow the hobby, since GW does not the "family loyalty" element.

  3. Good analogy. I hope more people read it.

  4. Yo, nice post. I like the analogy a lot. Not sure where most people stand on this issue but it's one that's not going away any time soon. I constantly struggle with why GW is consistently raising prices... Especially at the rate at which they do. I can see how most kids will get mom and dad to buy them an army that costs a few hundred bucks, play for a few months, then resell it online somewhere. This seems to be the market that GW is catering to, not us long time vets that constantly pour money into the hobby. It's forced me to take other routes when it comes to acquiring new stuff... I don't wanna go on a long rant here, either, but it seems like GW could eventually price themselves out of the market if they continue to do business the way they have been...