Friday, July 30, 2021

Goodwill, and How to Lose It.

Gaming corporations are obviously profit-making entities. 

But it happens a lot that those who come to control such corporations come to the mistaken notion that they are simply profit-making entities.

What they forget is that gaming, in all its various forms, is a big part of modern life. It can inspire passionate devotion and dedication, connected as it is with imagination and camaraderie. And when a significant financial investment is added in, it intensifies.

That devotion creates a great deal of goodwill. 

Which can be thrown away in a stupid fit of border policing.

Games Workshop, maker of the soaring Warhammer series of tabletop games, is giving its goodwill the Old Yeller treatment

Short version: With few exceptions, fan creations are IP violations.

That includes my favorite, the If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device parody series. The creator is putting it on the shelf--he does not feel like a legal battle.

 

I'm the furthest thing from an intellectual property expert, so I cannot speak to how enforceable the new policy is. Parody protects some things, but to what extent I can't say. Certainly, companies have to defend their IPs or risk losing them. But it's also true that fan creations are free advertising, bringing people to the brand. In the endlessly-memed Warhammer universe, this is particularly the case. 

GW right now reminds me of the end of the Lorraine Williams era at TSR (1985-1997). Williams came on board when Gary Gygax was dumped. It is true that Gygax was an uneven business mind and had too much on his plate. Unfortunately, he was given the heave-ho entirely, and Williams was brought on to impose disciplined business practices. 

Amongst these practices in the early internet era was a dogged policy of policing fan sites for any trademarked material and ordering their removal. This only ended with the rescue of the company from the brink of bankruptcy by Wizards of the Coast. A more relaxed, unite-the-fans approach followed, and worked. 

Hopefully, GW will wake to how counterproductive the hyper-strict policy is. But it will probably take years and priceless goodwill run through the shredder first. 


6 comments:

  1. In the movie Diner, two chaps from Baltimore get lost in Maryland horse country. One says to the other, "Do you have a feeling there's a lot of stuff going on we don't know about?"

    Yep.

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  2. This especially infuriates me as someone who is designing and creating a game and wants to get it off the ground, how much I would KILL to have fan made videos with views in the millions spreading awareness of my game. Watching GW throw all of that away is infuriating.

    "This is how the internet works. It’s about distributed systems. One video going viral on Facebook can get far more views than a Superbowl ad. You want people out there sharing that trailer, because the combined reach of all fans is greater than even the mightiest advertising agency. You want your fans out there dissecting the trailer, doing reaction videos, doing previews, and integrating it into the news shows. You want your game to be the hot topic. You want everyone talking about it, excited for it, and lining up to preorder the dang thing.

    "So why would you try to prevent this from happening by punishing people who share the trailer on their own channels?" -Source: https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=43028

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    Replies
    1. It's baffling. Unless....

      Arch, the (in)famous WH Youtuber, commented GW's new policy and the end of TTS with a plausible hypothesis fitting the facts:

      GW's management sees the writing on the wall with 3D printing and is trying to reposition itself as primarily a media company with a side hustle in gaming. With the advent of Warhammer TV this month, the new IP policy clears the decks of any competing media that GW hasn't already hired--and they've hired several fan animators already.

      That makes an uncomfortable amount of sense, and fits the fact pattern so far.

      The thing is, the would-be media company is burning the fandom that would giddily hype it. Like Arch just did, commenting recently on what a good deal WHTV is....

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    2. You speak a lot of sense, Dale. Enough I wouldn't bet against you. Though it is still quite foolish that if they want to do a WHTV, they're going to need content and a comedy/parody series would then be perfect for it. If anything they should be hiring the youtubers to do exclusive material for the channel to encourage sign-ups.

      Which makes the move even dumber which is why I'm actually even more convinced you are right. (We should name that some kind of corporate occum's razor - the dumbest possible action is probably what the corporation is doing.)

      Of note on the 3D printing thing you bring up: Peterson Games (of Sandy Peterson fame) has recently announced they will be offering 3D printing files for customers. It actually seems like a shame because if WH were to do the same maybe even offering a choice (you can buy a premade kit, or download the files to make it at home), they could open up the game and hobby to a wider array of players and really expand. I could even see some game shops setting up to be like a sort of "kinkos" with nicer print rigs than just raw inventory.

      Though if you still need your fix on YouTube, MandaloreGaming seems to be a warhammer fan and reviews a lot of their video games.

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    3. Thanks, Nate, for the link!

      I wish it were otherwise, but GW is going to GW at this point. The money has flooded in since 2015, and became a tsunami with the pandemic. They believe they can safely ignore any blowback...and they are almost certainly correct.

      I like the idea of 3D printing files--that's genius. As the printers become more economical and precise, that seems like a sensible way to go. But if we're right about GW's trajectory, that will not be a consideration.

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  3. Yeah, Hero Forge perfected this idea already. Create your custom mini as you wish, then you can buy the printer files for it for like $5-7, or pay them much more to make it themselves and ship to you. (with additional add-ons like painting if you wish)

    Sandy Peterson seems smart enough to realize with all the miniatures his company runs, this is a viable revenue stream.

    Of course GW wouldn't be the meme it is if was smart. (Though that is surprising to me that they had profit from the pandemic - seems like it would have been one of the harder hit hobbies by it.)

    And just in case you're curious - I was a BIG Monsterpocalypse (of Privateer Press) fan back in the day. Only reason I stopped playing it is that they went to "paint your own" minis style and increased price on them as well (in addition to making an already elegant game even simpler).

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Be reasonably civil. Ire alloyed with reason is fine. But slagging the host gets you the banhammer.

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