Ah Games Workshop. They’re a strange beast whose ways are arcane and incomprehensible to the likes of us. Or maybe they just blunder around with no clue and no rationale behind their actions at all.
Who can say?
I read this on Faeit212 last week and it shocked me:
” . . . They have also said that there will be more info on the 16th of May. Until then, anything else is just redshirt talk. They get fired for leaking the truth.”
If this is true (and let’s face it, it’s on the internet ;)) I want to know why. Why are GW employees threatened with dismissal for “leaking the truth?” Why do we even use the word “leaking?” We aren’t talking about international espionage and the security of nations here. We’re talking about people who love their silly, trivial gaming hobby wanting to know what the design studio is working on at the moment so that they can plan their purchases.
Again on Faeit212, we see a post about a possible Sisters of Battle PDF and unsubstantiated news that Blood of Kittens (the source of the rumour) as well as several other sites have been threatened with legal action and taken down. This just raises the questions again. Why would a games company need to conceal what they are working on? Here are just a few reasons I can think of, and here are reasons why these reasons are invalid or needlessly exploit the customer.
The company wants to build anticipation. OK, seems fair enough, but this is actually very counter-intuitive. You can’t anticipate something if you don’t know it’s coming. Anticipation requires transparency. Next!
The company understands that the hobby they sell is expensive, time consuming and involves a long term commitment. They therefore wish to take away the power of their customers to effectively plan purchases. That’s a good reason for corporate opacity if you’re a Games Workshop shareholder. Bad news if you’re a customer. Oh, and here’s a little word to the wise for the Games Workshop shareholders: people these days are not generally fools when it comes to consumption. They know what you’re doing. Even if they’re wrong, this is what it seems to them that you are doing, so it’s only a matter of time before this suspicion damages your financial return. Next!
Other companies might steal your idea before you can make it. Right, well, all I have to say to this is that in the games industry, any company that blatantly steals your idea is not really a competitor, they are a parasite. They only exist because your company has such an enormous cache with consumers. Not only that, there are laws against IP theft and big companies have lawyers, as we all know. You have all the power, really. What you should be afraid of is other companies coming up with different ideas that people like and that compete with yours. Other companies that work with their community of customers rather than against them. Next!
And finally, what if you want to go back on what you previously said? What if, say, you started work on something, announced it, and then changed tack? Well, so what? Just be honest. Say “this is what we’re running with right now” instead of “this is set in stone.” You’ll build good feelings towards your company for being honest. If there really is a backlash, apologize! You’ll get respect. But there won’t be a backlash if you’ve kept people informed.
Really, corporate opacity in the hobby industry bugs the hell out of me. It is a hopelessly outdated stance to adopt in the world of instant information transfer and social networking. People love trading information, not gossip and speculation. They only trade gossip when there’s no information to be had. Building a community that includes your customers as well as your employees and designers is what’s important for continued success in the modern world, not some adversarial 1960s advertising model that tries to trick the stupid lemmings. Withholding information of hobby releases is exploitative of the consumer, simple as that, and we know it. Modern consumers have been proven to shift their purchases away from companies that are perceived as being exploitative of the environment, the poor, minorities or just their customers. Want to avoid this happening to your company? Don’t do things that make people feel like you are withholding information from them.
This has been a problem with Games Workshop’s approach for as long as I can remember. Many companies have forums or message boards where players and designers can interact. Not Games Workshop. We all know that printed magazines are an outdated medium, but even Dragon and Dungeon magazines (may they rest in peace) included letters pages where players could communicate openly with designers and company reps. White Dwarf has never allowed this, to my knowledge. It’s seriously one of the only magazines I can think of with no letters page. It’s behind the times for a magazine, a medium that is itself all but dead!
Stop hiding, Game Workshop, and treat your customers with respect. You’re only hurting yourselves, and I don’t want you to be hurt – I love the hobby you sell and I don’t want it to die out. Keeping secrets is a bad idea. If you have a consultant who’s telling you otherwise, don’t listen to him. I’m one of your customers, and I’m smarter than he is.