Open letter to GW

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Open letter to GW

Post  RickyDMMontoya on Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:32 am

Part 1:

Part 2:

Interesting response from Sleboda (former GW employee):
A very nice effort. Nicer than most of these that have been done over the years (being a video certainly gives it a leg up).

Sadly, and this is not isolated to GW, when you try to tell a successful business that you know better than they do, they bristle at it.

Having worked there for many years in my earlier life, I saw it time and time again at pretty much all levels throughout the company. I attended international sales conferences, had conversations with heads of business...the works. It's fair to say I have a good finger to the wind on this one, and I'm pretty sure their response will be:

"F off, you twit. You have no clue about running an international, highly successful business. We do. We've done and will continue to do it."

Note, this is not what _I_ am saying. It's what I would bet _they_ are saying.

It doesn't help that for, literally, decades GW has seen the same rallying cries, the same 'petitions' and the like, the same mantra of "NOW it's different...THIS is the time it will bite them" and so on and they have weathered every one.

The mention of competition is a major one for that. Yes Privateer is doing great (I play too!), but from GW's perspective, they have seen it all before. Warzone, Confrontation, Mutant Chronicles, Wargods...the list goes on and on. These games (and in many cases companies) have been seen as the The One That Will Kill GW and each has failed. What possible reason would GW have to think that this time it will be any different?

Pissing off customers? Ha! While they do give excellent service, I can tell you that retaining veteran customers is only on their radar at all because it annoys them to have to think about it. The mantra has always been "New customers are our life's blood." Many of us who have been doing this for years may drop a few coins here and there as new things come out, but a new customer is 10-15 years of brand new sales. They need everything whereas we need only a few things here and there.

Where would you place your effort if you owned a business - keeping a few guys who will each spend $30 every few months, or getting 10 new gamers each month who will each spend $500+ in the first year and probably a few thousand over the next several years?

As to pissing of retailers? Well, this is two pronged really. The first is that at the heart of it is a desire to drag retailers, kicking and screaming if need be, into a successful future. When I was in sales, I knew which stores would last and which would not. The ones who stocked the full line, who didn't complain in front of customers, who managed inventory, who ran leagues and held seminars, who charged full price, who ordered in the new releases each month (they were monthly when I was starting, then went to weekly later)...the ones who ran a business, in other words...these were the ones that lasted.

On the other hand, the miserable ones who ate cheeseburgers at their counters, failed to greet customers, had tall shelves that created blind spots, who mocked customers for buying games they personally thought sucked, who complained about their suppliers to customers, who had holes in their stock walls, who opened late, who always bought one of each new release "to see how it sells" (when a customer would need 3 to be able to play at all and would thus not buy just the one the retailer had!) other words, had no clue and treated their business as a hobby...they were the wretches who failed.

Many of GWs decisions were made to try to create behaviors in retailers that would push them into success whether they wanted it or not. Which brings us to prong two...

Attitude. When I was there, we introduced minium orders and cut off selling through distribution networks. Both were done to ensure better stock at the retail level. The problem was in the culture of the people passing down the message. I recall, for example, a conversation at a sales meeting where we were discussing the upcoming $250 minimum order. At the time, the US Post Offce had a tag line for Prioroty Mail something like "$2, 2lbs, 2 days." We joked that our tag line should be "$250. Too much? Too bad!" We all laughed. It was the right decision (minimums) but the culture of the sales force was draconian and arrogant and so the reason was lost in the message.

It also hurts the speaker in the video that he glossed over a few things such as the fact that a Warmachine starter is not all you need to start since it does not contain the rulebook. He even mentions the whole glue thing but seems willing to lump in the costs of glue and such with the GW start up cost but not with the PP start up cost. (edit: Just realized the GW starters are snap-together kits. No glue needed. Privateer Press?)

The other thing he glossed over was the power of discounts. When he talks (video #2 I think) about how websites have brought new customers in, not just siphoned off from brick and mortar customers, he says that GW has a site too and so they are not exactly on the level about how internet retailing bothers them. He mentions in passing that other internet sites offer discounts and pretty much dismisses it as a factor. Well, it's not a minor thing! Discounting is a giant destroyer of brick and mortar stoes. Availability on the net is one thing, but getting it cheaper, sometimes much cheaper, is another.

Backing up just a smidge, he talked about sites getting new gamers involved but that not all those gamers are buying from him, so they must be going to stores, adding to the consumer base that way. Well, what if those folks are simply buying from cheaper internet discounters?

If you get into gaming via b&m, then find internet discounters, you will stick with internet shopping. If you start with internet discounters, you will stick with them. You don't start out buying stuff cheap and them choose to buy it more expensively later. Internet discountes kill b&m stores, which kills new hobbyist generation.

Having actual stores is _vital_ to the future of toy soldier gaming. There must always be stores that run games, give tactile feedback to customers, interact with customers to convince them to jump in, teach them how to play and to hobby...and so on. If stores went away and only internet stores remained, the player base would dwindle over time. Stores serve to recruit. Yes, a player may get into it via a net store, as their survey showed, but it's not like those people stumbled across the site and then got in. Chances are they know someone who plays already, or saw a store somewhere, or had some other impetus to check the site and the site cemented it for them.

WIth b&m stores, you get walk through traffic. There's a lot to that topic, so I won't go into it here, but believe me when I say there's a _ton_ of validity in the thought process that goes into showing how important that sort of recruitment is. If GW did not have b&m presence, GW would die. Independent retailers are a vital cog in the success and growth of GW. We may not agree with the particular steps they are taking, but most of these steps are taken in order to preserve the health of b&m in a world that is increasingly moving away from b&m sales.

People say GW needs to modernize and accept the internet economy. I say that when they do this, they will die, and they know it. Their's is not a product line that can sustain itself in a primarily internet model.

Anyway, nice job again to the guys making the video. Well meaning and well done. I just think it will fall on arrogant, deaf, angry ears.

I'm not sure I agree with everything Sleboda has to say, but he raises some interesting points. I certainly think there is more room than Sleboda seems to think.

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