Friday, 31 October 2014

The modern disdain for the tabletop gaming consumer

Greetings friends!

In follow up from my earlier post this week I felt it necessary to elaborate on some issues that I did not go into but are a massive deciding factor in how I take this blog and my hobby time.

It has become apparent to me that there seem to be more and more game developers within the tabletop world who seem to see their consumer base as nothing more than cash cows to be milked.

Now before I go further into this I need to add that in no way am I accusing every single company, and I am also not saying that this is a new thing; only something that I am becoming increasingly aware of as time goes by.

You see; as I see it we are looking at the difference of respect vs no respect. The companies in question I am seeing more and more as having little, to no respect for their customers. If they did then they would not engage in the behaviour I'm going to outline here.

First of all we have the current juggernaught of the wargaming world: Games Workshop.
I know, I know: what a surprise! After all GW is the big player in the scene and therefore the easy target.

The truth however in my eyes is that this company has very little respect for the more mature player. I don't say this lightly, far from it.

I'm not talking about the torrent of reasons people give on a daily basis ranging from FailCast to rubbish rules. What I am talking about is the lack of Quality Control over said rules.

How many times have you heard the stories about GW Army Books being the baby of a single writer or couple of writers? It is a more commonly reported issue than I could even imagine. All of it from the stats of a model to the balance of the army is at the disposal of a single writer or couple.

Other companies try to correct the issues caused by a small writing team by making use of large public and private beta testing, but of course we all know that GW do not have these levels of testing for a true plethora of reasons.

So rather than a finely tested product we are presented with something that is the opposite; imbalance thrown together with a smattering of shiny.

If a company truly respected it's consumer base or even it's own art then they would not allow such poorly conceived ideas to reach mass production.

In this case they clearly do not respect the consumer, instead knowing that it really doesn't matter; they can piss off as many customers as they want and for every one who leaves there will be another five+ new players with direct access to the Bank of Mum & Dad to fill that spot.

This was a trend I noticed after the change from 40k Second Edition to Third and with the dropping of GorkaMorka frankly only two years into it's life span.

The worst part however? The thing that truly stinks? That there are hundreds of players across the net who will ridicule and criticise GW for this behaviour all the while celebrating other companies who show the same lack of respect for their customers.

I do of course now move onto Wyrd Miniatures.

It's no secret that Wyrd as an entity and I have had a falling out: well I say a falling out, I have fallen out with Wyrd, while Wyrd didn't really know I even existed.

But I'm sure you are wondering how I can compare Wyrd, the friendly gramps of the miniature world with the evil tyrant Games Workshop?

I am once again talking about Quality Control or a lack there of.

For me this became most obvious with the launch of the first set of Second Edition Malifaux models in particular the Victoria's boxed set. In this box that was first sold at GenCon 2013 you had models that were completely out of proportion with each other and other models from the same range, as if they had somehow developed a tonne a growth hormone. The same was seen with the Death Martials with one model in a crouching pose that was incredibly larger than it's two brothers.

The thing was these were not difficult sizing issues to spot and anyone paying them half a glance saw these issues, but despite all of this they were still sold on the day. There was only two possible reasons that such a mistake would creep through either a). They didn't know about it, meaning their Quality Control was non existent, or b). They knew and didn't care.

I prefer to think that it was a). That the company did not know about the faulty product they were selling and that if they had known they would have pulled it from the store. It is true that they did offer everyone effected by this replacements, but that does not take away from the fact that a good series of Quality Controls put in place would have stopped it being an issue in the first place.

It could have perhaps been forgivable if they learned from their mistakes; but fast forward to November 2013 and we have their anniversary deal where they made the next lot of models available for purchase from their online store in advance of street retail. Within the models available was a gorilla called CoJo who up to this point throughout the entire beta both closed and open and official August to November of the book, this model was depicted as being on a certain sized base (40mm). This model is ordered by the consumer, it arrives complete with it's 40mm base and during construction it becomes obvious that there is little to no way the model will fit on this base. This is resolved not by a recast and replacement service but instead an online errata saying that the model now is to be fitted on a 50mm base.

Once again, another model sold to Joe Public with no Quality Control involved.

But Wyrd are not the only companies responsible for poor quality of product, let us briefly take a look at games like Sedition Wars on KickStarter, and the many other KickStart games that use Restic-Shit material for their models and cardboard that warps at simply getting a bit cold! It is so insane that it is actually celebrated when a KickStarter is not made of shit material.

That's right, it is so common now on KickStarter for companies to use shite materials for their games that it has been excepted as the norm and those who do not are seen as the rare exception! This is for games where people put down between $100-$500 in a single pop on a game that more often than not they haven't played before!

Where's the respect there? Charging premium price for sub-par goods and the consumer base laps it up!

But it goes on; look at release dates for KickStarter, where missing a deadline is considered so normal that some games companies; Pulp Monsters make light hearted jokes about missing deadlines as on 25/09/14 when in an update they said:
Obviously the stuff ain't gonna show on your doorstep in the next 4 days

This line was made just days before the product was due to be shipped with pretty much zero updates prior to this informing the consumer of these delays.

How have things become so bad that companies are happy to make jokes about missed deadlines and ship metaphorical shit to our doorway and people line up every time to receive it?

It seems to me that there is pretty much only one company out there who is remotely decent and that is Mantic, that is not because they produce good quality, but because they produce mass market cheap-shit and it is advertised as such. In other words you know what you are getting from the word go.

But even Mantic are not blame free. Let us not forget the KickStarter for Dreadball where they ballsed up their shipping so bad that the game was available for purchase from bricks and mortar retailers before those who kick starterd the game had received theirs. Yup that's right, if I wanted I could have gone to my LGS and bought a copy of the game and been playing it before those who's hard earned cash had made the game possible and a reality.

Then there's the company who less than a year ago I was championing; Cypher Studios who currently are the owners of the game Hell Dorado.

Now I really like the rules and models for Hell Dorado, but back in January of this year they started shipping out their KickStarter for the expansion Inferno. To date, roughly 10 months later there are still backs across Europe who have yet to receive their product.

On top of that for the entire of the year they have released only a single model for the game and if you want to play any of the new stuff from the expansion? Well you had better hope you were in the KickStarter and didn't live in Europe as the rules book for Inferno is still not available for general release outside of the U.S.

Here we are not only seeing a lack of respect for the consumer but once again a lack of respect for the product itself.


Now I am sure to many of you these are just necessary evils, or perhaps the many faces of the wargaming beast, but for me they are unacceptable.

We currently are lucky enough to live in a Free Market where something succeeds or fails largely down to what the consumer purchases (the consumer being a wide group of people) with this in mind the only reason these companies have been able to get away with these shameful practices are because we the consumer have not held them accountable but instead unzip out wallets every single time even though we know we are also removing our trousers and bending over a table at the same time.

Sadly for me this has been a long time coming, but I can no longer endorse such behaviour by referring to myself as a member of that community.

The only way we can ever make companies responsible for their unacceptable behaviour is by hitting them where it hurts and that is their cash flow and not giving into what is clearly the first world disease of Shiny Syndrome.

Maybe I am alone here; maybe everyone who reads this disagrees with every single word I have said in which case I hope you enjoy your games.

Truly I actually do. I would never want someone to spend time and money on something they did not enjoy, and I would hope you shared the same opinion, which is why with hope you understand why I no longer can allow myself to be party to something that offends my own morals on a daily basis.

Take care and stay safe.

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

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