Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The EA of Wargaming

Ever since i got back into Warhammer Fantasy i have maintained that GW is the "EA of Wargaming". For those who dont know EA is the name of a video game company widely despised in the video game community for such things like Day 1 DLC, Pay to Win and Pay to Play practises, all of which involve charging the customer more money. Before i go on i want to make my position clear: I don't not like the current pricing of GW models and how many you get per "Box" of models. I still love playing WHFB and think that the current set of rules for fantasy are some of the best ever, my issue with GW is very specific and narrow and generally speaking i find GW's models and rules to be top quality.

So what do i mean when i say that GW is the EA of the wargaming industry. Well its simple, GW's business practices and pricing are aimed to draw as much money as they can get away with out of the customer, and the most visible example, of this is the Data slates and formations that are now being sold on the Black Library website.

I started this hobby waay back in the mists of 2005. Warhammer Fantasy was in its 6th edition and 40k had just turned 4(th ed). I consider 6th ed fantasy army books to be some of the best ever produced. They had pages brimming with character and lore and each army had a distinct feel which was help by each army having access to a unique set of items and rules that others didn't.  What some of these army books also had were variations on how you could build your army. The one that leaps to mind (mainly because it was my first GW army) was the Orcs and Goblins. In the back of the book you could find rules for how to build a savage Orc army, night goblin army, Snottling army (yes you read correctly) and many more variations. What each variation did was shuffle unit categories to allow players to build a more themey army. For example in a Savage Orc army Savage Orc Boar Boyz were core but units like basic Orcs were special and Black Orcs were rare. How does this relate to Data Slates/ Battle Scrolls and Formations? It shows that once upon a time GW included the kinda things found in Data Slates and Battle Scrolls in the actual army book and didn't cut them out and sell them for extra profit as Day 1 DLC (or whenever a given Data Slate goes on sale).

Pay to win refers to a instance where a player can pay money for access to a superior unit,  weapon or buff that basically automatically wins him/her the game he is playing. I think this is a phrase that applies to both Fantasy and 40k. If you have the money you can buy 12 Demi Gyphs, field them all at once and stomp on your opponents army without breaking a sweat. If you dont have the money to buy units to counter them then tough, don't play that against that army. This isn't a issue with the rules of a given unit but the price of that unit. All sorts of people play GW's games, by they full time or part time workers, students or people who have money. And its the people who don't have money (or much of it) who loose the most when it comes to pay to win. They cant afford to buy the units that can counter things like Monstrous Cav (or for a 40k example: Riptides). This wasn't a issue back in 6th ed because things were reasonably priced, you didnt see many units costing more than 80-90 dollars and only special characters, battalions and the starter sets cost over 100 dollars.

So there you have it, my core augments as to why i consider GW to be like EA. But i dont want to end this post there, i would like to talk about the manner in which people criticise GW. This post was was written partly in response to a post on the blog Cadia's Creed by the Grumpy Guardsman. That post (called why 40k is pay to play) made the augment that GW should not be compared to video game industry practices. Its a good read and i recommend you go take a look at it. In the last section of that post the wrote this:

So how do you tell GW you do not agree. Well one, tell them. Send them a CONSTRUCTIVE email with your reasons and examples of what you don't like and why. But this is useless if you don't tell them what you want, complaining, even constructive, is useless. Give them a direction you want them to go in. Explain why you think prices should be lower and what you would buy if they were.

I 100% absolutely agree with this statement. That is the proper way to criticise anyone, keep emotion out of it and write it it with the aim of providing constructive feedback. The Internet is know for bringing out the worst in people and the wargaming community is no exception. dont spew hatred on forums, or send expletive ridden messages to GW. Write a claim message outlining your issues and who knows, if enough people do it then GW may even begin to take back some of its decisions regarding pricing.

Finally (and this is the final point, honest) i think that recently GW has been improving. WHFB army books show good signs of balance and actual effort into producing books that don't have OP units that cant be scratch by mere mortals, the volume of new books that GW has been producing is impressive and shows (i think) a real desire for ALL armies to be on the same edition and be able to compete against one and other. And their online service is the best i have ever experienced, quick communication after buying something from their webstore and speedily delivery really make it a great online store. So while they may still be the EA of the wargaming world at least they are trying harder than EA to improve and correct mistakes. Until next time.


  1. Nice article man. I can def agree that GW is seen as the EA of wargamming, and in many ways is not a bad comparison.

    In regards to pay to play. The issue is that it is going to be pay to play. Units are going to be better than others, otherwise we can play checkers if we want every unit to be even and fair. Riptides are a good example, they are a pricy model that is powerful, but they are less powerful on the table top than in a persons mind. I have gunned one down with a guardsmen squad with lasguns and a plasma gun and first rank. Even these powerful units will have in most cases tactics to defeat them with out needing to go and buy a riptide or equivilant. But even in that case, I have to have guardsmen, or plasma guns, I have to buy those models.

    The other part of this is writing decently balanced rules. They really don't need to be as tight as everyone seems to claim, but their needs to be some sort of codex balance and usually some sort of disadvantage to taking a great unit, either through high points cost or a loss of troops or rule issues. Generally GW is okay at this, but as we have seen with Tau and Eldar, they were just too well written, there was really not bad thing or sacrifice to make. This is an issue. I think GW is currently trying to fix things with new releases rather than going back and nerfing already released codex's. I would prefer a solid FAQ, and I have a big gripe with their lack of recent FAQs, but I think the rapid releases are working in a way. Tau are no longer dominating, eldar are still very powerful, but tyranids are having some luck spoiling them. And in most cases, the data slates generally don't require you buy new models, as most have these already, it allows them to be used in new ways. There are a few silly things they have done, but I'm not sure they have even sold well. Now that would be something I would really be interested in seeing, what their digital releases are doing and how well they are selling. They keep on adjusting how they release things, so you have to think they are paying attention to some sort of ques, even if we don't see them. I will be really interested to see what digital releases look like a year from now.

    So I have lost my point I think and have rambled enough :). Good article and thanks for the shout out. I think the point in all this is to be constructive in criticism and I know that I have yet to email GW with my grievances and suggestions, and that is my fault alone. I know lots of gamers love to complain, but at least from what I know, few really do anything like write the company constructively.

    1. Glad you liked it, i will admit that your post inspired me to write it so cheers. I agree with you that any wargame is pay to play and GW games even more so. I do like the idea behind Data slates, that periodically new rule for a army will be released keeping said army up to date and fresh, i even dont mind paying for them. What i dont like is these rules being released on the release day of the new codex, that feels wrong.

      And dont worry if you need to write a long comment go for it i enjoy discussion whenever the chance arises. Keep up the good work on your blog you always have good and interesting posts.

    2. Glad it did. Yeah same day release is not the best choice, they should prob wait a week or two before dropping a data slate, at least for the fact that many do feel that is has that DLC feel.

      I try to do more than just babble on my blog and glad you like it. I do enjoy seeing your stuff on WFB, espcailly since it is something I know so little about. Discussion is really what this should be all about, as otherwise we are all just talking to ourselves on the internet ;)

  2. Sigh I just typed a HUGE response and then refreshed the page...

    Oh well here is my take V1.1

    I do not agree that what GW does is anything like DLC.

    Remember back in the day where games had expansions? Like Age of Empires and Civilization? That is exactly what GW is doing. Added new options to expand your game play. New game types, new units and new rules to shake up how the game works. Of course this costs money but they are expansions. Not purchasable upgrades that people have to put up with. With DLC people cant say no to someone else using it, but with expansions you choose what expansions before the game begins. This is exactly what 40K does.

    I think its a good thing. But it is definitely not buying an advantage over someone else.

    Video games and Wargaming are a bit too different to really compare them in many ways. Wargaming is a hobby, and all hobbies cost frequent money to continue.

    1. I hate it when that happens, had it happen at least 5 times i can remember.

      I think things like cities of death and planetstrike can be compared to things like rise of rome (AOE 1 expansion), what GW is doing with Data slates feels like weapon and armour packs that games sometimes release.