Grab ’em while you can!


Sometimes you just have to shake your head in disbelief at the stupidity and short-sightedness of some companies. Case in point: Games Workshop. Multi-million dollar exchange-listed behemoth tabletop games company.
They must have hired a new law firm or something, because gamers all over the world are receiving cease-and-desist letters from the suits to pull down from the net anything and everything that mentions their games. This morning, all the rules summaries and reference sheets I’ve done for their games were removed from BoardGameGeek, and I fully expect to get the email any day now that forces me to remove them from this site as well.

So I suggest, if you play any of these games, grab the sheets now while you still can.

Anyone with half a brain can’t help but be amazed by this kind of treatment. How can any company be so stupid as to penalise their own fans; people who are putting countless hours of their own effort into advertising their product for free? I mean, really, how can having online rules summaries for twenty-year-old games like Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb and Rogue Trooper hurt the company? Even if the game is still in print, it is common practice for companies to make their game rules available online. These games can’t be played by rules alone.

I could go on from here into how this kind of customer-bashing has become de rigeur for companies all over the world, and how the knee-jerk response of companies to the internet is completely missing the obvious fact that they will actually end up selling more product if they allow the fans to promote and support it online. But we’d be here all day.

Suffice it to say that gamers know which way the wind is blowing, and are deserting Games Workshop in droves. Eventually the twelve-year-olds that these days make up their core customers will wake up to the facts as well, stop supporting this aging corporate beast of a company, and go elsewhere to game companies that actually care about their customers.

In the meantime, let’s all watch Games Workshop dig its own grave.

The Games Workshop Files Purge of ’09 (BoardgameGeek GeekList).

21 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Seth Owen
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 12:53:37

    This isn’t really new. I’ve noticed for months that they’ve been hassling eBay sellers into deleting all photos of Games Workshop products they may be selling.
    Games Workshop has to be the biggest jerk company in gaming these days. TSR used to be legendary for heavy-handed enforcement of its “rights,” but they were pikers compared to GW.

  2. Ralf Schemmann
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 17:00:49

    Unbelievable. I haven’t gotten anything for my mini-site yet, but I won’t be surprised when it happens.

  3. Moritz Eggert
    Nov 26, 2009 @ 17:59:18

    This is really unbelievable. Everybody knows that game aids and such are not the game itself and that it actually HELPS the company’s sales if they are out there. Even evil George Lucas doesn’t force Star Wars fan sites to shut down, and authors like Geoge R.R. Martin are actually glad that there are fanmade encyclopedias out there that summarize his books and collect info about his characters.
    One could list thousands of examples where this kind of internet activity enhances sales of a product. Fanmade stuff like player aids is NOT copying a product.
    Next they are going to forbid reviews about their games – really unbelievable.
    Games Workshop has gone a LONG way down since their glorious early “White Dwarf” days. Shame on them.

  4. Marshall
    Nov 27, 2009 @ 01:01:38

    You are 100% correct in the fact that this is what does a company in! This is old school thinking (Profit over People!) and will hurt the company in the long run.

  5. Kevin
    Nov 27, 2009 @ 03:05:14

    UH, would you be willing to zip all your game aids and make a torrent tracker to them? That way we (a) don’t have to click-save on every single aid and (b) don’t use your bandwidth.

  6. Jeroen
    Nov 27, 2009 @ 08:25:57

    I understand your’s and many other gamers’ anger at this kind of “move”. I doubt however that they are digging their own grave, because the number of players that create all kinds of extras are but a small portion of their customer base. Besides, anyone can question their approach to the utmost, but they still create and support (in their own way) really well developed and published games.

  7. Universal Head
    Nov 27, 2009 @ 09:09:47

    You’re very much entitled to your opinion Jeroen, though I would personally argue that, certainly where two of their core three games are concerned, they have been reheating, rehashing and re-releasing the same two game systems and their supplements fo twenty years or more. And certainly their support in their shops is fine, from a mother-looking-for-childcare-while-she-goes-shopping point of view.
    Sorry, that’s just being inflammatory I know. 😉 I have nothing against GW selling the type of games they do to people who want to buy them, and I own plenty of their stuff right up to the new Space Hulk. What I’m objecting to here is the way they are treating their fans – and not just oldies like me, but anyone who wants to support and freely promote their product on the web.
    Customers and fans just don’t react well to being guilty until proven innocent, when all they are doing is helping the company make money. It’s a new attitude that you can see anywhere from retail stores shoving permanent plastic barcodes on the books you buy, to having bags checked everytime you leave a store, to having to sit through threatening ads on DVDs without being able to skip through them – all the last desperate strategies of companies who don’t understand the way the world has changed and choose to react by blaming the very customers who have bought their products for years.
    Whether it affects GW’s bottom line – well, I have no idea. I still feel I have to complain about it though.

  8. Ilan
    Nov 27, 2009 @ 14:18:20

    I’m just shaking my head at this. Your play aids are invariably better than the written rules, and render many otherwise-inaccessible games very playable indeed.
    I really don’t have the words to express my frustration at GW’s recent activity, and perhaps need to go lie down for a minute.

  9. Matt Thrower
    Nov 27, 2009 @ 19:31:52

    I must say I’m somewhat perplexed by all people wondering why GW would do this and alienate a portion of their customer base.
    As someone who played GW miniatures games for many, many years (every edition of WFB) let me assure you that GH doesn’t give a toss about their adult customer base. If every gamer over the age of 18 signed a sworn statement never to touch GW product again they wouldn’t bat an eyelid. GW’s entire business model is based on the kids’ market where they can get away with charging a premium for the figures as “toys” because mummy, daddy and junior don’t know any better and don’t realise you can buy equivalent figures at half the price elsewhere. And even if they do of course, GW can still force them to buy GW product because that’s all you can bring into the store to play with.
    GW also doesn’t care about it’s boardgame range except as a hook for selling more figures. It’s the figures that make the profit – the games, even the tabletop games, only exist as a way of selling figures. GW don’t care and have never cared about the quality of the gaming experience as evidenced by the fact they routinely ignore the mass fan calls for minor “official” rules changes that inevitably result when a game gets mass play for the first time.
    So this comes as zero surprise to me. The fact of the matter is that in spite of Space Hulk, GW hasn’t been a part of the boardgaming world for decades.

  10. Steve McIlhatton
    Nov 27, 2009 @ 21:26:20

    This is the kind of behaviour that drove me away from their hobby and I’m disappointed that they have gone back to this kind of short-sighted corporate thinking.
    I for one will be looking for different miniature games to play and will be pointing my kids at other companies’ products should they show an interest…

  11. ventzlav
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 07:42:35

    be sure to get all the “rights” u can for every single game, unihead! or, they might be adding some new products in their shop at low prices.

  12. IainC
    Nov 28, 2009 @ 22:42:09

    I honestly don’t know what you were expecting here, GW *have to* protect those copyrights or they can lose them. The fact that the game is no longer in print is not important because derivative works could harm other games that are in production.
    The other comparisons aren’t accurate either. Those are all fair use of a product, rules summaries etc aren’t. GW aren’t shutting down fansites or fan discussion.
    It’s easier to lash out and assume that the company is the bad guy however than admit fault I guess.

  13. Andy Hull
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 13:34:29

    Also, not that this excuses anything, but GW has to feel PRETTY burned by the huge success of World or Warham…Warcraft. Oh, and Starcraft too. Blizzard essentially copied their IP and proceeded to make billions in computer games, while GW is still stuck in its own niche market. This is probably what created their current lawyer-happy environment.

  14. Valtyr Kari Finnsson
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 19:37:35

    Fun fact: Andy Chambers, who was one of the lead game designers of Warhammer 40.000 is now the lead story designer for Blizzards StarCraft II.

  15. Sigmar
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 19:45:30

    It seems unnecessary to me. Exactly how much do GW lose from content created by hobbyists, not much I would have thought. How much do they gain ? Well, I would have thought a lot more hobbyists.
    Oh well, when a company has so much control over a niche market this is the kind of thing that happens 🙁
    I have to agree with someone’s comment above though about the great support GW do give to it’s current gaming systems. The new miniatures, rule releases and general support cannot be faulted really.

  16. Artemis
    Nov 29, 2009 @ 23:34:20

    Instead of deleting these useful fan-created resources, why not just bundle them all up and release them as a torrent? GW has already made up its mind that we’re just a bunch of filthy pirates, so why not use the preferred distribution method of pirates everywhere? It seems a shame for all that hard work to go to waste.

  17. Universal Head
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 08:08:01

    I personally don’t think that’s a useful response as it just confirms their prejudices. I think it is more effective for fans to express their displeasure by exercising their rights as consumers, and informing the company they are doing so with a well-written letter.

  18. Arj
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 20:46:07

    to IainC, Bzzzzt. Incorrect.
    Trademarks must be enforced or you risk losing them. Copyrights do not have this stipulation.
    This mistake is made far too much,

  19. Fenris
    Dec 04, 2009 @ 23:08:12

    If GW do send you a C&D order, may I ask if you plan to comply? From what I can see, everything that was on BGG falls under Fair Use and GW really don’t have a case at all; this looks far more like baseless fearmongering. It would certainly be interesting to see their response to someone calling their bluff. Although of course, whilst you’re probably be safe there would be a slight risk of GW attempting to take you to court.

  20. Chris
    Dec 05, 2009 @ 00:35:41

    I just want to say here, a big THANK YOU for all your hard work. Who would have thought when we first saw GW in the 80’s that they would end up turning into one of their own monsters?
    Real shame.

  21. Universal Head
    Dec 07, 2009 @ 21:00:57

    … may I ask if you plan to comply?
    Hmmm, let me think, will I take a multi-million dollar company to court. Ummm … errr … hmmm …
    They are fully within their rights to have the material I’ve created off the ’net, as I scanned in their logos and artwork to create quality sheets. If they ask me, the sheets go. Most companies, however, realise that the not-for-profit work I do here is money in their pocket for nothing—free advertising and support.
    I’ve never questioned GW’s legal rights, what I was talking about is the stupidity of enforcing them to the letter by taking down material that doesn’t damage their IP or profits, and only succeeds in alienating fans.
    A lot of people have pointed out that BGG probably went overboard and removed everything to be safe, but I completely understand that response when you’re faced with threatening letters from law firms. The bottom line is, GW should never sanction these ridiculous purges in the first place.