It is a well-known fact that despite a host of issues in the past few years, Games Workshop is the king of miniature games. Everyone knows who they are, and they have by far the largest presence at the vast majority of hobby stores. Go to any 10 local hobby stores and you will see their section of models for Games Workshop is larger and more extensive than that for any other company; actually, probably for any other two companies combined. Most hobby stores have entire walls dedicated to Games Workshop and their vast array of games and hobby supplies.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. This is quite simply a statement of fact. No, there is a lot to justify this dominance. For starters, no one makes models that compare to those produced by Games Workshop. Every time that their competitors draw close, Games Workshop steps it up and comes out with models that are even more detailed. Yet, for all that detail, most of their models are easy to put together; something that you cannot say for most of their competitors. Yes, there are certain astetics that GW is completely missing from their line: Steampunk and Victorian Horror are the two that come to mind. Privateer Press and Wyrd make very nice models in the Steampunk and Victorian Horror genre; they are fanastic models that are often a down right holy terror to put together.The New Games Workshop (past few years) has also gone out of their way to engage the community on social media like YouTube and have created quality content for fans like their how to paint videos. In addition, they produce novels and audiobooks that engage a variety of people, not just gamers, into their highly detailed worlds. Lastly, they have been around the longest. Being their first and for the longest means they have had a long time to get their name out in the public and become engrained into the psyche of the miniature gamer. Even people who talk down their games and products, know who they are and what they are; no advertising is bad advertising?
In other words, there are a host of valid reasons that Games Workshop is number one and that almost every miniature gamer knows their name. The question is what are smaller game companies doing to combat the inherent advantage of Games Workshop? The answer for many was advocates. Privateer Press had the Pressgang, Wyrd has the Henchmen, and the list goes on. However, due to the recent backlash with Magic The Gathering and its Judges, some companies have released all their volunteers and went to a much smaller paid staff. This has left large groups of gamers without an advocate to drive their community. Other games, have begun to limit the benefits and compensation for its advocates and the results have been very much the same…dwindling communities.
This directly affects me because it has impacted two games that I love. While the two companies have done it in different ways, the results have been similar in my area. I live in the middle of a triangle that has 8 cities around two major freeways and 1 major highway. The total population of this area is a little over 1.1 million people. The total commute time from any point of the triangle to another city on the triangle is less than 1 ½ hours. You would think that this area would have some gamers and you would be right. There are several game stores in the area and they all have gamers; gamers that play Games Workshop games, gamers that stream Games Workshop games. There are no Malifaux or Privateer Press gamers at those stores. Oh, there are a few holdouts like myself; however, I can count all of us on one hand with a finger to spare.
Now a little background before I proceed. I used to be that advocate. I quit a few years ago as my family time was eating into my game time and although my wife was not saying anything about my game nights, she was giving me the look and a wee bit of attitude when it was a particularly stressful day. To be fair, I was a super advocate; you see, I was both a Henchmen for Malifaux and a Pressganger for Privateer Press. Locally, I ran the game nights and I organized the tournaments and charity events. While I was doing this we had a core of players that was right around 10 people at my local store. At the next closest stores, their pressgangers had approximately 6 people and 12 people who played regularly.
At my local store when I stepped down, no one stepped in to replace me and both games died off. The same can be said of the other two stores. When Privateer Press got rid of their pressganger program, one store lost all of its players and the other store has a core of like 4 players who still play the game. Malifaux never had a huge following, but there was like 8 of us between two stores and now there is me and one other gamer dad who still play.So what can be done?
I am not sure. Wyrd still has the Henchmen program, but their game is not doing well locally or for that matter in Southern California. There is few if any tournaments and while two stores have game nights, one is in San Diego and the other is in Northern Los Angeles; on a good day of traffic that means I would have to drive approximately 2 hours to get a game….if I hit no traffic. As for Privateer Press, I do not know what needs to be done. But between switching editions and getting rid of the Press Gang, the game is non-existent in our area. Stores don’t stock the game and no one plays the game. The long and short of it is that both games are dead anywhere around here except for San Diego and Los Angeles. That is two communities in all of Southern California.This is a shame.
Both games are fantastic games. They are both balance and interactive games that anyone can play, but require skill and practice to play at a tournament level. Basically, they are perfect games; easy to play and hard to master. However, they have no local advocacy. In addition, Games Workshop is flooding social media with videos and posts on their games and products, so newer gamers are being drawn to those games.
Neither of these games will grow again any time soon unless there are local advocates. Games Workshop games have local advocates: the players and the stores that stock their products. To compete, Privateer Press and Wyrd need to incentivize players to go out and herald their game and products. Yes, I know Wyrd has a Henchmen program, but it is limited in scope and compensation, it must be improved if they want players to give up their time, money, and energy to go out a proclaim their game to the masses. As that is not happening and does not seem to be happening anytime soon, it appears these games are dead locally.What does this mean for a busy gamer dad with limited time?
It means I could once again become the advocate. However, I just do not have the time. I want to game with my limited free time, I don’t want to spend that very limited time, organizing and running events and game nights. So, it means I have to make a decision, as I am in a quandary. I really like Warmachine and Hordes and I really like Malifaux, but what do you do when the games you love are no longer played locally? We will leave that for the next article.
Until the next post…