Tuesday, June 5, 2012

GW - Is There A "Duh" In "Digital"?

"Brazen Claws"? There's an app for that...
Is there a "duh" in "digital"? Maybe we should ask GW.  Like many gamers, I receive regular GW emails about products etc., and the latest breathless missive informed me that GW is "going digital".  I was excited for half a second to think that GW had finally come up with some kind of useful app that would be helpful for gaming.  Considering the iPad had been on the market since April of 2010, and tablet products are common accessories these days (I'm a notorious curmudgeon about Apple and I was still blown away by it - my cynicism was completely pwned by the design skills of Apple) I thought it was about time that GW got on the bandwagon.

My iPad has been quite handy for gaming (Conscript Cam will no doubt savour this admission on my part, as well he should). While I enjoy "Angry Birds" and any number of other time wasting games, it was not long before I was cramming every gaming PDF I could on to my iPad, so I could have them handy while gaming.  I'm not here to proclaim the death of books, etc. etc. I quite enjoy paper books, and enjoy well-produced rule books and hope they continue for a long time.  But it has been very useful to have charts, stats lists etc. available for quick and easy reference.  My copy of the "Tomorrow's War" rules is a digital one, just to name an example, and it is very useful to have it in electronic format on the tablet reader.

Places like the Wargames Vault are offering more and more rules for download.  Even just having the rules in an electronic format is quite handy, and game companies have yet to start to explore the tools that a digital app for gaming might provide. 

"Um, do you have your paper rulebook, because this actually says nothing about the 12 special rules that apply in this situation..."
GW had a great opportunity here, particularly 40k, with its points-driven "armies", scenarios that are functionally the same and separated only by small details, and endless byzantine layers of special rules in its various game products should be a prime candidate to exploit the opportunity presented by tablets like the iPad.  You could have an army builder app.  You could have an app with a handy list of all the tiresome special rules in 40k to help smooth over the games. Just imagine all the cool stuff.  You could even have a dice app or something for iPhones - just give it a shake! Like I said, I was excited for half a second...

But it didn't take long to lose the excitement - in fact, it was gone by the time I was halfway through the marketing email.  Out of all of the initial "offerings", just one is a Codex. The other is a painting book (handy, but again, is that really what is needed up front?), and then some "scrolls".  A distinctly underwhelming initial offer of product.  The digital "opportunity" as a GW player would be to have to carry fewer books, not need books AND my iPad just so I can try and "legally" use some scroll or whatever in a Warhammer game.

Watch out "Plants vs. Zombies" - here comes the Great Cave Squig!
Of all the initial products, the only interesting one (and of any use for gaming) might be the codex.  So I looked it up on the iBook store. The Codex is for sale for the light sum of $49.99 US.  This is actually more than a paper codex - a small amount more, but still more.  A bold attempt to deny the actual economics of how digital publishing actually "works".  If any company would expect you to pay the same or more for a file over a print equivalent, it would be GW, right?

The other GW files are much less expensive than the codex - the "scrolls" are only 99 cents. That is still 99 cents more than they are worth, as they ad very little to the gaming experience. What do you need a scroll for???

No doubt the Space Marine i-Codex has some sort of alleged interactive benefit, which GW could allegedly claim would justify it being more expensive than the paper book.  This is hilarious. If GW thinks I am going to pay MORE for an electronic codex, they have another thing coming. I'm not saying it should be free, or just 99 cents, but charging the same price as the print book, never mind slightly more, points to a rather fundamental misunderstanding of digital economics.  Like every other business which has tried to tame the digital medium with this type of denial/defiance, this approach will serve only to drive more business toward the "waters off Tortuga", where GW has actually been "digital" for years.

GW is hardly the only business to have seen its commercial assumptions blow-torched when applied to the reality of digital mediums. And I can imagine Apple must be a challenging company to deal with - after all, has anyone else managed to push a company like AT&T around? Charging almost $20 for individual figures is one thing - that debate is a spirited one, and who knows how it will play out in the long run. But if GW really thinks that "going digital" means another chance to toss off overpriced stuff, then it is another troubling sign that the geniuses behind "145" are calling too many shots. 


Lillian Charles said...

Bitch bitch bitch. Have you actually looked at how much extra the Codex offers? Its not a simple PDF of the book. Its a multimedia book. For a small bit more? I think its fine.

As for the scrolls... well do you play Warhammer Fantasy? Do you play the Storm of Magic expansion? No? Well then you won't get what they are for.

Seriously, you don't like GW, fine. We get it. Just ignore them, its pretty easy to ignore companies you don't like!

Of course i will no doubt be ignored/called a "GW fanboi" (which I'm not. I do like their games and products, but i HATE the yearly price rises)

The Angry Lurker said...

I suppose we still have the choice to buy or not buy but this will raise a faeces storm I'm afraid.

Dallas said...

Ian, thanks for your comment.

As we've said so many times before, it's like this. If you have a loved one who continually makes poor life choices, and you call him or her out on these poor life choices, it doesn't mean you hate that person. It means you love that person and want him or her to get better.

Can you understand how this analogy applies to the current situation? And no, I don't agree that even 300 digital pages of content means that a digital Space Marine codex is worth $50. A better suggestion might have been to offer the codex online for a reasonable price (say $10?) and allow people who bought the paper version to get the digital one for free, with the opportunity to unlock all of the bonus content with a code found in the paper book. I'm no marketing genius but this is just off the top of my head...

MrLee said...

Liked the article, and I think you touched upon some good points here. Again, not a marketing guy, but having to deal with business and marketeers all day, I would say that your thought process is more in line to "normal" marketing ideas, than others.

Also agreed that they missed a huge opportunity here. The chance to make it have a better flow or to have quick references, or even to be more interactive such as, I dunno, a collage or quick links or something in the beginning really could have made this shine. Also if it was more of an app with content instead of just a pdf, I think it could be worth the sticker price. But in its current configuration, not so much.

As for the Scrolls, I do play fantasy, but not SoM. Though I could say that the scrolls could be useful as, again, quick references instead of having to lug out the large book. More so if I only want to use a few of the scrolls consistently.

As stated, great article, and I think it was not bias or harsh as Ian brings up, but quite clear and to the point. Cheers

Alan M said...

Like yourself, I was actually quite excited by the initial announcement, then sadly disappointed by the reality. You have to question why GW seem intent on thinking they can run contrary to the business model that seems to be working for so many others across a range of industries.

This sort of content is undoubtedly not cheap to prepare, but is usually balanced by volume. Sadly I imagine that the GW accountants have just created a self-fulfilling prophecy: "see, we told you sales volume would be low, aren't you glad we priced it so high in the first place?"

I'll always be fond of GW, they got me into gaming in the first place, but they do seem to be having some problems with reality recently...

Curt said...

Yeah, I think GW really needs to step back and learn from others in the game industry who are already making good use of this technology.

For example, Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) has several aps and games that have been specifically designed for mobile devices. I downloaded their 'Elder Sign' iPad game for our recent trip and loved it (it cost $6.99). I found that they designed the 'analogue' version differently and so went out an bought that as well (around $35.00). I love both as each has design elements that suit their particular medium. So, in the end they have a customer that bought two versions of essentially the same game who is satisfied with both (one is highly portable and cheap while the other has more depth and support for more players) AND I will probably purchase expansions for each as well. Win - win.

Now, GW's IP is so vast and rich that it could be making excellent use of this new medium (and be making a ton of money). They already have the tools (insert smarmy comment here). The company just needs to get its head out of its @ss to take advantage of this technology in order to connect its products with its established customer base.

Mike A said...

If GW has shown us anything, it's that they don't have a hot clue when it comes to running the business anymore.They are used to being the top kid on the block.Sadly,their competition is running circles around them.Profits down, raise prices!They have been very clear that their customer target is young kids and teenagers.They don't care about those of us that have been playing their games and supporting them for the last 20 years.They seem to make half ass efforts these days, like the "145" video.Don't get me wrong, I love the background, like some of the newer models.I just wish they would get someone in there that has a hot clue. Rant over :)

DaveV said...
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