As some of you may or may not know, GW has officially pulled the plug on GW sponsorship of any type of Tournament Circuit.
First Ard Boyz fell, and now the GT circuit in its entirety is going under. Permanently? We don’t know yet, but certainly for the near future. GW has stated that they will finish out this Throne of Skulls calendar year/event, and that after that they have no plans to continue the circuit.
GW, why oh why do you do these things? I just do not understand why they turn their backs on such a large customer base that enthusiastically attends events, buys their product and drives awareness of their brand. It is patently stupid to turn their back on organized events. Companies that embrace events reap not only fiscal benefits, but the esteem and thanks of their customer base. Magic the Gathering, Flames of War, Warmahordes, just to name a few.
At least offer an explanation. In the information vacuum that ensues, we see wild speculation about the motives behind the decision. Frequently we see those who call themselves Casual Gamers somehow claiming this as a victory for their gaming philosophy, that GW is somehow saying that they don’t like competitive play.
It’s complete and total speculation to make this type of statement. It is projecting one’s personal opinions onto objective events without even a hint of evidence. My belief (and this is not fact) is that GW bean counters deemed the tournaments to not be profitable due to missmanagement of their events to date, just as they did with Gamesdays, and canned them. For example, the Trone of Skulls in Vegas was an amazing event, but it must have cost a bloody fortune. I could easily see from a business perspective deeming such an expenditure as being excessive. I would bet money it was a fiscal decision, not a philosophical one. Seeing this as some sort of affirmation or a certain style of play is clearly mistaken, and nothing more than opinion.
However, we see people getting on the soap box, doing just that: somehow stating their opinions as fact. This is a bit off topic, but it never ceases to amaze me how the casual gamers can be so quick to cast stones and stereotype competitive players. For a group that defines themselves as “fun first,” they certainly can take aggressive stances. Now of course, this is my reaction to the vocal minority that draws the most attention, but time after time I see the most angry opinions about tournaments and tournament gamers coming from those who don’t actually play in them! I bet if some of these outspoken detractors of tournaments actually went to an event like Adpeticon, the BAO, Wargamescon, etc. they would have a great time seeing all the beautiful armies, meeting all the fun people and enjoying the atmosphere. It baffles me how anyone can form such a negative opinion about something they have no direct experience with. But, back to the matter at hand.
Here are some actual facts from TOs in the very popular, and rapidly expanding Indy GT circuit, of which we here are very proud to be a part of with the Bay Area Open.
The following is Courtesy of MVBrandt, Organizer of the NOVA Open.
GW built this circuit, including events like the NOVA, because their initial offering was extremely beneficial for tournament organizers.
I’m going to use “close” numbers and not actuals, but the problems arose initially from the ambitious support quantities and unethical behavior by tournament organizers in the first year of the circuit.
GW basically required no past performance to get on the circuit, first of all. As I built and run the NOVA, I’ll use it as the example of an event that should NOT have been in on its first year, yet benefitted by acting ethically.
You submitted your “application” and in large part it seemed it was accepted as written. You stated your EXPECTED # of attendees, and before they sent you final prize support, you would confirm your actual #.
As part of prize support, you’d get $500 in unboxed terrain (or you could add this to your prize pool), and a set amount of dollar value prize support that YOU as the organizer selected from the GW store (no tax/shipping).
You’d also get advertising on website/newsletters, and things like lanyards and bags for swag if you wanted them (just shop retail bags).
So in Year 1 the NOVA initially anticipated only 64 40k players, so our initial offering from GW for that quantity (under 100) was ~$700 of prizes + the $500 in terrain or prizes. We ended up with 118 (88 40k, 30 fantasy) in year 1, so we reported that when we hit over 100 (101-200 was the second tier), and wound up with ~$1400 in prizes + the $500 in terrain/prizes.
This was huge – the 2010 NOVA gave out around $8k in prizes, so 25% of our sponsorship was from GW. I received this support from GW purely on my word, with not even a phone call (every other sponsor even in the first year engaged in lengthy phone calls w/ me and all that). How many events claimed far more attendees and thus prize support than they actually had?
The problem here was a large # of unethical types on the circuit (arguably) took advantage by SAYING they were going to have 128 or 200+ or however many attendees, yet only wound up in the 50’s, and so received $2k or more in GW support for very small attendee bases (and who knows what happened with the prizes).
As a result, after 2010 and starting in 2011’s year, while GW would support very large events in ways OUTSIDE the circuit, even the big ones like AdeptiCon (to my understanding, I’m not quoting anyone in AdeptiCon’s group) only received the “flat” quantity as part of the circuit, that being:
$300 in total voucher value for 1st/2nd/3rd places, in the form of ‘after-event” online vouchers
$500 in unboxed terrain (that could no longer be converted to prize value instead)
In 2011, the NOVA had over 500 total hobbyists present counting volunteers, and 450 attendees despite a hurricane and earthquake … quite the 1 year growth from 128. We went from spending $8k total to run the 2010 event and generating $6400 in ticket revenue (costing us, yes, $1600 to run the first year event), to generating over $35k in revenue (and spending about $36k, so a net improvement to the bottom line, haha … it’s expensive to build something up so fast, folks!). The GW sponsorship was … $300 in vouchers, $500 in unboxed terrain, and lanyards. Our overall sponsor donations and prize support given away for 2011 was over $40,000.
So they went from contributing basically $2k of $6k in prizes for one of the biggest 40k events in the nation … to contributing $800 in prize support of $40,000+.
Despite this, I frankly loved the support they gave us. GW is a major public corporation and the tourney-attending group pays an exorbitant but internationally marginal quantity of the GW annual revenue. Around 450 people spent over $100k on hobby products getting ready for the 2011 NOVA, and some quantity of that magnitudes larger than $800 went to GW. In return, we got to proudly run GW games, we got all kinds of support from them on the website / newsletter / etc., I got to build a great relationship with Ed Spettigue that really blossomed in communication through a couple of spurious comments by misinformed other people in the industry, and the NOVA grew into what it is. This wouldn’t have happened without GW – they started the circuit, they sparked the first NOVA, they got me into this crazy hard game of convention organization.
So … YES GW support is really important, but the support they JUST ended was not all that important to the FINANCIALS of running the events. Financially speaking, I just lost one of my SMALLEST sponsors (out of over 50 sponsors). Black Library will still be attending separate from the Independent Circuit, and we’ll still have awesome prizes from them (they gave us some AWESOME prizes last year), and the presence of heavily involved, involved-in-the-events bestselling authors, etc. That’s still Games Workshop support, it’s just not “Independent Circuit Tournament” Support.
So the enterprising TO’s out there can still try to build their event to a place where it’s economically feasible for GW marketing folks to send support, it just isn’t going to be part of a circuit.
It hurts the ability of NEW events to build themselves, to not have a ready-made prize pool pre-built from GW support, or maybe not to get lanyards. It doesn’t REALLY hurt any existing events, unless they were already really rough on the financials … like barely there rough.
The long and short is all of us who are part of the “de facto” circuit need to more and more support each other. There are a lot of activities going on in this regard, both regionally and country-wide. I do what I can with blog posts (i.e. in support of SVDM, MechaniCon, BFS, Colonial, Conflict, and many other local/regional events) and Invitational quals (nationally) to encourage people to attend other GT’s, and I’m always happy to do more as memory and time permits. We need to replicate the “press” benefit GW gave all of us as part of hosting the circuit. As long as your event is running well and you’re marketing well, you’ll be able to handle the financial hit, because after year 1 it wasn’t much of a hit at all.
Perhaps in finality to a rambling post, I think a THANK YOU is still in order for GW, and for Ed Spettigue, in their combined role of building many of the events on the circuit through press and enabling their existence, and while MANY of us may feel this change actually hurtsGW financially … it doesn’t change the fact that the help they gave us to date certainly benefitted the hobby experience of everyone involved.
And the following comes from Inquisitor Malice, one of the men behind Adpeticon.
I can say from experience that multiple events provide options for players of all type to shine. AdeptiCon, Daboyz GT, WargamesCon, Nova, and more all provide awards and all of the various hobby aspects from competitive play, appearance, team spirit, etc. They also offer awards for different factions (ie: Imperial, Heretical, Xenos and Hyrbrid for AdeptiCon). This promotes players to participate however they wish. The sheer creativity and variety of displays seen at events is simply amazing.
I can also back up Mike Brandt’s numbers based on the survey data taken at AdeptiCon. The numbers are significant enough with total sales driven in purchases just for AdeptiCon hitting ~1.5-2% of GWs North American Sales. For a single, yearly event – that is definitely an impact to the company.
GW can ignore this market if they wish. However, the same driven individuals that make these events happen with great success can readjust their focus to other companies that wish to support their communities appropriately. Ultimately, the short term savings has a stronger potential to realize a long term loss in sales revenue.
And that is just the fiscal side of the argument. The community building, fun, and positive image these events drive don’t have a dollar figure that can be placed on them.
It is folly, pure and simple, for GW to turn their backs on organized events. I wish they would just explain themselves to us. Do they think we are doing the job just fine in the Indy circuit and want to pass on the financial burden? Do they truly dislike tournaments? Do they just not give a rat’s ass? Do they have plans for something else in the future?
It is all unclear at this point. All that is clear is that the door is wide open for up and coming games like Warmachordes and Flames of War to capture this market. GW has continuously shown what appears to be apathy to their customer base. I do not understand their antiquated policies.
I love Heavy Gear, and have been playing quote a bit lately. I have had several conversations with one of the owners of the company. To him, I am nothing more than an enthusiast of his game. Now, I know GW is many orders of magnitude larger, but Hevay Gear has been around for nearly 20 years, has had Cartoons and Video Games based on its universe. This isn’t a small time operation, and they still have that level of customer interaction.
Time will tell what this all really entails, but I must say, once again, GW disappoints us. If not for their beautiful models and compelling setting, I really couldn’t see the game surviving. As the market becomes more competitive, it will be interesting to see if the Gorilla in the corner of the room eventually becomes more responsive to their customer base.
The following is an excellent point made by Leenus, a southern California gamer.
A well-supported tournament circuit creates an entirely new type of customer for GW to target. They make incremental profit by supporting people who like to play for competition. The basement gamer will exist regardless. The bottom line is that you need to create a reason for people to play this game. A certain subset will play it for the fact they love war gaming and seeing epic battles (you and your buddies). However, a large majority will abandon the game if there’s not some hook. As I said before, there is a reason video games have achievements, levels, carrots, etc. They need to give you a reason to come back.
The tournament tournament circuit simply expands GW’s market. That’s what a good business strives to do. How many people do you think say to themselves “Man, GW isn’t supporting tournaments.. I’m going to stop playing for fun with my friends in our basement. I’m going to stop playing massive apoc games with my buddies.” And now how many people do you think say “Man, GW isn’t supporting tournaments.. I’m going to go play Warmachine/Hordes, because I like minis games, I like tournaments and PP cares about the tournament player.”
If you have a good business reason why they shouldn’t support tournaments, then by all means, please let us hear it. But there really isn’t a good reason, unless they are trying to make less money, or they have poor management. Basement gamers certainly spend money on the hobby and aren’t a segment that should be ignored. But supporting tournament players has little to no effect on basement gamers.