40K Editorial: The Death of GW’s Support for the Tournament Circuit (Content Added)

GW, why do you hate tournaments?

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.

What hogwash!

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) 

Lanyards 

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.

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About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

19 Responses to “40K Editorial: The Death of GW’s Support for the Tournament Circuit (Content Added)”

  1. Shinkaze March 28, 2012 11:28 pm #

    Great article, good to hear from Mike and Greg on this. So often we hear the crazy tag lines and talking points but not the math. Kudos to all three of you.

    If PPress makes a sci-fi game it could really hurt GW in North America.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 29, 2012 12:23 pm #

      Glad you liked the article. And yeah, I agree. Any company that produces a solid SciFi game with an established market can be a threat to GW. They just leave the door so wide open for their competition to come in and snatch up market share. I really don’t understand their philosophy at all.

  2. DHouseman March 29, 2012 6:17 am #

    Origins did not get in on the 2010 circuit and started on the 2011 circuit. We declined the terrain offer, we did not have time to paint it. We did take on the certificates. They were $300 of our total prize support of over $4,000. This year anticipating more growth, we have been busy all winter building out the terrain to support 32 tables. Origins has been great to us, giving us space and advertising both on the website and at the recent GAMA event in Las Vegas. We will run over 80 events over 5 days including tourneys.

    We kicked around the idea of making a paid entry (our cost) to Adepticon for the winner our top prize for our RTT.

    After Adepticon is over, we will talk to those fine people about a midwest qualifying circuit for some places at Adepticon next year. We feel that the qualifiers should pay the entry cost for Adepticon and the tourney fee, so that Adepticon does not lose any revenue.

    I don’t know how others feel about this, but without GW, this type of offer will be one of the few that smaller tourneys can offer that will draw players.

    Otherwise, I suspect we will be doing warmachine and heavy gear in 2014.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 29, 2012 12:27 pm #

      I agree 100%. The Indy tournament circuit can support itself if needs be. It is just ridiculous that GW wouldn’t want to support us. It is an opportunity to grow their business. Like you said, we couldn’t get on the circuit, either. I bugged Ed for months, and the BAO never got any support. Not until we opened a store did we get anywhere, and that is because we went through the trade side of GW, who actually are very helpful and super responsive.

      Like you said though, if this bizarre behavior continues, there are much better rules systems out there to play.

  3. Paul Q March 29, 2012 7:16 am #

    Hi Reecius,

    To be honest you guys are just catching up with what life has been like for gamers on this side of the pond for the longest time. The only GW sponsored event in years gone by was the yearly Irish GT, which from 2009 went the way of the dodo and was canned. Sad to say this was the last we saw of GW doing anything at all to promote events in Ireland.

    Whats tended to happened is that local Stockists and Games Clubs have tended to take up the slack of providing tournament support and its worked out surprisingly well for all concerned….I think the Indy scene in the US has the potential to fill the void and actually turn this “setback” into a big time plus point…But time will tell

    PQ

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 29, 2012 12:28 pm #

      That is a really good way to look at it. We are doing just fine on our own, and perhaps it will be better that way. All I know is that if I were running the show, I would go out of my way to support all types of organized play among my player base. It only helps to grow the business.

  4. Docrailgun March 29, 2012 12:04 pm #

    Too-generous prize support (and the outright theft of that prize support – of course sold on Ebay) is what killed Wizkids. I know quite well (though I couldn’t prove it then) that there were people – even people who had become national-level reps in the Envoy program (though not WK employees) – who were scheduling many, many events that they KNEW were never going to have anyone come to, then pocketed the support.
    Perhaps GW is seeing the same thing?

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 29, 2012 12:29 pm #

      I think that type of thing did occur. Guys like Mondo were doing this type of thing and may have killed it for all of us. It’s unfortunate that such shady dhouces ruin it for everyone.

  5. Ghoulking March 29, 2012 1:26 pm #

    Reece, you can’t say that GW has “continually shown apathy” right after posting two testimonies about GW’s support for Indy GTs.

    GW’s tournament support has waxed and waned for years.

    They had the Outrider program. It got abused and they cancelled it.

    They had the Rogue Trader Tournament kits and support.

    The free ‘Ard Boyz Tournaments with prize support.

    How about the squeals of excitement when GW announced their Golden Ticket program for the Throne of Skulls? That alone caused a huge boom in independent GT attendance.

    GW has hardly been apathetic. But all of those programs rely on active support by people in GW, when those people move on, or the program gets abused, the program gets cancelled.

    Eventually a new program sprouts up run by new people. GW keeps trying, you gotta give em that.

    So, yes, it’s sad that tournament support is going back into hibernation (and that’s all it is, hibernation). But it’ll be back, and the Indy GT circuit is healthier than ever, thanks in some part to GW’s support.

    So we’ll see what GW comes up with in a couple years.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 29, 2012 2:06 pm #

      Fair enough, Ghoulking. You make some very good points.

      As I said in the beginning of the article, this may not be a permanent situation (I don’t believe it will), and they certainly have tried, I will concede that. However, it seems that the efforts have been badly managed and/or half-hearted. You make a good point though, that they have put out effort.

      When I say they have continued to show apathy, that encompasses their entire apparent attitude towards their consumer and player base. It just feels like they don’t like us.

      Thank you though, for coming in and giving a glass half full perspective, it is refreshing.

  6. Sharkticon March 29, 2012 3:30 pm #

    I won’t deny that the news is demoralizing, but I’m sure that this isn’t the end for GW supported tourneys. I just wish that they would tell us more about what was in the works, instead of leaving us in the dark. Something interesting to note, however, is that GW has started issuing official trophies to use in some of their store RTTs. I really don’t see why they would begin mass producing GW trophies/plaques if they were intent on completely discontinuing support for competitive gaming. I’ll drop by the LA bunker on the way home and take a picture of some of them for those who haven’t seen them.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 29, 2012 5:04 pm #

      That would be awesome! And yeah, GW has the “Best of the Best” events going on up here. That is certainly an indication that they are still in some way promoting the tournament scene.

      • sharkticon March 29, 2012 6:51 pm #

        Good news and bad.

        Bad News: Apparently they aren’t new trophies, they are old ones that were found in the warehouse and given to the bunkers to promote tourneys. The staffer who told me they were new was wrong, and the manager of the bunker corrected the into. I get to cry in a corner with stickmonkey for my rumor foul, I should have double checked my information before posting.

        Good News: The fact they were sent out shows there is some support for competitive play. I’m still sure there is something coming down the line. Also, the trophies are freaking sweet: http://i.imgur.com/6aeLH.jpg

        • Reecius
          Reecius March 30, 2012 12:34 pm #

          Well, yeah, that is certainly both good and bad. Thanks a bunch for relaying that information.

  7. Ian Chadwick March 30, 2012 3:37 pm #

    Hmm… Do you know what this means for local small time stores? Inquiring minds want to know if their monthly tournament will not have prize support from Gee Dubz anymore.

    • Reecius
      Reecius March 30, 2012 3:52 pm #

      I don’t think FLGS’ will suffer at all. They should still receive prize support from GW (which is very generous of them).

      • Ian Chadwick March 30, 2012 3:57 pm #

        Cool. Thanks for letting me know, a bunch of GoB attendees were concerned that support had been pulled.

  8. FacePuncher March 30, 2012 5:47 pm #

    I think the best solution to this problem is to just win that super fat lottery jackpot and start a better gaming company. Its really pretty simple( I am so smart).

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