So the interwebs are all a buzz with this story, and so far, no one really knows what’s going on but the sites listed above are down.
What do they all have in common? They’re blogs that use Google’s Blogger software, have GW pictures up and have all been served complaints from GW about posting pictures of copy-written material up on their sites.
Some of the complaints against Faeit 212 and Apocalypse 40K:
The chatter in the community is that GW did this as a reaction to the above listed sites (and others too, but those are the most commonly known) habits of posting copy-written images, including those we see that are leaked from White Dwarf. Allegedly they somehow forced Google to take the sites in question down. Other rumors are saying that Google is simply having technical problems and that those sites are affected by it.
Now I won’t say explicitly that GW is behind this or if it is simply a technical glitch as I can’t. I do not know what’s going on, I am just offering up the details available to me and some opinions. I have been told though, that BoLS is only experiencing technical issues while Natfka over at Faeit’s situation may be more closely linked to GW. That is all hearsay at this time though, so take it with a pinch of salt.
I understand an individual or company’s desire to protect their IP. That is 100% fair. If you owned something, and someone was using it for profit without your consent you’d likely be mad, too and justifiably seek to stop the offending party from continuing in their course of action. In this case I would imagine that GW wouldn’t want someone to steal their thunder by posting images of new models from the White Dwarf before it hits the stores as it will likely result in lost sales. Those folks who’ve seen all the pictures online already, may choose not to purchase the magazine. That too, is fair. Just like GW going after companies for making models and bitz that are based off of GW IP such as the Chapter House lawsuit going on now, or the more recent GW legal action against Blight Wheel Miniatures.
However, my question is when does protecting their IP actually cost GW business by pushing customers away?
Even if they are in an ethically defensible position of protecting their property and rights to profit, there is a less tangible commodity that they are losing by taking these courses of action: customer goodwill.
As a company, every time GW legally attacks another entity for something they run the risk of looking like bullies. Sites like Faeit 212 and BoLS in all honesty very well may cost them sales on White Dwarf. I have also heard the argument made that GW has found that keeping their releases a mystery up until release time increases impulse purchases and by having the cat let out of the bag by large, popular sites that post rules and such ahead of time GW may lose sales. I can understand that. If you knew how crappy Ahirman was gong to be before you saw the awesome model because you read his rules on line, you may choose not to buy the model.
My question though is how much do they lose by doing this? How many customers see this and after years of feeling neglected finally say enough is enough and pick up another game? How many future sales are lost there? How many sales do you think sites like BoLS and Faeit drive for GW by stoking the promotions machine, all at no cost? If they are the ones trying to kill the information flow as alleged, it may be more detrimental to their long term business health than beneficial.
At the end of the day, this is a community driven industry. We are not buying sprockets. We are not buying commodities. We are not even buying luxury goods in the conventional sense. These aren’t video games that you play by yourself and then get rid of. We buy, build, paint and keep these miniatures for years, if not our lifetimes. They have a real emotional weight for most of us and the game associated with them also has meaning. We’re buying little pieces of our passion, and pouring parts of oursevles into them through the labor and creativity associated with their creation. They are a means to engage with one another on common social terms and almost all of us have made genuine and enduring friendships as a result of gaming.
Gaming they way we do is more about hanging with your friends and blowing off steam, being creative and competitive than anything else. Treating this industry and the customers associated with it like sprockets and consumers just doesn’t work for long term health. When Privateer Press really took off one of the most common things you heard was: they’re not like GW, they care about their customers. Whether or not you agree with that statement, the idea really matters in this industry.
I’d refer you all to this very interesting article about the detah of TSR (the publisher of D&D before WotC bought them). The similarities are pretty interesting. A CEO that also allegedly doesn’t play the game (I have been told many, many times that GWs C level brass don’t play the games), aggressively suing/using legal action to defend their IP, and in general being pretty out of touch with their customers. How long can GW stay this course before their actions cost them more money than letting small businesses piggy back on their IP does? I understand the quandary: on the one hand you don’t want to be weak and allow competitors to put you out of business, but you also can’t alienate your customers and damage your brand by appearing to be a bully. It’s definitely a balancing act.
These corporate leaders may come from more competitive industries that fostered the mindset that brought them to the top: aggressiveness, shrewd business tactics, efficiency and profit oriented. However these same attitudes may ultimately be the downfall of the same companies. I can’t help but wonder if sacrificing some desire to maximize profit in order to foster community growth and outreach isn’t the better business model in this industry?
What do you all think?