Look, we all know there have been some questionable moves from Games Workshop as of late, however, that being said besides updating their IP guidelines to specifically include verbiage about fan animations (which by the way doesn’t mean they didn’t consider it to be infringement in the past), they actually didn’t take any action against artists.
Sure TTS called it quits, followed by a podcast, and we all know about the drama with Sodaz, but honestly, at the end of the day, Games Workshop is not directly at fault for any of that (an unpopular opinion I am sure).
Calls for a Boycott of Games Workshop:
Fast-forward to today, where just on Reddit alone a thread calling for a boycott of GW has over 17,000 upvotes and over 2,000 comments.
While the comments on this thread (and on the many YouTube videos promoting the same idea) are a fun read, it’s pretty much been proven by experts that boycotts like this do not work.
This is something I learned in business school many years ago, and you can research it with a quick 1-minute search on Google yourself as well.
While boycotts rarely hurt revenues, they can threaten a company’s reputation. This quote from Northwestern highlights the issue. Negative press in such an insulated hobby won’t actually kill the revenue, considering people will continue to buy regardless of negative comments.
GW has a higher profit margin than Google right now, so a boycott of buying their products isn’t really going to hurt the bottom line. It may make them change a little of their release strategy on a particular rollout, perhaps even made them rethink their Warhammer+ offering from their first preview to their second, but that’s about it in my opinion.
A Boycott of Games Workshop May Actually Affect:
The truth may end up being that any actual boycott of Games Workshop would only end up hurting the one thing hobbyists may hold dear- their local game stores!
Why? Well, we’ve pretty much shown that it’s basically business as usual on most of GW’s socials, EXCEPT, their YouTube which has been attacked by a downvote campaign as of late.
So in all probability, this means that these particular consumers of content may not actually even be true hobbyists as they don’t seem to engage on any other platform of GW. So what they’re calling for (a boycott) really doesn’t seem to affect anything except their ability to obtain free content…
There is a different way to go about it that will not only make your hobby better but still keep local game stores in business.
Boycotts Don’t Work, Do This Instead
Now the Reddit graphic above has more merit (which we do not advocate doing any of the Don’ts) because in some regards (the do’s) it favors voting with your hobby dollars, which we also have mainstreamed as much as we could in the past few years here.
Voting with your hobby dollars ensures that your money goes to the places of value to you, whether it is GW directly, or your local game store, or smaller manufacturers of hobby products.
It is the one thing we as hobbyists have ACTUAL control over, and the more we vote the more the brands and companies important to us grow and prosper with the rising hobby tide.
Voting With Your Hobby Dollars
One is to grab alternative minis like this one from Artel W!
So, what is there to do? First and foremost, Always Vote With Your Hobby Dollars!
- Paint your backlog. If you’ve been playing long enough to be mad at GW, let’s be honest, this is the perfect time to paint what you have. That means you’ll be able to play new games with new minis and armies, and won’t be buying any new GW minis to get it.
- Get into a new game your local store stocks. You can keep hobbying without playing GW games. There are tons of them! This will still help your local store stay alive and actually make your voice heard.
- Get into 3D printing. This is something we’ve been saying for a while, just print out what you want!
- Check out alternative games companies. If you need help looking for new companies, here are 80 companies that are making great products out there!
- And again, vote with your hobby dollars. If you don’t want to buy GW products, we understand, but don’t kill local stores and hobbying by not doing anything with it!
Remember if everyone attempts to boycott Games Workshop, local game stores may get caught in the crossfire.
Where GW Fan Creativity Ends & IP Infringement Starts
A lot of the information we talk about here was inspired by this amazing article from the Game Industry business site. It is more focused on video games, so while it’s not specifically for Warhammer, the samples are close enough to easily transfer over. In a way, it’s simple when you use copyrighted work, you always have to understand there is an inherent risk. In the real world, however, things are much fuzzier than that!
The main example used in the post is a Kickstarter with guides that can easily be found online or on YouTube channels. Even though the maps were hand-drawn, the creator used Copyrighted images for the covers of the guides.
This is where things get tough because generally companies won’t take down a YouTube video (even though the creators make revenue) but a project, even with the same info, was just a bridge too far…
Where GW Fan Creativity Ends & IP Infringement Starts
A big issue, when it comes to either Warhammer or video games, is the fact that the companies don’t want people confused as to what is a licensed product and what is not. If you or anyone creates something that is close enough or uses copyrighted images, it can be confusing to consumers.
That’s generally when companies step in, well unless it could fall under the realm of fair use which generally does not cover commercial uses, (but does apply to things like news, education, criticism (but sometimes not specifically satire, etc).
According to Google Fair Use is defined as the following:
(in US copyright law) the doctrine that brief excerpts of copyright material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.
Because if people can just use a company’s copyrighted images, the company loses tons of intrinsic and actual value. That seems obvious right? But, that’s just the most obvious point. If you create a one-to-one product, you must know the copyright claim is coming. If you write a book, even if it’s fan-fiction, and you use copyrighted images to market it, you can probably expect a claim on the way.
That’s the easy stuff though, with Warhammer plus and 3d printing on the rise, it gets far more complex.
The Warhammer Plus IP Infringement Conundrum
This is really where things get tough. Let’s look back at the video game side of things. when someone made an Unreal Engine 4-remake of Goldeneye 64, the chances it seeing the light of day were basically zero.
But, how many videos have you seen online about Nintendo games where people dress as Mario, Luigi, etc… Those videos don’t often get taken down. Why? Because it’s not direct competition with Nintendo because they do not have a platform that makes money from videos.
Guess who does have a platform that makes money from Warhammer-focused animations? That’s right, GW does.
While they did hire a lot of animators, there are plenty left out there. GW did update their IP rules to be harsher on YouTubers, they haven’t taken too much action yet. But because they are now in direct competition with animators, that will force more and more copyright claims as they try to corner the market, protect their IP, and provide value to their licensed partners and stockholders.
3D Printing & Games Workshop is Also Very Confusing
Again, the issue with 3D printing is that it directly competes with GW. Like the example above, if someone makes a direct copy of a video game (or close enough), there’s no way the company with the copyright can let it see the light of day.
However, sci-fi and fantasy miniatures have so much more gray areas. How can you say you own futuristic space soldiers? When someone makes a one-to-one copy it’s obvious when they use elements that are specifically copyrighted or a registered trademark in general (what we know as Intellectual property).
But if they do not, how does someone like Games Workshop say it’s too close?
Well, that’s why it’s so confusing. The article from Game Industry had a perfect quote for anyone looking to make something that could be thought of as infringement:
The bottom line is — if you create something that is not entirely original and uses third-party IP rights — without that party’s permission — you need to accept that there is a degree of risk in what you are doing.
Hopefully, this helps clear up where IP infringement actually starts for Games Workshop in regards to things like Warhammer plus, 3d printing, and everything in between.
News of GW ‘Fan Revolt’ has Hit Wall Street
The investing world is abuzz with news about why the Games Workshop stock price has taken a dip as it has been one of the best performers on the market.
As you can see above in a small sampling of financial news sites, investors may be getting some jitters in regards to Games Workshop’s performance.
The UK Times had this to say in their article, which summaries the majority of the issue, but falls alittle short without a deeper look at GW’s product mix.
Britain’s largest manufacturer of miniature wargames and fantasy figurines has become embroiled in a running battle with some of its fans that has sent its share price tumbling.
Games Workshop has angered a section of its customers after clamping down on unauthorised websites dedicated to its Warhammer franchise, according to analysts at Jefferies, the US bank.
From this chart on Yahoo Finance, you can see the recent dip in their stocks. It’s also worth pointing out the backend as you can see the tremendous growth since 2019 alone.
This Is Money UK, dug a bit deeper in their reporting, saying the following:
This change has led to popular fan content creators ceasing their involvement (under pressure from Games Workshop), a lot of negative community feedback, a raft of downvotes to Warhammer video content, and, with other factors also rolled in (price increases, employee pay), calls to boycott the business.’
The impetus for the crackdown appeared to be Warhammer+, Games Workshop’s subscription service that provides access to exclusive Warhammer TV shows as well as figurines and apps unavailable elsewhere.
…while the current noise seemed to be from a ‘vocal minority’, they trimmed their target price for the group to 12,250p from 13,200p, saying they would be ‘keeping a close eye’ on the situation.
However, none of the articles we read seemed to touch on the other issues such, as FOMO, paywalls, etc, that hobbyists are experiencing at the register. These factors may also be a contributor to consumer confidence in Games Workshop overall.
Here are more articles on the issues that Games Workshop is facing now as their stock has dipped and investors have taken notice:
- Everything You Need To Know About Warhammer Plus
- Games Workshop NDA Leak More Damaging Than Their IP Policy
- YouTubers Have Started Attacking Warhammer TV
- Boycotts Don’t Work, Do This Instead to Games Workshop
- Lookout YouTube, GW Just Updated Their IP Guidelines
- Where GW Fan Creativity Ends & IP Infringement Starts
Have you started a Boycott of Games Workshop? Do you think they deserve this negative attention?
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