Games Workshop at the 2013 GAMA Trade Show

Painted miniature terrain from Cities of Death in foreground before Games Workshop banner displayGames Workshop had a much stronger presence at the 2013 GAMA Trade Show than the previous year. Still represented at GTS by North American Director of Sales Andre Kieren, GW hosted two Premier Presentations for retailers on Tuesday, March 19, ran a table at Wednesday’s Game Night, as well as exhibited in the Bally’s Convention Center.

Games Workshop Premier Presentation

Andre Kieren began his presentation by remarking that Games Workshop is “having a great year”. He asked for a show of hands from attending crowd, revealing that an overwhelming number of retailers attending already carry GW products. Most of the hands remained in the air when he asked whether they also run GW tournaments. The company has recovered from a dip in retail stores carrying GW products, going from a low of 700 independent gaming stores in 2006 to over 1400 now (presumably in North America). Kieren attributed the mid-decade dip to “poor customer service in the past”. One area that Andre Kieren touched on is Games Workshop’s new focus on running events for newcomers and he pointed to Wizards of the Coast’s consistent success in that specific arena. Even Escalation Leagues can be too much for newer players who may not have the resources or time to paint even a squad of Space Marines, so hosting events like Space Marine Paintball or a Kill Team activity could involve them further in the hobby, Kieren suggested.

GW Employee Andre Kieren addresses seated audience during Power Point presentation

Andrew Kieren Addresses Retailers at the Games Workshop Premier Presentation

The Modules and Retailers’ Unused Product Support

According to Andre Kieren, over 450 independent stockists have yet to use their product support which will expire in May, and which will not roll over.

The meat of GW’s presentation was a slideshow detailing the costs and benefits of each of the first three module racks that GW encourages retailers to carry. Module 1 consists of their best-selling products such as Space Marine Tactical Squads, Warhammer 40,000 Dark Vengeance boxes, Lord of the Rings starter boxes, and so on. The modules make it easy for stores whose specialty is perhaps board games or card games to diversify out into tabletop wargaming. Each module also comes with product support from Games Workshop, with Module 1 offering $300 of unrestricted product support. A store can use the unrestricted product support to claim more merchandise from GW for whatever product they would like during the course of the year. This support can replace older product such as obsolete codexes, be used for prize support, or to create store terrain. Rather than being a regular calendar year and ending in December, the product support year ends in May, since GW’s fiscal year begins in June. According to Andre Kieren, over 450 independent stockists have yet to use their product support which will expire in May, and which will not roll over. Additional product support is offered for each increasing tier of module ordered with Module 2 offering $300 in restricted product support and $300 in unrestricted product support. The essential difference is that restricted product support should only be used for events.

And the Horus Heresy of Disgruntled Retailers: Terms & Conditions

Before Andre Kieren and company could even get to the matter of unused store credit and top-selling modules though, they endured a hail of verbal bolt pistol fire concerning changes to their Terms and Conditions, as well as other retailer complaints. Kieren first reassured retailers that if they qualify as stockists, that the updated terms and conditions would not change the free shipping that already exists on certain orders.

When asked though whether GW was trying to eliminate online sales by other businesses, Kieren smiled and pointed out “We’ve been trying to do this for 10 years.” With the changes, GW has made “a renewed attempt to effectively enforce” the pre-existing terms and conditions that have been in place before, Kieren added. He then put it in management-speak and said that Games Workshop wants to “reserve the online channel to ourselves.”

Part of this is due to the practice of shelling, in which other companies or individuals shuck GW’s packaging and sell the plastic sprues directly or part them out, thereby “erroding” GW’s brand. Another assault on GW’s intellectual property Kieren cited was the drop-casting and selling of Space Marine shoulder pads. Unfortunately for consumers, GW does not like the practice of people clipping plasma guns and selling them separately. Will GW be going back into the bits business itself? Kieren’s answer: no. When a retailer asked for clarification on shelling, pointing to online website Battlewagon Bits, Kieren responded, “Yes, the way you are describing what Battlewagon Bits is, we would not want that.” GW has subsequently followed through on that.

At this point, one retailer complimented Games Workshop’s response, saying that “We’ve been getting screwed for so long by these guys [Battle Wagon Bits and other shellers]” He was met with a smattering of applause. When another member of the audience joked “So there’s an Errata coming, right?” it broke some of the tension in the room.

Someone in the back of the room pointed out that he had liked the Games Workshop Outriders program that was active over a decade ago, as a useful tool in helping him to run events and sell GW games. He went on to add that his store is now selling more Privateer Press products and that Flames of War is about to overtake his GW sales. Are there any plans of reviving the Outriders program, he asked. Kieren’s response was a firm no, because GW had done a cost-benefit-analysis which included a huge tax fine incurred in the early 2000s because the corporation had not paid its Outrider volunteers for what amounted to actual work. Consequently it discontinued the program.

Another question posed concerned the new requirement for retailers to actively separate GW merchandise from obscene and pornographic materials. Kieren didn’t think that a store carrying the Walking Dead would be an issue. As for consequences for violators of the terms and conditions and whether GW would “blacklist” distributors or retailers in a retailer’s words, Kieren answered in the negative. GW will “not blacklist. I wouldn’t use that term… yes, [there would be] consequences.”

Space Marine Paintball and Paint and Take

When he reached the end of his slideshow presentation, Kieren asked the attendees whether they were familiar with Space Marine Paintball. When only three raised their hands, Kieren invited volunteers to come forward to learn the mini-game, while another GW employee ran a Paint and Take on another small table at the front of the room. This effectively ended any further GW-bashing or debate from the audience, but also left the rest of the retailers who could not possibly participate at the front tables to disperse or talk to one another.

Retailers cluster around Games Workshop realm of battle board to learn Space Marine Paintball

Retailers at the Games Workshop Premier Presentation Learn Space Marine Paintball

GW in the Exhibitors’ Hall and at Game Night

Beautiful painted Warhammer 40k miniatures in GW display caseIf there was anything new and shiny in GW’s spacious booth in the Exhibitors’ Hall, it was carefully hidden away. Instead there was the usual amount of brilliantly painted miniatures in glass display cases that any GW retail store should boast. Andre Kieren and his staff were on hand to answer any retailer’s or distributor’s questions and to possibly enroll any new retailer in Games Workshop’s program.

In a like manner, Games Workshop ran a table at Wednesday night’s Game Night with some of the same activities from the Premier Presentation on offer including what looked like another round of Space Marine Paintball and some Hobbit-related gaming at a well-attended table.

GW Employee Andre Kieren speaking with GTS Attendee at GW booth in Bally's Convention Center

Andre Kieren Speaks to a GTS Attendee in the GTS Exhibitors’ Hall