Games Workshop, Online Retailers, and Bits

Games Workshop are making interesting and worrying moves of late. Earlier today Faeit 212 posted an article regarding a cessation on retailers being able to sell online from June 15th in North America and Canada. Not that I'm not worried about it, but no news about the UK has broken yet, and the comments seem to suggest there might be legal issues regarding EU policies, and differences in approach and circumstance between the EU and US markets.

A link to the documents can be found at Faeit 212, but I've pulled out points below. Interestingly, no one seems to have questioned if this is genuine yet. I've highlighed important bits, but its worth reading the whole thing. The basis is on preserving "bricks and mortar" stores (which mean independents as well as GW's own (or it reads as such, in practice, GW are going to have pushed some of them to the wall) and limiting online sales to the GW website. One of the big points is that the 2003 policy did a lot of what the 2013 policy is building on, which I suspect is going to get glossed over by the internet fairly soon.

This has bad decision all over it. 

Sarcasm is in italics and is all my own.
"The success of GAMES WORKSHOP depends not only upon the sale of quality products, but the long-term promotion and preservation of the hobby and culture of game enthusiasts. GAMES WORKSHOP strives to meet the expectations of consumers or other end-users (“Consumers”) looking for high quality and imaginative models and game products, and the enjoyment and social interaction of collecting the models and playing the games.

To meet these expectations, GAMES WORKSHOP invests heavily in the continuing design and development of new and imaginative models, games, artwork, and imagery that are consistent with the high standards of quality and innovation that have become synonymous with the GAMES WORKSHOP brand. GAMES WORKSHOP then looks to market these products through distribution and retail channels that promote and preserve GAMES WORKSHOP’S brand image, as well as the hobby culture of game enthusiasts.

Promotion and preservation of the GAMES WORKSHOP brand depends, in large part, upon the protection of the substantial intellectual property invested in our models, games and other products. Copyright and trademark protected rules, figures, artwork and imagery are the essential elements of our products and create our brand’s image and recognition in the marketplace. Infringement and dilution of copyrights and trademarks, therefore, presents an unacceptable threat to a business that, if left unchecked, can cripple the success of a product line to the detriment of not only the manufacturer, but its distributors and Retailers as well. This does sound like they're assembling some sort of hit squad to take out "unacceptable threats".

Equally important to the success of GAMES WORKSHOP is a vibrant network of Retailers committed to preserving the integrity of the GAMES WORKSHOP brand and the promotion of the hobby that it serves. As a result, GAMES WORKSHOP has long supported and encouraged “brick-and-mortar” Retailers who have invested time, effort and money in building their businesses by supporting and selling the GAMES WORKSHOP hobby. In-store retail sales by properly stocked and committed Retailers remain the primary vehicle through which GAMES WORKSHOP seeks to market and promote its products in North America. And as a reward for all your hard work, wave goodbye to an income stream.
In furtherance of these principles, GAMES WORKSHOP in the United States adopted an Amended and Restated Distributor and Retailer Policy effective July 15, 2003 (the “2003 Policy”). In that 2003 Policy, GAMES WORKSHOP recognized that the online retail sale of its products did not provide the same level of support for the hobby as in-store marketing and required none of the additional investment necessary to operate a “brick-and-mortar” retail facility. In addition, GAMES WORKSHOP was concerned by unauthorized and improper copying and misuse of GAMES WORKSHOP trademarks, copyrighted artwork and imagery, and other brand indicators by some online retailers. Which sort of goes against the picture painted in the above paragraph that they want you to sell their products, and thought you were doing a good job.

To prevent online retailers from free-riding on the significant investment made by in-store Retailers in promoting the hobby, and to better protect its intellectual property, therefore, GAMES WORKSHOP adopted its 2003 Policy. In that 2003 Policy, GAMES WORKSHOP reserved online retail sales of its products to GAMES WORKSHOP’S own corporate website and prohibited the on-line sale of its products by United States Retailers. The 2003 Policy also set forth General Requirements for in-store retail operations and further established clear directives for the use of approved advertising and promotional materials for GAMES WORKSHOP products. Because the online and in-store retailers aren't at all likely to be the same person, oh no.

The 2003 Policy was a great success in the United States. Over the ten-year period since GAMES WORKSHOP adopted the 2003 Policy, the number of in-store Retailers in the United States has increased substantially and the hobby culture that those Retailers support and promote has continued to grow and flourish throughout the United States. Also, by establishing clear criteria for in-store retail operations and for the use of approved advertising and promotional materials, the 2003 Policy provided direction to Retailers as to what GAMES WORKSHOP expects of its Retailers and how to best promote the GAMES WORKSHOP brand and hobby culture. Which sounds quite a lot like preaching to the choir to me.

Given this success, we at GAMES WORKSHOP have looked for ways to improve the 2003 Policy and to expand its reach beyond the United States to our Trade Accounts in Canada. As part of a broader process of integration of the United States and Canadian businesses, therefore, GAMES WORKSHOP now announces this new POLICY. This POLICY applies to all Retailers operating in the United States and Canada. This new POLICY supersedes and replaces the old 2003 Policy and any other previous policies issued by GAMES WORKSHOP. In my head I'm reading all the capitals as shouting.

This POLICY reflects the unilateral decision of GAMES WORKSHOP after a careful review designed to assess and pursue the best interests of GAMES WORKSHOP’S business and its brand. In issuing this new POLICY, GAMES WORKSHOP is not seeking your agreement to the requirements outlined below. The decision to comply with this POLICY is left to each individual Retailer. However, GAMES WORKSHOP does reserve the right, pursuant to this POLICY, to terminate sales of GAMES WORKSHOP products to any Trade Account who chooses to violate this POLICY or any Authorized Distributor supplying a Retailer that chooses to resell in violation of this POLICY.
This POLICY becomes effective June 15, 2013 and may be changed at any time by GAMES WORKSHOP, in the exercise of its sole discretion.
You'll play along, or we'll take our ball and go home."
The last para is a killer. So what is the policy? Edited highlights below:

 "• United States Retailers must operate at least one brick-and-mortar retail store location in the United States where GAMES WORKSHOP products are displayed and sold to Consumers.

• Canadian Retailers must operate at least one brick-and-mortar retail store location in Canada where GAMES WORKSHOP products are displayed and sold to Consumers.

• All brick-and-mortar retail locations must be located in commercial zoned areas.

• GAMES WORKSHOP products should not be displayed in stores where other products deemed obscene or inappropriate for customers under 18 years of age are displayed or sold.

• GAMES WORKSHOP products should never be sold in a location physically unsafe for Consumers to visit or shop. GAMES WORKSHOP accepts no liability in association with Retailer store locations. "
III Sprcific Policies holds the online goodness. GW are in desperate need of updating their website before this goes ahead.

(Applies to All Retailers)

The following policy regarding online sales and advertising of GAMES WORKSHOP products applies to all Retailers of GAMES WORKSHOP products.

1. Online Sales Reserved To Games Workshop:

For the reasons set forth below, GAMES WORKSHOP believes that its best interests are served by reserving online retail sales of its products in North America to GAMES WORKSHOP’S own corporate website. GAMES WORKSHOP does not permit the online retail sale of its products by Retailers located in the United States or Canada. By way of illustration, but not limitation, North American Retailers are not permitted to sell GAMES WORKSHOP products on any website, web-portal, third-party web-portal or other Internet-based platform of any kind. This prohibition includes any form of online shopping cart that would enable a Consumer to order or purchase GAMES WORKSHOP products on-line.

2. Reasons for Policy Prohibiting Online Retail Sales

As referenced above, online sales of GAMES WORKSHOP products by independent Retailers can have an adverse commercial impact on GAMES WORKSHOP’S distribution and retail network and its intellectual property portfolio. In light of this impact, and in careful consideration of GAMES WORKSHOP’S vital interests in the promotion of its products and the hobby they serve, GAMES WORKSHOP has concluded that the business is best served by: (a) encouraging the in-store retail sale of its products by independent brick-and-mortar Retailers; and (b) reserving and vesting all online retail sales of GAMES WORKSHOP products via GAMES WORKSHOP‘S corporate website. Among the compelling business reasons supporting this decision are the following:

In-Store Display and Sales Support: The in-store retail environment provides a Consumer (whether a first-time customer or game enthusiast) with the ability to see, touch, and feel GAMES WORKSHOP products before making a purchasing decision. In-store displays of product enhance the retail purchasing experience and help introduce and grow the hobby. And bully people into buying stuff they don't need.

Community Support: The in-store retail environment further enhances the hobby by providing a place for Consumers to interact with one another and the hobby they share. The hobby is best supported by brick-and-mortar retail locations that allow hobbyists to interact with each other through playing the games, sharing of painting and modeling techniques and the formation of face-to-face interactive clubs. Brick-and-mortar Retailers are the preferred, and in some geographic areas, the only method of such interaction to sustain and grow the hobby. The internet disagrees with you. It's grown the hobby quiet well. Also what do you do if there are no bricks and mortar stores nearby?

GAMES WORKSHOP’s Online Promotion of the Hobby: GAMES WORKSHOP’S corporate website provides a number of features and links that serve to promote the hobby, as well as the products. GAMES WORKSHOP’S corporate website provides an on-line complement to, not a substitution for, the in-store promotion of the hobby in a way that is consistent with the company’s brand and Consumer expectations. By reserving online sales to GAMES WORKSHOPS’ corporate website, GAMES WORKSHOP can present and offer the complete breadth and depth of its product line to online Consumers. The GAMES WORKSHOP brand represents more than just one or two of its most popular items. Games Workshop's website is bloody horrible to navigate and search.

Uniform Presentation of the Brand on the Internet: It is important that the GAMES WORKSHOP brand be presented with a single, clear online focus. By reserving online sales activity to GAMES WORKSHOP’S corporate website, the one site allows GAMES WORKSHOP to present and develop a uniform online image for the brand that can be more readily and easily changed as new products are added and the brand evolves. Everywhere on the internet that isn't a retail store, but hobby related is bemused. They're also considering joining this uniformity by only showing other companies models.

Enhance Online Consumer Tracking: By focusing all online Consumers on one sales website, GAMES WORKSHOP is able to improve tracking and understanding of GAMES WORKSHOPS’ customer base. Better Consumer information and feedback will enable us to better predict trends and Consumer preferences, so that we can conform our product lines to meet Consumer demand. See below RE privacy

Protection of GAMES WORKSHOP Intellectual Property: Online sales and marketing of GAMES WORKSHOP products by independent Retailers can lead to increased instances of misuse and infringement of GAMES WORKSHOP’S trademarks and copyrights. By reserving online retail sales to itself, and providing the guidelines set forth below for on-line advertising of products available for sale in the retail stores of its Retailers, GAMES WORKSHOP believes it can maintain better control over its marks and its brand. How? This seems to be a battle fought in entirely the wrong place, as it's not retail stores that order from GW, but stores creating and selling almost GW products *Chapterhouse* that are the issue here. Unless you want people to only associate buying GW products through the webstore and suggest the rest of the internet is awash with fakes, lies, and deathtraps.

Prevention of Free-Riding: One of the central business considerations supporting GAMES WORKSHOP’S decision to reserve online retail sales to its own corporate website is to prevent free-riding by online retailers. Brick-and mortar Retailers committed to the promotion of the hobby make significant investments including, among other things, a physical location for Consumers to shop for the products, knowledgeable and well-trained in-store staffing and, in certain instances, in-store gaming areas for game enthusiasts. Internet retailers do not make the same investment in promoting the hobby, yet have the ability to siphon off well-educated and serviced customers and potential customers by selling the same products over the Internet. Besides the inherent unfairness of this free-rider effect, GAMES WORKSHOP remains concerned that if this disparity were permitted to exist, it would undermine the investment made by our in-store Retailers, discourage future similar investments by new Retailers, and substantially impair the in-store retail method of sale most effective for our products.Clearly this is the well thought out and effective solution that the music and video industries have been looking for, because pretending the internet doesn't exist is a plan so forward thinknig as to be unreal.

Online Privacy: Consumers who are reluctant to purchase online often cite privacy as a major reason for the reluctance to embrace e-commerce. Focusing Consumers to one online site will allow GAMES WORKSHOP to have consistent information collection and use practices that preserve consumer privacy, and communicate those practices, clearly and persuasively to Consumers. GAMES WORKSHOP believes that this level of privacy protection will encourage greater participation in the hobby.
3. Permitted Online Advertising by Retailers
While this Policy reserves all on-line retail sales activity to GAMES WORKSHOP’S corporate website, it does not preclude authorized Retailers from advertising on the Internet that they carry and sell GAMES WORKSHOP products. GAMES WORKSHOP understands and appreciates that many of its Retailers promote their businesses by advertising on their own websites. GAMES WORKSHOP welcomes and encourages such advertising; provided, however, that: (1) any such advertising by a Retailer clearly states that such products are available for purchase at the Retailer’s brick-and-mortar store location; (2) the advertising is consistent with the GAMES WORKSHOP brand image and does not dilute or infringe upon GAMES WORKSHOP’S intellectual property rights; (3) such advertisements use only approved product descriptions, artwork, imagery, insignia, logos and marks supplied by GAMES WORKSHOP; and (4) complies with GAMES WORKSHOP’s Intellectual Property Policy which can be found at:, or on request. I'm quite surprised this doesn't mention needing to have a link back to GW's own webstore.

"B. Policies Regarding Original Packaging and Labelling" sets out the ban on selling individual bits, more on which below. My favourite section is this though

"To the extent GAMES WORKSHOP, in its sole discretion, should manufacture, package and label individual product components, GAMES WORKSHOP may make available such individual components for resale only as originally packaged and labeled by GAMES WORKSHOP. For the reasons explained above, Retailers are prohibited from removing any individually packaged and labeled GAMES WORKSHOP components from their original packaging for the purpose of reselling such individual components to Consumers." Possible common sense ought to tell people that unpacking an individual part to sell it individually is in most cases going to be a waste of time.

It does seem that GW remains willfully blinkered to the online community that probably does far more interesting things to their brand image than any store could accomplish. Not to mention eBay sellers, with dodgy copies, or unfettered ability to sell parts.  In a time when everyone's wallets are being squeezed, other systems are becoming more prevalent, and Kickstarter is stealing people away to gaming pastures new, GW does seem to be taking a step back from the future. If they had a website that felt like it was up to the challenge of being the sole sales point of the hobby online I'd be happy, but it isn't.

I wonder how much this ties into the Hobbit and Limited Edtions and sales of such?

In a further post today there was more fleshing out of the idea that GW is getting back into the bits business. Back in the good old bad old days White Dwarf used to have a Mail Order page at the back which would display the parts from the month's new releases, and have them priced up indiviually for order. This meant either individual lead/white metal parts, or whole sprues could be ordered from the Mail Order Trolls.

Give GW's move away from metal, and the fact that the useful bits of characters are tied into one frame, either Finecast or plastic, then they're either going to be selling individual parts (seems unlikely given the labour and logistics involved, but fingers crossed), or splitting the larger boxes down into separate sprues, which might not make enough saving compared to buying a full kit to make it worthwhile for consumers.

With such a crack down on the online retailer side of their advertising and social media presence, I wonder how long before we start seeing bloggers and forum hosts getting dragged into the firing line. 


  1. If this somehow crosses the pond and comes into force in the UK, it may well be the final straw.
    In the absence of any local non-GW stores where I am , would likely see me stopping all GW purchases in favour of other games systems I can get from numerous suppliers.

    1. There's no pressing need to go out of the way to pander to GW when other systems are so readily available these days. Especially given the low entry costs of games with quickstart rules etc online.

      Black Library are already spearheading this route with the exclusive books.

      I can see the strategy, but I think GW are believing their own bullshit, if they see this as advantageous in the long term.

      If they're focusing on their own online presence, then maybe not having huge copyright disputes, and a twitter account that's been dead for a month plus, good youtube videos, and a website you can use from a mobile would be a plus.

    2. Not to mention the weird choice to drop the 'central' Facebook account for GW.
      One of the main reasons I started getting into other systems was because it was made easy for me. QuickStart rules play a big part in that, but so do the occasional sales places other than GW do from time to time (although that has its own problems - Maelstrom Games...)
      Not wanting to jump the gun here, but I can see the potential use of the 'b****t' word being thrown about in the future...

    3. You're right about getting started with other systems being easy. Infinity, Privateer, Malifaux, all let you begin with free rules, cheap starter sets (well, if you're buying for one, two armies takes you up to around GW box prices, but anyway) and with a lower model count.

      Mantic's two big games provide an alternative to 40K and Fantasy, and are cheaper to build up.

      Sales and discount are an issue, as is having to split orders between GW for there stuff, and an independent for other systems.

      With GW being where you go online to buy GW products there is also not going to be the exposure of a new audience to none GW product in a stores menu bars.

      Going to have to get the Parent's Guide up to date with alternatives.

  2. Myself I have no descent gaming store around me. I get, and almost always have, gotten my GW stuff from online sellers. I pay the same or even less then i would from a real store. Then there is the fact I don't have to drive forever and it is mailed to my house.

    What a bunch of wankers! They kill the online shops in the states it will kill some gamers, like me!

    1. I can only agree. There's going to be a lot of that as GW and Independent stores aren't everywhere, and GW isn't exactly encouraging people to come to their website with this kind of move.

  3. I also wonder with the suggested increased ability to monitor people's browsing and buying habits, if this will dictate changes to the model ranges down the line. No one buys many of model x and it's made back its cost, time to swap it out, or if the business model doesn't work that way, and it's more of a stock control measure, with more controlled casting runs, but everything staying in production.

    It wouldn't seem so bad if there was a vague hope that the prices wouldn't keep on going up, and this move was to keep prices lower over the next few years.

    1. they will never stop the price raising. come june/july look for another increase in prices. They keep it up they will force everyone out of the hobby with their costs. Hell look at thier fancy flier sets. $91.00 for two models? Holy shit that is nuts! Better is the $150 set of two models! I have some disposable income, but not for that. Hell Terminators are $50 for 5 guys. $5 per plastic model is crazy!
      I love the game, hobby and background, but the GW business practices will drive me from this game and I've been here since 3rd.
      Whoa, sorry for the rant..

    2. Don't worry about the rant, you're voicing the creeping worry all of us have. People have already been priced out of the hobby, and that's only going to get worse/more frequent as time goes on. It's not that they'll stop playing wargames, it's just that they'll go somewhere else. It's not even as though having a fairly complete army keeps costs down with the new big kits, new books, and edition changes.

      It's a while since I've been into a GW store (and my local Independent is out of the way for most people to stumble into), but last time I was in there was someone's mother growing increasingly pale as the shop assistant mentioned more and more expensive items. The boxed games, as good value as they are, still come in expensive at £60, for someone who thinks their just buying their kid some toys that'll be forgotten come Christmas.

  4. ha i would love to see them actually enforce them i can already see stores opening and disappearing in a constant shell game not to mention ebay can't wait to watch eby give gw the finger and keep taking their profit from every ebay sale

    1. There does seem to be some massive holes in their strategy, both with sales routes they have no control over (eBay as you say), and the fact the European market is still apparently free to sell bits and happily ship them to the US.

  5. And this is how you turn a loyalist to the ruinous powers. The only thing they have done is force the online trade underground. Instead of embracing the online community of sales they do this... But then what did we expect from a company that produces a story line about the grim darkness of the future. GW has become the Inquisition.

    1. I think we'll see a rise in gamers trading bits to other gamers, as well as eBay gaining more dedicated bits sellers (at higher prices). GW has also put Specialist Games onto the pyre.

      In the grim darkness of the present nobody expects the Games Workshop Inquisition. Our chief system is 40K... 40K and Fantasy... Our two systems are 40K and Fantasy... and the Hobbit!... Our three systems are 40K, Fantasy, the Hobbit and an almost fanatical devotion to profit... Our four.. no... amongst our systems....are such elements as 40K, Fantasy... I'll come in again...”

  6. I started getting into other systems was because it was made easy for me. QuickStart rules play a big part in that, but so do the occasional sales placestop online strategy games.
    real time strategy game.

    1. GW does very little to help the novice/budget player unless they like the models in the starter boxes. I've certainly found myself dabbling in a lot of other systems thanks to QS rules or Kickstarts allowing for cheap entry.


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