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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Saturday, June 18, 2011

GW, Spoilers, and Prelease Info: Some Thoughts

Over the past several years, there has been a strange trend at Games Workshop to keep a tighter and tighter lid on information regarding new releases- their policy has always been a rather closed one, but more and more they have avoided allowing ANY information at all to be put out more than a short time before a release hits. This doesn't, of course, stop information from getting out, but there has been a marked decline in the availability of spoilers prior to the drop of a codex. (With the notable exception of a small percentage of the folks at Warseer and the increasingly-helpful Blood of Kittens.)

Of course, most players (albeit not all) are interested in finding out about things ahead of time, to various degrees. This is entirely normal- after all, more information helps make better decisions about what to buy, etc. Games Workshop, on the other hand, has an interest in controlling the flow of information- which is also only natural. However, I am of the opinion that their current "no spoilers no previews not ever" policy is harmful to them as well as frustrating to us as players. Of course the interests of companies and customers don't always intersect perfectly, but I think this is a clear case of them shooting themselves in the foot, and I'd like to explain why.

From the company's standpoint, leaks are a bad thing- when they're uncontrolled leaks, that is. Properly managed, a limited flow of information is beneficial to sales, just as an advertising campaign would be. Information about upcoming releases builds anticipation and gives your player base something to look forward to and keeps them thinking about the hobby. Wizards of the Coast, one of the other big names in the gaming business, takes excellent advantage of this- Magic sets always have a big buildup on their site, with card previews being released one-by-one with whole articles focusing on the design and story behind each card as well as its art, developer's thoughts, potential uses in decks, how it relates to the set, etc. D&D has a whole system of previews set up so that their premium customers have access to small chunks of books well before they are released- not only is this a good reason to subscribe to such content, it also allows them a form of free playtesting on a scale that they could never manage with only in-house resources.

Obviously GW and its games have important differences between the examples described, but they could try similar systems of their own game- wouldn't it be interesting to see designer sketches for upcoming releases, or hear the thoughts of playtesters about how the units changed? Such content could even be a good way to revitalize White Dwarf- which even the most hardline of advocates admit is growing rather feeble at this point. There needn't even be a lot of hard info to such features- indeed, there are few things nerds like more than poring over the minutia to wheedle every scrap of possible inference that can be drawn from it.

Technically, GW does so some of this already- the Black Boxes are nominally a way to preview figures in stores before their release and White Dwarf runs articles on each army the month of its release. The Black Boxes are a good idea, as they allow players to get an in-person look at the models, which will always be more convincing than pictures on a screen or page. White Dwarf, on the other hand, tends to arrive in stores right about in time to be useless to anyone who is interested in the upcoming releases, and this could be easily remedied; due to the requirements of mold-making, printing, etc, the models and codex rules must have been finalized well before the magazine goes into production, so why not take advantage of this and release a trickle of spoilers in it? I simply don't understand GW's reluctance to allow any information out.

In short, I think Games Workshop is taking poor advantage of its ability to use spoilers to generate interest. Obviously I am speaking from a biased standpoint- as an outsider I don't have access to the reasons behind their current policy and as a player I have an interest in seeing more information be released, but I have tried to explain why I think it is beneficial to both parties to increase the distribution of prerelease information. The current policy of secrecy does little to raise awareness or excitement about their releases, and the lack of previews inclines the fanbase to apathy about GW's plans for the year. There are plenty of ways that information could be released carefully without spoiling the entire codex or pandering to the constant desire from some parties for always more details.

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