Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Games Workshop must do.

 [ed: there was a recent takedown request by GW to boardgamegeek.com
cf here, here(by BGG's owner) and here by Sudsy ]

GW have a lot to learn from the likes of Paramount, Warners and Lucasfilm.


They, like GW have substantial creative IP assets to protect.

Paramount/Desilu had in fact knockoffs being produced for profite while Trek was still in production.

What they DIDNT do was stomp on the fan based discussion, literature, craft, art, comics, costuming and community that kept their product alive and thriving in the public mindshare. I was part of that back in the 70s when I was the youngest member of Austrek, one of the world's first Trek fanclubs in Melbourne.

The boardgame parts of those days were knockoff copied scripts or photographs or badges, dolls or fan made stories or some fantastic comics surpassing TSOALR in quality and diversity.

Paramount (or in ths case their Oz affiliate) reacted in two stages, they extablished dialogue and respect with the fans and knockoffs which were egregious violations faded as fans themselves substituted product from a newly established parallel profitline by the IP owners or licensees.  They used fanclubs to police it. it worked and everyone understood why. There were no lawyers,friendly letters sufficed.

Secondly, after the Trek Franchise was re-launched in 79, in the mid to late 80s Paramount established a parallel "official" fanclub worldwide. they didnt compete with what was there both systems thrived for a while - the fans made the distance while the official clubs withered eventually, but did operate differently and they key difference here is they operated co-operatively. GW has not.

Warner with B5 and Lucasfilm with starwars have established examples of fanbases producing great work and keeping the dream alive through fiction, filmaking and craft, all policed through cooperative a clear and friendly relations with fans by creative and enthusiastic IP owners, who know the value of fan work to future product, its saleable lifetime and its contribution to re-licensing reproduction and editioning and resale. Trademark protection is a must, but copyright is a more fungible beast. These examples above show how it can be done well, in a community expanding way and profitably.

To gaming and Tom Jolly, Steve Jackson Games and GMT all offer difffering industry related examples of how gaming companies can work with fans and do things well and turn a profit.

Take Wiz-War. Tom Jolly made the little game that could and still does.
Fan based reproductions grew out of the snafu by the licensee, chessex to relably produce the gae and meet a need, so Tom gave his blessing to fan based reproductions while originals sell for ridiculous money on ebay. All this on the understanding tacit and otherwise that these will be taen down if relicensed, which apparently Tom is in the process of doing, with FFG if the rumours are true.
All this is possible becase Tom talked and stil does  with fans and got involved.

Steve Jackson takes what I'd call a tough but fair approach, his policy is clear, the support of the back end of the product line and OOP titles is there and he polices hi IP actively and personally, its a good approach that works and keeps his work protected and alive for re-invention and resale.

GMT, similarly, take a clear, communicative and personal approach, they decided sure, VASSAL is ok, but we host and approve it. They maintain living rules and supprt the back catalog through their P500 program, bringing even, I hope, Battlefield Mars back to life, through Joe Miranda and "Free Mars". Yay!

What's different about GW? No creatives as Directors. Tom Kirby is an GW accountant. I have yet to see proof that he's rolled a D6 in his life. In 1984 Ian Livingstone came an spoke to 10 roleplayers, personally in Melbourne, while over promoting his non GW adventure books. They cared. It still gets talked about.

Find the word "fun" or "enjoyment" in the GW annual reports. Go on, I dare you.
and to those who say that's not what they're for, Frankly, bollocks to you, the chairman's statement steers the ship in terms of tone and policy and that tone is one note: money.

GW need to go where everyone has boldly gone before.

They Stand on the shoulders and the work and legacy of Giants and they need to act towards their Customers and their games with Respect.

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