Sunday, 13 August 2017

Games Workshop Sued And Matters Arising. Is It Really Fair?

Please go and look at this first...

This at least should give you some sense of perspective. In some ways it is funny. We all know that games workshop has been fleecing us for years. GW like a lot of companies that make miniatures, have gone over to making plastic miniatures rather than white metal (which is expensive) and resin (which is more hard work and not quite as good).  Most of us, I am sure, are pretty sure that money and not quality is at the heart of the process.

In my life I do prefer absolutes but when I look at this I am not sure if I am here to praise GW (faint praise is not all that damning right?) or to bury it (along with a myriad of other manufacturers).

One of the most shocking elements that has been revealed is that a model that sold for $20 actually costs $0.03 to produce. To be fair, I am pretty sure that this figure is not the actual cost of getting a product to market. Anyone who wears trainers already knows that most of them are made in a sweatshop in so poor third world country where the staff get paid $0.30 an hour and the trainers cost about a dollar and retail to close to $200 (sorry for the American money values but that is what has been quoted). When I used to play Flames of War I was disappointed that they went to using plastic but I was shocked when I found out that their production run was being shifted from New Zealand to Malaysia (I think). Malifaux also transitioned from metal to plastic.

We all know there has been considerable use of, let's call it the ideas of others rather than infringement of intellectual property. They are not the only company to do that but they are perhaps the most successful at it. Blood Bowl is my current fave miniatures game, to paint figures for at least. Setting aside the fact that some of the races are almost certainly the IP of others (orcs are certainly a creation of Tolkein) there was Monsters of the Midway (which I think the IP would now belong to TSR) which was an American Football based fantasy game (which also used IP races). Several years ago I recall a number of Blood Bowl based web sites being bullied by them. Likewise, people using the term Space Marine were also being pressured.
Is this a fair image? I am not so sure.
The guy behind it seemed to also be referring to Genestealers as infringing the copyright of Giger and Scott. Sure it is a big alien killing machine but there have been aliens before. Pretty much every has elements derived from elsewhere but I think that is something that detracts from the argument not strengthens it. There are a number of companies that use the look of characters from movies, TV and even games. TV has stolen things as well and computer games do it all the while.

This is just a list off the top of my head of copyrighted material that has come close to being infringed.

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, 2300AD, Alien, Aliens, An American Werewolf In London, Back To The Future, Battlestar Galactica, Battletech, Big Trouble In Little China, Blade, Cona, Dawn Of The Dead, Die Hard, Doctor Who, Dracula, Escape from New York, Fallout (has been ripped off many times but it ripped off multiple sources itself), Firefly, Flash Gordon, Frankenstein, Friday the 13th, Ghostbusters, Hitch Hikers's Guide To the Galaxy, Hot Fuzz, Ice Station Zebra (yes it is an old fim, and not a good one), Indiana Jones, Kick Ass,  IT, James Bond, Planet Of The Apes, Land Of The Dead, Left 4 Dead, Leon, Mad Max, Miami Vice, Monty Python, Night Of The Living Dead, Predator, Punisher, Rambo, Resident Evil, Roadside Picnic (that's Stalker), Scooby Doo, Scrubs, Sharpe, Shaun Of The Dead, Sinbad, Sin City, Sons Of Anarchy, Star Gate, Star Trek, Starship Troopers, Star Wars, Superman, Taxi Driver, Terminator, The Big Bang Theory, The Blues Brothers, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, The Fly, The Good The Bad And The Ugly, The Invisible Man, The League Of extraordinary Gentlemen, The Magnificent Seven, The Maltese Falcon, The Rocketeer, The Thing (film and comic book character), The Three Musketeers, The Walking Dead, The Ear Of The Worlds, The Silence of The Lambs, The Wizard of Oz, The Woldman, Tomb Raider, Traveller, Vikings, Warhammer 40k, X-Com, Zombieland and not to mention just about everything by HP Lovecraft. I could go on. And on. And on.

Companies do it because it is what we, the consumer, want. They are rarely perfect copies. That would be wrong. What they do is make something close enough to evoke the memories which is good enough for most of us.

American law is different to British law, I know that is kind of an obvious statement. But selling things is down to the profit motive. If you want to make money off something you buy it wholesale, if it comes with a caveat, well you have a contract. Compensation culture seems to be taking over again.

Third party retailers are almost always willing to undercut GW. I rarely buy anything other than paint from the stores directly because of this. So they defend themselves. They make a lot of money out of it but that is the nature of the free market and even with all that money, they don't always seem to be doing that well.


  1. I get what your saying but. The cost of a spin to make a sprue etc doesn't reflect the design costs and all the jazz that goes into it in the background.

    I have a friend who runs his own games company and it costs a fair bit to get just an alternate head designed in CAD or whatever they use let alone print it. Make production moulds etc.

    1. I do kind of get what you are saying as well. There is advertising, shops to run (with the smallest amount of any high street shop I can think of). I can see design costs are high and that will affect the production cost. That said, GW will have in house production specialists and their overheads are spread over a much bigger production run. There are a lot of games companies now. You can set up a business relatively cheaply if that is your want. The difference in overheads between a part time, done in the garage business and that of GW (the biggest games company in the world) has to be massive.

      I guess companies like FFG, Mantic and Battlefront are heading up there as well but again, when you look at the prices they charge, these seem to be higher than typical.

  2. It sounds like someone is just after their money. There is no shame in making money, GW doesn't force anyone to but their models. The 0.03 price is probably because of the mass production, if they we're less popular a single miniature would cost a lot more to produce.

    And as far as Intellectual Property goes, GW did change a lot of names they we're using. Some of these were in place since the very first edition. Back then it started as a wink to things the creators liked and IP wasn't such a big thing back then.
    Copying stuff we like is also how human creativity works.

    1. I agree, it sounds like a good way to get money out of a big corporation. They do a lot of clever marketing and their pricing structure often reflects the relative tabletop value rather than the number of figures or even the weight of the plastic.

      Their IP is a little bit suspect. That said so is that of a lot of miniature manufacturers. It goes way back, before Warhammer. Their change of names seems to have been rather rapid. The IP thing have been around for a while and you can see it in the way things have changed over the years (the early Cadians looked a lot like colonial marines).

      But it is the free market and as you say, they wouldn't make the stuff they do if it didn't sell.

      I am I their store a few times a month. I rarely buy much other than paint but I like the way they are going at the moment.

      What I don't like is their track record of bullying people over dubious IP claims. I have a mate who has a metal monsters team for a version of monsters of the Midway. This was arguably the inspiration for the Blood Bowl miniatures games. They have treated some of their fans (and especially those with websites) very badly over the years.

      At the moment I am going to sit on the fence and nod sagely as the situation progresses. :)