Should Warhammer be Free? What do you Think?

Last week I wrote a blog entry on the merits of giving away the rules for 40k, and it met with a slight bit of controversy.  Some people seemed to support the idea, and some clearly thought it wasn’t in GW’s best interest to give away the goods.

Some key advantages to giving out the rules I talked about in my previous post are:

  • A more knowledgeable player base.  Since there’s no reason why every player shouldn’t have a copy of each codex, we should all be aware of what each army can do.  No more dirty surprises for those of us that can’t afford to buy a copy of every army book that’s released.
  • More expendable income.  That loss of 5-10% sales to GW, will translate to more money in our pockets.  GW could raise their model costs to accommodate for this (something they’d surely do), but realistically, the majority of players will just look at this as a chance to buy 5-10% more models than they could previously.  No matter how many models a 40k addict has, it just never seems to be enough…
  • Fewer barriers to entry.  New players would no longer be required to purchase a rulebook and a codex to play the game, thereby lowering the cost to start playing.  This would make the game available to more players.
  • One particularly well-worded counter argument (by MBA) said:

    When people give stuff away for free over the internet, it’s because their current marketing model isn’t working. Businesses don’t give things away for free unless they are desperate. 40K is a niche market, it’s not mass-market like Facebook or Twitter, it can’t be supported by adverts, or by 1% of users who choose to pay for a better service. 40K needs all players to be buying stuff. The BRB and Codices are beautiful, inspiring works of art that people are proud to own. To give them away would cheapen them and the game itself.

    So, that’s where you come in.  I’d like you to take a moment to read through the blog entry, the ensuing comments and weigh in with your opinion on the poll to the right.   Do you think GW should give away the rules to their games, or would it cut too deep into their bottom line to do so?   Could it actually improve their bottom line by attracting new players?

    Please take a moment to vote on the poll to the right.

    I’d love to hear your opinions…

    “Vote” image borrowed from the Boogie Woogie Flu


    12 comments on “Should Warhammer be Free? What do you Think?

    1. well a starter rules would be good for free (isnt it what PP do?)i think giving free dex's is silliy and just people wanting freebiesbut the starter (e.g. mini reach) would be good to buy for free! 😛

    2. I kinda agree that having printed codexes and rulebooks would cheapen the game. Having hard-backed rulebooks and very artistically designed codexes help to legitimize the hobby, instead of just using the rules as an excuse to play with toy soldiers.

    3. I think you may have skipped over an option there: pay for the rulebook and hard copies but also have the codices available online for free.I like the current rulebook model of having a mini-book in the starter set that contains all the core rules. It's very convenient for new and advanced players alike. Most everything you need for a game is there and it's much easier to toss into a gaming case compared to the massive hardback. The full rulebook then has the extra fluff, art, and advanced rules that might not come up in a normal game (such as league play). I approve of that model because it is useful to the community.That model is also good for GW due to volume. After all, nearly everyone buys some form of new rulebook when editions change. Add in new armies built off the figs from a starter set, renewed interest in the game, and people changing their lists for the new edition… GW sees a nice spike in profits. The core rules COULD be published online, but I'd posit that the actual piracy of that book is pretty slim. After all, how often have you bought or seen someone buy multiple AoBR sets and just give away the mini-book to encourage a new player? So there's not really a need or use to offering the core rules for free online, except maybe as a location for easy updates and changes. An online FAQ/Errata page handles this decently as most rules questions aren't really about the core rules. The most weirdness occurs when you have the exceptions or modification to the core rules that occur in codices.So what about codices? I can tell you from in-company experience that the printed books are NOT a lucrative venture for GW. GW owns a plastics company, metal casting facilities, and packaging plants. But they (last I checked) do not own a printing house. This means that all publications have to be purchased from a printer. This drives up the base cost. GW eats quite a bit of the cost in order to offer the books at a price that will sell. The real profit for GW is when that codex impels additional model purchases. A book goes to market with about a 1.5x profit margin. A metal fig is about a 10x and plastics can run even more. Want that in real world application? A single box of Terminators offers about eight times the profit of a single codex.Next, one of the big dividing lines I see between a competitive and a casual player? A casual player has his own codex, may have read those of his regular opponents, and has probably only thumbed through others at a store or read about them online. A competitive player has a copy of every single codex, has read them at length and taken the time to really understand them. Most store owners (rightfully) will frown on someone spending that much time with a codex and not buying it. So players either cough up cash on a codex for an army they don't play… or they revert to piracy.Now, would publishing the rules online eliminate the need for printed codices? No, probably not. As mentioned, there's a tactile factor, quality and organization to having a printed book. But I think most players would be happy to pay that little bit extra for a real book. Use the RL book to push all the pretty fluff, expanded descriptions, color pictures and every thing else. Publish the online codex versions with just the rules, updates and any FAQs. If you're running a tournament, just require that everyone be using the most current version. (As is typical anyways.) If you're playing a casual game, run whatever the heck you want. (As is also typical.)By having all the codices available online, you level the playing field, reduce piracy, give a way to rapidly update and correct errors, and encourage people to try things outside the limits of their own army list. This is a bad thing, how?

    4. I would say that a two tiered system would work for free vs paid. The free version would be just the rules- no more, no less. None of this fluff stuff, very few (if any) pictures except for diagrams necessary to rule interpretation.Have the paid for version include all of the pics, fluff and extra goodies that we've come to expect from GW. Seems to be working for PP, though I can see how GW would be loathe to change their model since they pretty much have their niche cornered.

    5. But the fluff and pictures is what brings people into the universe and the modelling.If you have just the rules, there is no reason to buy the full Codex. But then there isn't the incentive to buy the models either.No fluff/pictures = people using Lego instead of buying legit GW stuff

    6. Well said… though your argument to not posting the rules for free(everyone already has them, so what's the point?) seems a little weak. Ifeveryone could have them for free online, they could save printing costs bynot posting complete rules with each copy of the game…Otherwise, rational argument. If it wouldn't skew the results of the poll,I'd add a free codices/charged rules option.

    7. I disagree. I'm one of those guys that buys every codex when it's released,but I very rarely find myself reading the fluff anymore. Gone are the daysof 2nd edition when fluff was available in droves and might be a reason tobuy a codex by itself. Granted, they're better in 5th edition than thepamphlets of 3rd edition, but the fluff doesn't compell me to buy the books.Then again, I haven't read a codices' fluff in more than a year… are theyactually good again?

    8. Aha! You don't need the fluff in the Codex so you don't want to pay for it. Makes this whole question of free books rather self-serving, doesn't it? :)The fluff is very useful for new players, to bring them into the 40K universe. If you make it optional (or indeed encourage people to bypass it with freebies) then you actually DECREASE the number of new players.Oh, and running a poll along the lines of “Do you want free stuff or not?” is not going to yield very surprising results. 😉

    9. “By having all the codices available online, you level the playing field, reduce piracy,”You're not reducing piracy, you're just legalizing it. There's a big difference. Reducing piracy means increasing the number of people who will pay for goods that they would otherwise have gotten for free. Your idea would have the opposite effect. Less people would buy the books.At the moment, buying a codex is the first step of “owning” an army. It costs less than a plastic box set, a little more than a single metal figure. The cost of a codex is more or less trivial.Unless of course, you want to have EVERY codex – then it becomes expensive. Not everyone wants or needs every codex.The business model isn't broken just because the people who want it all have to pay for it all.This whole blog post smacks of “Make Space Marine tac squad models free to bring people into the hobby (PS I collect Space Marine tac squads)”. :)That's a bit like

    10. what about the rules for non-upgraded basic stuffe.g. free ba would includetacticals (missle/flamer/chainsword)scouts (snipers)assault marines (power sword, plasma pistol)death comp (no upgrades)chaplain (jump pack)furiso captain (power fist, plasma pistol)baal (assault cannons, heavy bolters)land raider (no upgrades)rhino (no upgradses)2 pages of basic fluff inc storyso itd be a mini dex but for fun units/ upgrades youd have to pay :Pand warhamerr 39999 the codex fluff is EXCEPTIONAL for the ba 😛 it even has moriar and a dred assult ;D

    11. I'm honestly not sure what I expected to see, but the poll thus far isspread out fairly evenly. That leads me to believe that people areanswering honestly, and not from a perspective of pure greed.Not that I'm trying to disuade you from posting though. I appreciate theinsight you provide to the argument. Essentially, I've already said mypeace on the matter, and now I'm just following up to say thanks forstopping by. 🙂

    12. I actually decided before the BA codex came out that I was done buying newbooks for armies I didn't play. I just did some quick math, and after 4editions of playing, I've sunk over $1000 into books for armies I don'tplay. I figured that's a place I could cut my hobby spending without havinga big detriment to my game.Thanks for the head's up though. I guess I'll have to borrow one to giveit a thumb through.-Rob

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