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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

IP Masochism: Games Workshop C&D craziness promises customer blowback

I caught on Slashdot this morning that Games Workshop, the publisher of Warhammer 40,000 (which I have gotten into this past year) has sent a very harsh cease & desist to BoardGameGeek, a website devoted to all things pertaining to tabletop gaming. The C&D from Games Workshop has ordered BoardGameGeek to "remove all fan-made players' aids. This includes scenarios, rules summaries, inventory manifests, scans to help replace worn pieces -- many of these created for long out of print, well-loved games. GW did this shortly after building a lot of good will by re-releasing their out of print game 'Space Hulk' to much hoopla."

What the hell is Games Workshop thinking?

Ya know, I'm no stranger to the crazy world of alleged "copyright infringement". And even though my situation was in the purview of the American legal system and Games Workshop is a company based in the United Kingdom, some things are common sense no matter where the jurisdiction is. I didn't mind it that my TV commercial was picked up and broadcast without my permission: I was too honored that so many (like E!'s The Soup and Jay Leno) found it interesting, thought-provoking and funny enough to share with others than to get angry at them for it.

So it should be with Games Workshop. Especially in these days of downturned global economy. Fans of Warhammer 40,000 and other Games Workshop products are doing the company a huge favor by demonstrating their love and loyalty to the game and its fictional universe. It's free advertising that Games Workshop doesn't have to spend a single pound or dollar on. The company had already come to rely on word of mouth to maintain and generate interest in Warhammer 40,000. Well, that's all it is that these fans are doing. There is no intent to violate intellectual property on their part, and every intention to support the game.

But it looks like Games Workshop has no intention of likewise supporting the players, and is even choosing to punish them for their enthusiasm.

This will come back to haunt Games Workshop in the end. Maybe not in the short term but in the long range of vision this is going to drive away many of even the most loyal customers that they currently enjoy. What Games Workshop is doing is not good marketing at all. The company needs to reconsider its position and like yesterday, if it wants Warhammer 40,000 to continue with anything like robust growth.