by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
fans, games, takedown

boardgamegeeks, games workshop

Games Workshop Goes After Its Biggest Fans With Takedown Order

from the when-will-they-learn dept

dave blevins points us to the unfortunate news that game publisher Games Workshop seems to be attacking its biggest fans by ordering the super popular site BoardGameGeek to takedown all fan-made player aids. Basically, the biggest fans of Game Workshop's games have been helping make those games better, including "scenarios, rules summaries, inventory manifests, scans to help replace worn pieces." Basically increasing the value of those games so that it's easier to play them and easier to keep playing them. And, in response, Games Workshop sends out its lawyers? How does that possibly make any sense at all?

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  1. identicon
    ac, 2 Dec 2009 @ 6:16am


    Because Games Workshop realizes that the fans can make better content than they can, so they want to stop the fans from doing anything that isn't buying the product they've put out.

    How else can they sell a million units of Space Hulk when they dig it out of the vault, Disney style, if those damn kids are out sharing and copying and bandying about the old out-of-print game?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Atrix (profile), 2 Dec 2009 @ 6:42am

    Unfortunately, this is not surprising. GW has been abusing its fans for years. Other companies have grown tremendously by specifically acting NOT like GW. Privateer Press recently started distributing the rules to their popular games online, something GW wouldn't do in a million years. GW thinks its selling books and figures. PP knows it's selling entertainment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2009 @ 6:46am

    They have an exclusive agreement with a specific publisher saying only you can put out anything related to our IP. The publisher then says, "look those people are selling items under your IP, you broke our agreement, sue them or the deal is off"

    In the end its because gamers workshop is just a large writing firm and not a publisher or distributor. The contracts they signed force them to do stupid stuff like this. Wizards of the Coast can get away with stuff like this because they own the printing press, parts of the distribution network and (for 3.5) made the system open from the getgo.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Call me Al, 2 Dec 2009 @ 6:48am

    I was very fond of GW when I was younger but eventually quit playing its games because I felt I was being milked by them for every penny I had. This news doesn't surprise me in the least.

    Just to illustrate what they are like, for safety reasons they replaced the old lead models with white metal and put the price up. The only problem is that white metal is cheaper than lead. They've since replaced much of the white metal models with plastic because their moulding techniques have improved... guess what the price went up.

    They really are exceptionally greedy and seem to hold their fans in contempt. They've got away with it so far due to a lack of decent alternatives and because they did have a few really good ideas twenty years ago.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Richard (profile), 2 Dec 2009 @ 6:50am

    GW thinks its selling books and figures.

    Well actually selling figures is fine - they're a scarce good.

    BUT the corollary is that all the digital stuff (rules, images etc etc) - which is not scarce - should be free and free to copy, modify, adapt etc - that way they maximise the sales of those little plastic figures and pots of paint...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2009 @ 6:50am

    Games Workshop has always annoyed me from their overpriced miniatures to their iron fist rule system about how the miniatures are used. Everything about the game system screams "Keep giving us huge amounts of money for a somewhat pretty good game with really cool looking miniatures!"

    I have never heard of another table top war game company going after fans for creating different methods to play the game.

    Battletech has a trillion fan made creations from spreadsheets to full out programs to design units.

    You can kill a forest if you printed out all the unique PDFs with the amount of player made D&D character sheets there are out there.

    Attacking fans cause they came up with better reference sheets Games Workshop? Are you going to go after people breaking some license agreement by using paint on their miniatures that are not Games Workshop paint?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    An0n (profile), 2 Dec 2009 @ 6:51am

    Re: durr

    But if the payer made "aids", as they're called, make the game more playable but do nothing without the game, what's the harm? In fact it may lead to more sales of the game since the bugs will have been fixed by the community. At any rate, its never a good idea to sh!t where you eat, and that's exactly what Games Workshop has done, upsetting the only people who even know who they are.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Marcel de Jong (profile), 2 Dec 2009 @ 7:00am

    Re: Re: durr

    I'm going to assume that the campaigns are better, and that they are especially objecting to the scans to replace worn pieces. Because that's when Games Workshop is "losing money", as the players don't buy complete sets to replace just a few worn pieces, anymore.
    But it's a sad state that even games companies are now run by the legal department.

    I'm almost sure that none of the board members of "Games Workshop" ever played a game of Warhammer in their life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    ethorad (profile), 2 Dec 2009 @ 7:02am

    concentrate on scarce resources and growing their market?

    As an ex-GW gamer, given the prices of their miniatures I always assumed that they made their profits from the sale of lumps of metal and not so much by selling rulebooks. Granted the rulebook income (circa £20-£30 for a box set including some basic plastic miniatures) would be nice, but it pales when compared to the price of the figurines which (IIRC) was around £1-2 for basic and grew rapidly for larger, more complex or "hero" units. I know the amount I spent on units etc far outstripped the amount on rulebooks.

    As you say they should therefore be trying to spread their rulebooks far and wide, and distribute playing aids to help existing gamers, hand out introductory simplified rules to draw in more etc. And then flog them scarce resources of bits of metal, entrance to GW tournaments, in-store events, etc.

    Have to admit that I have now stopped playing GW games, partly due to the ever increasing cost of metal miniatures and the decreasing availability of cheaper plastic. Also we didn't ever move to the latest (at the time I quit) versions of their games as they seemed over simplified.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2009 @ 7:05am

    Games Workshop is the worst game company, they despise their fans and their resellers. If a reseller in a city sells a lot of Games Workshop products, then they open a store in that city and screw the reseller that made the market. I walked into a GW store once, and they, the staff and the customers hanging out there, were extremely rude. I wasn't alone, everyone else I knew that walked into one had the same reaction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Call me Al, 2 Dec 2009 @ 7:09am

    Re: Re: durr

    I'd expect they make a lot of money from their rulebook and ancillary documentation.

    They change the rules for their games on a regular basis. Each time it invalidates the previous rule sets, army books etc and means that many players will shell out for new ones.

    I expect they consider the online sources a threat because those rules can be posted easily. They're not understanding that the rules are not a scarce good and are trying to forece everyone to buy the books. Some of the army books were really good qualify though and I expect many fans would buy them regardless because they are good to have - they are scarce goods.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), 2 Dec 2009 @ 7:15am

    Re: Re: durr

    "But if the payer made "aids", as they're called, make the game more playable but do nothing without the game, what's the harm?"

    Indeed, what's the legal issue? Copyright? Doubtful, that would accrue to the authors. Probably trademark, in that newfangled "you can't mention our trademark unless we say it's OK" interpretation. I.e., using the threat of court as a cudgel.

    BTW, is GW related to the old Games Designers' Workshop?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    ethorad (profile), 2 Dec 2009 @ 7:21am


    completely agree there - even when I was an avid GW gamer I never really felt welcome in their stores.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    ethorad (profile), 2 Dec 2009 @ 7:27am

    Re: Re: Re: durr

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Jake, 2 Dec 2009 @ 7:28am

    I think they're panicking because fewer people have the disposable income for this kind of hobby just now (almost every Warhammer 40K player I know has declared a moratorium on new purchases until the economy picks back up), and like a couple of commentators have suggested, the company's grown to a point where the people calling the shots are more interested in making money than making a product people want to buy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Avatar28 (profile), 2 Dec 2009 @ 7:30am

    Sounds like T$R

    Boy, this sounds an awful like the stuff TSR (or T$R as they got nicknamed) would pull years ago on fan-made tools and such posted online back in the early internet days, back before they were bought out by Wizards of the Coast. Maybe their old management moved on to Games Workshop?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    dem0n1 (profile), 2 Dec 2009 @ 7:52am

    In the eyes of the man
    You're not a real fan
    Unless you stand front and center
    With your wallet in your hand.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2009 @ 8:00am

    It can't be a trademark issue, because it's not infringing on a trademark for an arbitrary third party to use that trademark whenever referring to the actual trademarked item, even if they have not received any explicit permission to do so. It is only a trademark infringement when a person misrepresents the actual trademarked item with something else while still utilizing the trademarked term.

    It may or may not be a copyright issue. My understanding of this specific matter would be more complete if I knew the exact nature of the files that had been taken down. I do not. However, I do know that game rules by themselves cannot be copyrighted, but specific artistic interpretations of those rules can be. Thus, as long as the material that was being distributed was not verbatim copies of the rules (in whole or in part) initially put out by GW, it is unlikely that there would be any actual copyright infringement happening in this matter. That is, if the content was original, new rules created by gamers, for example, then even though it may heavily refer to GW's products, GW's claim to rightfully demand its removal is highly specious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2009 @ 8:05am

    Re: Sounds like T$R

    TSR's claim was valid (a generally ignorant move on their part, but still legally sound), because the material that they demanded be removed contained actual intellectual property owned by the company.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Greg, 2 Dec 2009 @ 8:10am

    They've been swinging the IP hammer at a lot of people lately.

    They shut down because it has their copyright in the URL. That's almost understandable.

    They also threw a hissyfit because a company was making miniatures for Bloodbowl characters. Again, understandable, except these were models for characters that GW didn't produce. Basically they'd have Big McLargeHuge guy in the rule book, but not make a model for him, with the intention that gamers would buy other GW models and tools and convert them into McLargeHuge.

    They way they reacted to it, though, was that instead of demanding that this other company stop selling McLargeHuge, or forcing them to license the guy from GW, they said that if they didn't stop selling this thing, and advertising it as Blood Bowl model, they were going to remove McLargeHuge from the new Blood Bowl rules. A game they haven't supported in years, and a model that does not compete with anything they make.

    There was another project, I can't remember the name of it (VASSEL?), that was a free online wargaming client - fairly generic, and had plugins with artwork to represent various armies from various game systems. It didn't have rules, just 2D sprites, but GW C&Ded them. Again, didn't compete with anything they make.

    The thing that kills me about this, is that GW does not support anything other than their flagship games (Warhammer Fantasy, Warhammer 40k, and Lord of the Ring), and haven't for years. You can't actually go into most GW stores (which are creepy grognard dungeons for the most part anyway) and play Bloodbowl, Battlefleet Gothic, Necromunda, or Epic, because it doesn't bring in any money - they don't even sell the models in-store anymore. They will seriously ask you to leave if you try to play. What I'm getting at is that the only people playing this games, which haven't gotten new rules or models in years, are really hardcore fans - people that have been playing GW things for years, decades in some cases - and they are alienating their most dedicated fanbase.

    A lot of wargamers are unhappy with the way GW is running things lately. Personally I have nothing against their pricing scheme (they make the best plastic spacemans out there, and even if I hate them I'll keep buying from them), but the fact that they're so lawyer-crazy is kind of obnoxious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    James (profile), 2 Dec 2009 @ 8:33am

    Two Words For you!

    Potter War.
    Take it to them hard. If Warner Brothers can be made to back down, these clowns can be to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    WyldKard, 2 Dec 2009 @ 9:16am


    That's not necessarily the case for all wargamers. Privateer Press seems to be doing very well for itself, and smaller startups are also managing to make profit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    ohgeetee, 2 Dec 2009 @ 10:16am


    The content is not being sold, it is free player aids to games - many of which have been out of print(GW cannot make money on them anyway because the only way to get them is from someone that already bought said game) for 20 years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Richard, 2 Dec 2009 @ 10:47am


    They also do this to a fan site called

    Fumbbl does host some proxy servers for a bloodbowl java client made by someone else though, so you can see where the pressure comes from, cough cyanide cough.

    The letter GW sent:

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Nick Novitski, 2 Dec 2009 @ 1:07pm

    The summary of the situation is incomplete: Games Workshop didn't just say all player-made aides for their games had to be removed from the site, they ordered the site to be altered so that no files could be added to those games in the future.

    They have been informed this will take a while, because there is currently no support in the backend for making a particular company a special case: one of the points of BGG (nee GeekDo) is to pool the excitement and expertise of fans, and no company has been (forgive me) apocalyptically stupid as to request that made impossible.

    For their next trick, maybe they'll try to shut down all third party forums that discuss their games. That's sure to drive sales up!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    and in the end, 2 Dec 2009 @ 1:40pm

    this wont make them one more dollar

    funny articles like htis as they wont be making any extra money , no instead they with negative press will make less money
    go poop now on your salad

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Xtr4M1nty, 3 Dec 2009 @ 2:23am


    Thats nuts. Seriously though?

    GamesWorkshop are great but sometimes they point the gun at their friends...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Dec 2009 @ 12:00pm

    Smells like somebody's found a new revenue stream that they'd like to exploit. Fuck them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. icon
    slander (profile), 4 Dec 2009 @ 10:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: durr

    That's a relief. I'm currently making an Invincible Overlord-to-NWN conversion, and I would really hate to have to scrap it over this...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Dec 2009 @ 9:06pm

    All I have to say to GW is UP Yours.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    The Ban-Hammer, 18 Mar 2010 @ 10:31am

    Whenever I go to the new Games Workshop store, they love to humilate me for not taking their so-called $70 "Academy" to learn to paint THEIR way with THEIR stuff, and "learn" to play the game. You do get free stuff but I'm very sensitive when it comes to painting my mini's that I spent +$300 on, I want them done MY WAY. I you mentioned Amazon or off-brand paints in-store, you got fired on. They love to criticize my painting and my customized CSM and IG armies. Their fan-bashing is unbelievable, I only buy thru 3rd party retailers to avoid their stores. I continue the game and to customize it because I like my fantasies. They have no business in what I do with them as a fan because I gain no profit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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