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Games Your Rights Online

Games Workshop Goes After Fan Site 174

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-anger-your-base dept.
mark.leaman writes "BoingBoing has a recent post regarding Games Workshop's aggressive posturing against fan sites featuring derivative work of their game products. 'Game publisher and miniature manufacturer Games Workshop just sent a cease and desist letter to boardgamegeek.com, telling them 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...' As a lifelong hobby gamer of table, board, card and miniature games, I view this as pure heresy. It made me reject the idea of buying any Games Workshop (read Warhammer) products for my son this Christmas. Their fate was sealed, in terms of my wallet, after I Googled their shenanigans. In 2007 they forbid Warhammer fan films, this year they shut down Vassal Modules, and a while back they went after retailers as well. What ever happened to fair use?"
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Games Workshop Goes After Fan Site

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  • Re:Talk about Idiots (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DiSKiLLeR (17651) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @05:22AM (#30280842) Homepage Journal

    Thought I'd add:

    Blizzard of course doesn't go after Fan Art, Fan made movies, and even some of the very questionable stuff that goes on over at darknest [darknestfa...rotica.com] (such as model and skin edits in the live game!) not counting all the nude warcraft art.

    I'm not a little happy about the way blizzard sometimes reacts (bnetd, glider, etc) but they certainly give their customers and fans a lot of freedom. I wish other companies weren't so bloody stupid. Why hurt your customers?!

  • by Asmor (775910) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @05:27AM (#30280866) Homepage

    A while back there was much gnashing of teeth in the RPG community because GW's book publishing arm, Black Industries, decided to cancel the RPG (which, by most accounts, had a reasonable level of popularity and success) so they could focus on the novels. This came right around the time I was tentatively getting into Warhammer, and after they did this I went to the GW store at the local mall and asked the manager there to relay the message to his corporate overlords that they'd lost a customer over there actions. And before you start yelling at me, I was polite and I know it wasn't his fault; I just felt that was the best way for me to personally send a message.

    Then a few weeks (or months?) later, Fantasy Flight Games got the license to produce the Warhammer RPGs. Of course, by then I'd already gotten the WH bug out of my system. Which in retrospect was good, since the GW store actually shut down not too much later, meaning if I had gotten into it I wouldn't have had a place to play anyways. /Cool story, bro

  • by Asmor (775910) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @05:46AM (#30280988) Homepage

    It's why I stopped playing D20 games. After 4.0 came out with NO open content, I turned and never looked back.

    Well, that's certainly stupid.

    What exactly do you mean by open content? If you mean you're pissed because they didn't allow people to republish WotC's rules and content verbatim [amazon.com], then I suppose that's a legitimate concern.

    But they certainly have opened 4.0 up, and there are plenty of 3rd party products available for it [rpgnow.com].

    I'm curious, which games do you play, since having an open system is so important? Off the top of my head, the only non-d20 game I can think of which has a semi-open license allowing 3rd parties to publish content is Savage Worlds. And their license [peginc.com], while free, is relatively restrictive in that you must specifically get permission from them.

    If you want to sell your work, you must contact us at PEGShane@gmail.com with your plan and some samples of your work. We'll work with each company on a case-by-case basis. Once we grant your company the license, you can make whatever you want without submitting it for further approval, as long as you follow the guidelines below.

    Be aware that we're looking for HIGH production values--meaning great art, trade dress, and professional layout--as much as we are great content.

    I think BESM had some kind of license, but that game is long defunct. All the other stuff I can think of (True 20, Mutants & Masterminds, Pathfinder, SpyCraft) are d20-based.

    So I can only think of one current, non-d20 RPG with an open license. You've stated that you play RPGs (plural) and that you no longer play d20-based games. You also implied that you only play games with open content, whatever twisted definition you might have for that term. So what are the other games you play?

  • Open Source Gaming (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dartz-IRL (1640117) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @05:48AM (#30281000)

    How long before somebody finally gets frustrated and motivated enough a GNU project for wargames? Call it OpenWarfare, and start with the basic Tenant of the Free Earth Federation,-v- The Corporate Aquilan Empire. Then build from there. All the IP is open, the ruleset is open and independent of any miniatures line. If anybody wants to add to the IP pool,. they can... provided they allow others to make changes. If anybody wants to sell compatible miniatures, they can. Sourcebooks.... Even build their own proprietary IP universe on top of the ruleset if they want.

    How long?

    Probably never, but it'd be a cool idea.

    Damn... I might have to give it a go over Xmas.

  • Space Hulk (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sapphire wyvern (1153271) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @06:08AM (#30281128)

    BGG's game ranking charts are quite influential in the board-gaming world. A lot of local hobby stores have them up on the wall as a quick guide to some excellent games. Until quite recently, Games Workshop's new edition of Space Hulk was in the top ten games. It's now dropped to number 170.

    Well, I guess that's what happens when you value greed more than public relations or your fan base (although BGG isn't really oriented towards GW's bread-and-butter of miniatures wargaming).

  • Re:Talk about Idiots (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @06:42AM (#30281298) Homepage

    Meh, strategy? I gave up on GW products many years ago, when they figured out that the big money was in selling high priced hero figures, with accompanying game-winning special powers.

    You can have fun games of WHFB / 40K / Epic, but they're all horribly open to abuse by anyone who buys to win. I doubt they even playtest most of their stuff any more.

    Still, I guess that is actually "strategy", in the resource management sense.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @08:19AM (#30281818)

    Nope, they're not owned by Hasbro. They are, however, run by a solicitor...

  • Lesson of TSR (Score:3, Interesting)

    by markov23 (1187885) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @08:51AM (#30281994)
    We used to have a company called TSR that behaved this way -- they sued all of the their fans that tried to keep D&D alive and didnt understand the economics of this type of community. When wizards got the license -- regardless of all of the harping on this forum about them -- they embraced this type of community and created the OGL. Their discussion with publishers was we can either fight over each piece off the pie or try and make the pie bigger. It was a completely different approach and it worked amazingly well. GW will figure that out at some point -- or go away like TSR. GW has every right to protect their ip -- it is theirs and they spent a lot of money developing it -- it just may be bad business to go about it the way that they are. And Im sure ill get abused for this next comment -- but with all of the slamming of wizards in this forum about them not being open -- you are confusing open for free. Open is important for the community -- free is not. If free is the most important aspect of a gaming system -- stay away from rpgs -- I play them and I want professional content created by talented people -- and those people like to get paid.
  • by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @09:49AM (#30282420)

    You're joking, right? I can see, MAYBE, on the distributing of scans to keep games in service, but even that pushes the limit when you're talking about games with write-on-and-throw-away tracking sheets.

    Games Jerkshop have no love from me on the storefront area either. You know what they do to regular game shops, right? If you want to carry their "product" and have gamedays/tournaments, they demand 60% of your shelf space, have a list a mile long of "competing products" that you have to agree never to stock, insist you carry a certain dollar-amount of product on shelf at all times and never hold a sale.

    Then, when YOU the game store have built up the community, they plop down an "Official Games Workshop" store half a mile down the road, undercut you by selling everything at a 10% discount (remember, YOU are contractually obligated not even to hold a sale), and deliberately do their best to put you under so that nobody in the area is selling anything but GW games. Hell, at one point they actually tried to put Reaper Miniatures and D&D Miniatures on their "products you will not sell" list.

    I for one think it would be best for the world if Games Jerkshop were to fold tomorrow and their IP scatter to the four winds.

  • Re:Lesson of TSR (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Remus Shepherd (32833) <remus@panix.com> on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @10:54AM (#30283166) Homepage

    Of course, the company that invented the OGL has now abandoned it.

    Which means one of two things. Either they have learned the opposite lesson -- opening your IP is not good for profits -- or every generation of managers forgets the lessons learned by the ones that came before.

    Either way, it doesn't look good for GW's future.

  • by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @11:12AM (#30283458)

    I've seen them kill five stores this way.

    The trick is, they have enough of a player base to seem lucrative (and indeed the store sometimes does make money initially)... UNTIL they deliberately undercut you by plopping down the "Official GW" store half a mile down the road.

    And unless you know that this is what they're going to do ahead of time (none of the stores did, unfortunately) how would you know not to sign the contract? It "looks like" a great deal. You "look like" you're going to get a product monopoly on a product with known interest within a certain area, steady ability to supply the gamers, all the incentive stuff (prizes, ongoing campaign/tournament support, etc) from GW. For the first 2-3 years, the game stores made money on GW merch.

    Then GW smiles broad, stick the knife in your back, and twists. The "Official Games Workshop" store opens up half a mile down the road, and you're stuck holding $40-50k (or more) worth of merch that you can't sell because GW (the same company you signed a contract with!) is undercutting your prices, and cuts you off for prize/tournament support at the same time so you have far less traffic in your store.

    What was really hilarious is that after GW did this to the stores, they closed down half of their own. There's only 2 "Official GW" stores left in my area, because the other three were only there long enough to fuck the existing brick-and-mortar stores that stocked "competing" products. Once the stores were dead, GW left too and directed the gamers to the other "Official" stores 10-20 miles away if they wanted to keep playing at all.

  • by habig (12787) on Tuesday December 01, 2009 @11:44AM (#30283872) Homepage

    They've also introduced, with great fanfare, and then eliminated a whole lot of games. What are some of GW's best games? Mordheim (discontinued), BloodBowl (discontinued, though I expect it will come back now they've got a computer version), Battlefleet Gothic (discontinued)...

    Blood Bowl is actually a post-GW success story, independent of the computer game. The rules have been updated continuously by the player base, which has really cleaned the rough edges off what was already a pretty good game (google on Blood Bowl Living Rulebook). There's also an active tournament scene out there, with an international governing body (NAF) and ladder rankings. One can still buy the basic boxed set from GW (along with packs of team minis), download the current rules .pdf from the net, and play. Or, go buy any of the high-quality 3rd party miniatures out there, download the rulebook, download board-making instructions, and play without giving the Evil Empire a penny. I guess it's hard to sue people for making football-themed fantasy miniatures.

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