Monday, May 11, 2009

Baltimore Games Day 2009

So Saturday was Baltimore Games Day. I had a lot of mixed feelings heading toward this particular show. First, it was the 15th Games Day Baltimore that I have attended. I began going to them in 1994, and I haven't missed one since. Second, this was a show that I knew would be facing some challenges. The constant changes at GW US and various friends who have been let go would make this show "interesting" to say the least. Finally, I decided to compete in Golden Demon for the first time as a regular customer.

So let's talk about the good first. I did OK for my first attempt at Golden Demon. I entered five categories and I made the first cut in 3 of those. So in all, I think that is pretty good for my first attempt against the big names in the painting world. I am going to try and get pics of all my entries done this week to show you all. I didn't paint anything specific for the show either, I just pulled out various models that I was really proud of and entered those.
Another good thing at this year's GD was getting to see lots of old friends. It's the one time of the year when tons of people I have met through this hobby are all gathered together, so it is always great to catch with them.
Finally, I participated in the Armies on Parade event and displayed my Shadow Hawk Space Marines. It is an army I am really pleased with and something truly original, so it was nice to show it off. I received a lot of nice comments on the army, and I thank anyone who stopped by to say they enjoyed seeing it.

Unfortunately, that's about all that I have to say on the good front. Overall, I was hugely disappointed in this year's show. Let me preface the rest of this with a few things though. I have run Games Day myself (the 1998 show and all the shows in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 - around 16 events) and I know they can be a total nightmare of logistics and other hassles. So while I am saying I did not enjoy the show overall, it has nothing to do with the hard work that I know many of my friends at GW put in. It has to do with the upper management (both UK and US) and their overall attitude toward Games Days in general.

GWUS has seen massive upheaval this year in staffing and focus as a company. Due to those things, Games Day was kind of left by the wayside. The upper level folks at GW have always looked at it this way. They want it to happen and they want it to be good, but they think that should happen with pixie dust and goblin magic. They don't want to devote the resources, time, and overall effort to make the show great. "Just make it happen." Because of this, the show suffered.

As soon as you entered the hall, you could tell things were not the same this year. There was massive open space (it was a bigger hall than in years past as well). They didn't bring ANY of the 100+ Games Day Tables that the hobby teams of yesteryear spent months and months of work on making. The only gaming tables were supplied by clubs. While that is a great idea in principal, you never know what you are going to get from the random hobbyists out there. Some do fantastic work (the remote control super heavy battles were great), while others slap a few models on a table and call it a day. So by not having something there for GAMING (and let's face it, that is a huge part of Games Day) that was completely under GW control, it left a lot to be desired. Heck, bring the tables and use them for open gaming, since most people would kill to play on fantastic terrain with their own models.

Another area greatly lacking was the Studio Guest area. There was only 1 model there that hasn't been seen online for weeks now. There were about 10 things on display period from the Design Studio, and there was nothing at all about Planetstrike (which releases in less than 2 months). The UK guests also did not have even a PowerPoint presentation to show. That kind of attitude is a slap in the face to dedicated hobbyists who paid $25 each to get in. Games Days were always the hotbed of excitement about upcoming releases and cool stuff. That was not the case in Baltimore this year.

The Games Day store was dismal. Sure Forge World had a few great new things to buy (after waiting in line for up to 4 hours), but the regular GW store had nothing new. Not even this coming week's releases were there. I was hoping to pick up a few things like the IG Advisors. Not the case. I did purchase the new FW Khorne Daemon Prince and Herald, but that was it.
Even to check out in the store took forever (and if you waited in the FW line to get your stuff you then had to go to the regular GW store to pay and wait in another line). Not fun.

Finally, GW made the decision to not use outside help from Outriders/Kommandos this year at the show. For the first time in 15 years, those great hobbyists were not present to help out. I have a special place in my heart for the Outriders. I started as one, I ran the Outrider Program for GW for a year, and I worked closely with them for 4 more years in running the events). These guys truly love the hobby and helping make a great day for the customers. Not utilizing this talent was a shame and it was noticed. There was an overall feeling in the air that just lacked excitement.

So in all, while anytime to get out and talk about toy soldiers and see friends is great, the event itself was not very good. I commend the GW staff that are in the trenches for working hard to make the best of what they had, but GW management needs to decide once and for all what they want Games Day to be and devote the proper resources to make that happen.

13 comments:

  1. Your report is depressing. While GW still comes out with good products they otherwise seem to have lost interest in anything approximating customer service.

    Thanks for going, tho -- now I don't feel guilty for not attending myself.

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  2. Yeah, somewhere along the way GW's focus and mindset has shifted one too many times. I understand it is a business and the bottom line is important. But there are ways to handle these events that make them a positive all year long. They have always looked at the cost for the day in question and not at the long term impact on the hobby and sales. Sad really, since Games Day was something I used to look forward to all year long.

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  3. There has been a lot of talk in the community on GWs current focus on getting new young players in the pipe line while neglicting the older veterans since they are already so invested in the games. They seem to assume that the vets will take care of themselves and just keep feeding their pewter/plastic addiction. Lack of support for tournies and the games days seem to roll along that line while the keep opening stores in malls looking for walkin traffic from kids.

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  4. Hi Jeff,

    Bigred here from BoLS. I would love to talk shop with you regarding the event and events in general if you can spare some time. Please email me at belloflostsouls@gmail.com if you are willing, and I'll get in touch.

    I think you have some unique insights that may be just we are looking for to help us out with some of our upcoming projects.

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  5. I returned to Games Day after missing the last 10 years. I was saddened by the lack of GW tables, displays and previews. It was a far cry from how I remembered Games Day. I feel extremely let down. Additionally, I took a friend who jumped back into the hobby. This was his first Games Day ever and even he felt let down and thought the show was rather pathetic. Seems to me like the people who are in charge of making Games Day great just don't care anymore. GW needs new leaders, ones who have the passion to make this hobby great again.

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  6. Hey Jeff,Chris Townsend here. Always good seeing you and the other GW Alums.

    I didn't even think about all of the themed and registered tables were gone until you mentioned them, but there was definitely space for them.

    I was absolutely mortified by the store lines this year, and you're right there was no spiffy pre-release stuff, but they did have direct only things (and without shipping that's a 10% discount basically) and my friends and I got things from the ding sale (40k Sanctuary Chapel for $10!!) But I sat in line for about 30-40 minutes waiting to purchase things, which was just ridiculous.

    For me, the highlight of Gamesday, apart from seeing old friends and former coworkers was the Black Library presentation, which had Graham McNiel and Nathan Lang and who had a really funny and informative session, along with Vince's Powerpoint presentation. I didn't make it to the other seminar, but it appears I didn't miss much.

    My friends btw, had a blast at the scenery make and take, which was singificantly improved over last year and they probably walked out the door with about $30 in free city terrain that they glued together that day.

    Overall though, I think you are right, GW Management needs to make a clear and distinctive decision as to what they want Gamesday to be and how they want to do it. So much electronic media this year, I could help but feel like an old fogey for not playing DOW or WAR at Gamesday.

    /2cents

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  7. Great post. I am glad that I am not the only one who thought that way. I have been to the last nine Games Days in Baltimore and have run a club table at everyone. (Back when there was only two club tables) I think it is sad that they solely depended on the clubs this year for the games. (Not counting the big games of course) If it wasn't for the Ironfist guys running two tourneys then 1/4 of the folks would have had nothing to do. I sure hope things change in the future because if not I might have run my very last club table.

    Moe.
    (I am glad you liked our R/C tank table)

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  8. I was really shocked at how few club gaming tables came this year, I had a blast running our crystal/lava table, but was disappointed that i didnt see some of the really great gaming tables of yesteryear. Also big thanks for everyone who stopped by our table :)

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  9. Sounds like a disaster but on par with the long list stupid moves made by GW since last fall. I dread what's going to happen in Chicago in July

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  10. Jeff,

    Al Gleason here - you probably don't remember me but we've talked a few times over the years at GT's. Good to see your blog (which I enjoy) and congrats on a fine showing this year. Making first cut is an accomplishment I doubt I'll ever see.

    Hearing pretty dismal things around GW sponsorship of events. First no GT's and now Gamesday being subpar. Hopefully once the recession improves things will get better.

    If you're ever in nashville, tn and want a game - look me up.

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  11. Hey Al! I definitely remember you. Thanks for checking out the blog.

    I really hope that GW makes some real effort to change their views towards events, but I just don't know if that will happen. A lot has changed in that company in the past 5 years and it is by no means for the better. I still love most of their products, but my drive to keep collecting new armies and models is slowly fading as prices continue to go up and the hobbyist is left by the wayside.

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  12. Hi, Jeff. Wow, you just said everything about this year's Games Day that many of us Games Day vets have been saying to each other since last Saturday. I've been to every US Games Day in Maryland since the first one in 1993 and this was the least exciting of all of them. It was still a lot of fun, but it lacked the usual excitement and spectacle. Everyone I know who's been to past Games Days here, be they GW employees, former employees or just long-time customers has been saying the same things you summarized here. I hate to criticize the most fun day of the year, but it really was a lot less exciting than usual and not for lack of effort by the local GW staff. The GW staff worked as hard as ever to make the day fun, but with all the budget and staff cuts at GW US this year the lack of support was obvious. Budget cuts in every area were evident and easy to spot as soon as one walked through the door.

    Then there was the lack of previews like Planetstrike, which was already shown at Games Day France a few weeks earlier. That was mystifying. That should have been there plus at least one or two never before seen items to go with it. The lack of professionally produced tables by GW was also noticeable as you've said and not all club tables were up to the spectacular standards of GW produced tables. In fact, some clubs didn't show at all leaving empty tables just sitting there. I could go on and on, but you've already covered most everything my family and other friends have been saying all week.

    Games Day is Games Workshop's premier show. It should always be spectacular and exciting. For new attendees, they should be awed by it and anxious to come back again. For vets of the event, it should always live up to past spectacles. I'm not sure this year's event did either, which is a shame, because I want this hobby to keep growing and GW to be successful as ever.

    I still think GW has the best fantasy gaming products in the world. I hope they re-commit themselves to showing that the way they used to at next year's Games Day events.

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  13. What about Toronto? My friend and I are newcommers from Illinois (we have been playing for a little over a year now) and have tickets for the Toronto show. All you have mentioned is for the Baltimore Games Day. Do you think Toronto will be different?

    Also, I wish GW would be more informative for us first-timers. I really have NO IDEA what to expect, and there are few blogs like this to give my bud and I the heads-up.

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