GW Store Closing, Patents, and The Future of Gaming 3

Back on May 31st I wrote Games Workshop New Store & The Future of Gaming. It drew heavily from then recent conversations I had with game store owners and a great blog article, Predictions: 2007: The Game Industry, written by Ryan S. Dancey.

On June 1st I wrote Addendum: The Future of Gaming 2. That released new information, with my observations, drawn from another Ryan S. Dancey article entitled Followup: 2007 Game Industry Predictions 2.

If you haven’t read those articles before I suggest you do. They provide the background information to bring you up to date for this article.

In Massachusetts there are 3 Games Workshop stores. One is in Harvard Square in Cambridge, yes near that Harvard. One is in Danvers in the Liberty Tree Mall. The last one is in Natick in the Natick Mall. I found out last night that GW Harvard Square will be closed within a week. A close friend of mine is friends with one of that store’s employees who passed on the information. To verify the information I went to the forum of Danger Planet Games and found they have a GW Store in Harvard Square closing. Please read that thread for more information.

I don’t know the reason for GW Harvard Sq.’s closing but I do know there is a sign in the window telling people to go to Danger Planet for good gaming and GW products. There is irony here because GW has screwed Danger Planet over so many times that GW and DP are in somewhat of a feud, or so my friends term it. As such DP has removed all GW product from their store excepting a small section at the back of the store for some 40k product.

When DP first opened they had a wall, the entire length of the store, covered in Fantasy and 40k and later on in LoTR product. Now, they’ve done a complete 180 turn. It has been rumored in the past that GW opened stores in high traffic locations to get better visibility. I guess they can’t afford to pay those expenses anymore with profits dipping low.

This serves as confirmation of changes for Games Workshop stated in Dancey’s Predictions article and my Future of Gaming articles. Without dipping too far into old news I recommend that you read the Predictions: 2007: The Game Industry thread on the DP forum that discusses Dancey’s article. Writing as his online moniker of Swordbrethren Brian, the owner of DP, shares a slew of great remarks.

In line with the future of gaming is a legal battle between Wizkids and Wizards of the Coast. This is a result of WoTC receiving a patent on constructible collectible card games. On 5/22/07 featured an article on the subject. WoTC wanted this patent to cover an idea for a game they never manufactured called Punch Bots and more importantly to protect their new Transformers 3D game. Of course, Wizkids is concerned because this directly impacts their Pirates of the Spanish Main CCCG (Constructible Collectible Card Game).

Wizkids is hoping that the patent will be invalid and filed in court to see that happen. I won’t get into who should win because it doesn’t matter too much. I strongly believe that Wizkids will be out of biz by the end of the year no matter what happens here. Like Ryan Dancey in his Patents & Gaming article I believe the more important issue is gaming patents. Unlike Dancey I am not favorable towards recent patents.

Dancey makes a case that patents help innovation, which is integral to the gaming hobby. He says that there won’t be new games unless they can be protected to give it a go. Yet, he mentions the large corporations instead of the individuals he touts deserve the protection.

That is precisely why I am against the more recent gaming patents. I’m sure that someone will argue that this has happened since patents were invented. However, the patent gives a company ownership of a type of game for 20 years. That is an entire generation of gamers worth of ownership. For 20 years everyone else must pay royalties and be licensed to produce that type of game. Whether it is a CCG, a la Magic: The Gathering patented by WoTC, or a constructible CCG like Pirates and Transformers.

The free market will reward games that work and will pull those that don’t. If a game is good enough and fits all the criteria it will be successful.

For those who read the title of this article and wonder how patents relate to the GW store closing and the future of gaming read on. The bottom line is a patent can keep a company afloat in the short term. If Wizkids had the patent on Pirates the possibility exists that licensing fees would keep them afloat long enough to survive the death of Heroclix and Horrorclix. If GW had a new patent on their product they could get licensing from Warmachine and Mongoose Publishing perhaps killing their competitors. If Rackham had a patent on AT-43 that could allow them to take more risks, lower the cost of the game, and push the pre-painted non-collectible minis in the the mainstream.

Obviously a lot of hard work and other factors have to fall into the correct slots for any of these to work. But, the patents can change the game. On the Danger Planet forum Brian said “many (not all) hobby store owners, as brutally true as it sounds, either aren’t savvy business people, aren’t motivated, aren’t capable, are unlucky, or some combination of the above.”

At the end of the day it all comes down to your Friendly Local Gaming Store. No matter whether GW merges with another company, Wizkids goes under, or the new Pokemon gets produced. The key is to support your FLGS by shopping there, gaming there, or promoting it.