Two sides to every coin: Press Gang Program dissolved

On March 8th, news hit the Warmachine/Hordes community that the Press Ganger program was being terminated. While others were bearing the full weight of this news, I was out with my wife and my realtor looking at multiple houses. We looked at six different houses in a span of three hours and throughout our trip we each had very different reactions. I fell in love with a three bedroom ranch with an attached garage—the neighborhood was safe, the utilities were new and the roof had another five years of life. Whereas, my wife, fell in love with a two story Victorian home that had built in book shelves, a mud room, a large kitchen and a fenced yard with a fire pit. We each have very different ideas of a dream home and it is challenging to open our minds to each others’ perspectives. In order for us to come to agreement on our home we are going to have to make a pro/con list of our favorite houses and then compare each objectively because if we rely solely on our opinions, we’ll fail to see all the benefits each house offers.

Right now the Warmachine community is in a similar disagreement over the news that Privateer Press is disbanding the Press Ganger Program and instead implementing direct sales of tournament kits to local stores. Like everyone, I have strong reactions to this. However, rather than dump my opinion into the aether I’m going to attempt to create a Pro/Con list that shows the benefits and the negatives of this new decision, as well as provide some supplementary explanations and reactions. The purpose is not to persuade anyone into loving or hating this news, but rather, the purpose is to try to show people both sides of the coin so that they can at least understand the oppositions perspective.

PRO

Growth and sustainability

More agency for store owners

Fluid (if one volunteer is unavailable, another can easily step in)

Avoiding future liabilities from an unfair compensation lawsuit

CON

Negative public reaction

Greater expense for PP to staff conventions

PG’s had expectations and requirements to assist any nearby store that requested help. Volunteers have no requirement to play anywhere but their favorite store.

Trying to avoid future litigation shines a spotlight on the issue and invites an immediate lawsuit.


Operating Costs

Pro: Less operations cost and more sustainable growth

In the official letter sent out to retailers, PP President, Dr. Sherry Yeary explained their reasoning for ending the Press Ganger Program and what the company intends to do moving forward.

The program has reached a state where it cannot be sustained in its current form, and we are evolving support of our communities appropriately. We will be supporting the efforts of current Press Gang members who have scheduled events or demos through April 30. Going forward, our event kits (which will continue to be made available as they have been in the past) will now include additional exclusive items we suggest be used as rewards for your Event Organizer.

Fantasy Flight Games currently uses this system of direct sales of prize kits to stores and it has worked out exceptionally well for their games. In just a few years X-Wing escalated from just-another-mini-game to the #1 miniature game in the US. And while it would be foolish to credit the event kits as the reason X-Wing is so successful (it’s not. the credit belongs to simple rules, Star Wars IP and prepainted ships) it can be noted that the simplicity of the system has made it seamlessly easy for stores to support the game and for the company to grow.

So what was wrong with the old Press Ganger Program? There are no actual financial releases on the operating costs but it is known that PP had to staff two full-time employees to run and oversee the program. There used to be only one but the program had grown vastly over the years and a second staff member was added. Unfortunately, even with two full time staff Press Gangers often experienced long delays when redeeming their points for product. There is no way to determine how much product the program was paying out to its Press Gangers, but at some point the law of diminishing returns comes into play and based on Dr. Sherry Yeary’s letter, it sounds like that point has been reached.

Privateer Press will now be able to free up two full time positions and cut costs by no longer being required to redeem PG points for roughly 500-1,000 Press Gangers.

 

Con: More expensive operating costs for running tournaments

Without the volunteer efforts of Press Gangers, Privateer Press will now be required to either fly more staff down to conventions to run their events and demos or they will now be required to begin hiring temporary employees and paying them at least minimum wage for their assistance. Minimum wage may not sound like a lot, but it is a significant increase in costs than relying on PG’s to run event. According to estimates from one Press Ganger, he calculated that after redeeming the points he earned from volunteering at his last convention, the cost  of product he earned added up to about $4/hr.

 

Impact on Local Stores

Pro: More fluidity for stores and equal compensation for volunteers.

Local stores are the lifeblood of Warmachine/Hordes. Without the constant leagues, tournaments and weekly game nights, it is not a stretch to say that Warmachine/Hordes would be just another miniature-memory, much like Fanticide. One of the pros of selling tournament kits directly to stores is that the store owner and the community can quickly react if there normal tournament organizer has to take time off. Also, if there are multiple stores in a city the store owners don’t have to play tug-of-war for time-sharing rights over an existing Press Ganger.

Here is an anecdote from Flynnt, a Warmachine player in the Chicago meta:

I have 3 stores within driving distance: one of them has 1 PG, he runs leagues and tournaments, they cannot happen on a regular basis because of life, the other store has 2 PGs, they run monthly tournaments and leagues, someone else wanted to become a PG for said store to run hobby events but PP said that we had too many, the final store has no PGs so 2 people volunteer their time to run events, they get nothing in return. This move makes everyone equal, this change makes it so that any volunteer gets rewarded for their job without needing PPs approval, only the stores (who actually know the volunteer).

Con: Dissolution of existing PG’s is a public relations nightmare and it will cause some communities to move to a different wargame.

The farewell gift Privateer Press is giving to its Press Gangers.

For every community out there with no PG there is another community out there with an amazing Press Ganger who now finds his/herself as an expendable. It was nice of Privateer Press to create a custom miniature for their Press Gangers before they terminated their relationship, but a small trinket isn’t going to ease the pain for those who have given years of their life to the company. In Iowa, we are blessed with an abundance of great PG’s that routinely go above and beyond. Our PG’s buy clocks with their own money, run demos for newbies instead of playing at the point level they wish, travel to multiple stores despite preferring to play at one, organize painting contests, pay for and create trophies, donate their redeemed product from the PG program as prize support for tournaments, print out scenario packets for everyone to use, create custom terrain, flags and objectives, answer a barrage of rules questions every week during their own game and the list goes on and on. One of our PG’s Ruxton Smith, literally travels to every single major US gaming convention in which Privateer Press products are featured and volunteers. This is not hyperbole, last year he went to GenCon, Adepticon, WarmachineWeekend, TempleCon, Lock & Load, MoMCon, etc., etc., and even though he pays for his own travel an accommodations and is being paid in product that comes out to be less than minimum wage he is now considered to much of an expense to the company that he serves. He prided himself on being an ambassador to the game and lived up to the duties and role of a Press Ganger.  Now he and our other PG’s are no longer recognized for their accomplishments and our meta is pretty concerned. We could easily find a volunteer to run a tournament, but we aren’t going to ever be able to replace the amount of time and commitment these PG’s put into our community. Talk has already begun of jumping ship to another wargame. And to add insult to injury, they can’t even vent their frustration on the forums because Privateer Press has implimented some Orwellian-esque policies where anything that comes across as a criticism is deleted. I have no idea what to expect for the Warmachine meta in my area, but for metas like mine that had amazing PG’s, I can’t imagine this change will be anything other than a net loss.


Individual reactions

Those in favor:

Marxlives from BoLS:

Outrider programs and such are great when your company is trying to get lift. Like when young bands depend on volunteers to bring community awareness about their tours. But at the company becomes larger it becomes a resource that takes…well a lot of resources to run and provide oversight, and it opens you up to meaningless litigation from settlement lawyers. PP has grown ALOT in the last 10 years but between the CID, Dynamic Development system, their continued release of Organized Events with the option for not only players to pick up the kits but the retailers too (who were previously banned from being PGs) is very far away from GW ending the Outrider program and releasing FAQs for non-SM forces every handful of years or so.

Geneguard from reddit:

For anyone who doesn’t have a brick and mortar store nearby: If you have an established club, you can get event kits. Email retailsupport@privateerpress.com for the details.

ErgonomicCat from reddit:

They could continue to run an unsupportable program that alienates their biggest fans and local salespeople. They could continue to playtest in a way that pissed everyone off. They could refuse to give anyone reasons for anything.

Luckily, they’re not doing those things!

Ignatious from MuseOnMinis forums:

In my opinion, while this is sad and the end of an era, I don’t think it’s as bad as some may feel. I know myself and many other PGs I’ve talked to aren’t going to just stop running events and helping at cons and trying to build awesome communities to play games with all of you wonderful people just because the PG program is gone. I didn’t join for the free stuff. I joined because I love the game and the people and wanted to try to make a better community and home for people to feel welcome and to play in. I’ll still be at the store on game night throwing down with anyone willing, running demos and tournaments and leagues just like I did before. Free shit, while nice, isn’t why I do this, and isn’t why many PGs did it. The Gang will still be around and still be active even if we’re not called that anymore. You won’t be rid of us that easily :)

Those against:

Wayne62682 from reddit:

Something happened to PP in the last two years. Ever since then, they’ve increasingly become lazy and arrogant like the GW of old and are walking down that same path, like Sauron following Morgoth into darkness.

OldHat from BoLS:

I am probably reading too much into it and overthinking it… but I feel like PP is taking a step towards GW territory from when GW was kinda bad (no forums, no customer outreach, less approachable).

DrakeRaids from reddit:

I’m pretty worried about the future of the game at this point. I was intending to buy the new faction right out of the gate but at this point I may go on a purchasing freeze. I want to see how things shake out. May be a good time to start unloading some factions.

JediAnakinSolo from reddit:

MK3 was a great boost already for Guildball, Infinity and the Batman Miniature game, on top of GW trying to hide their past a little. This is going to further drive the wedge I think.

 

2 Comments

  1. RK March 10, 2017 Reply
  2. wayne62682 March 11, 2017 Reply

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