Editorial: White Dwarf, or Not, Your Option

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Picture this – and try to keep up, because seriously, it’s a super-difficult, super-complex idea and I just don’t want to lose you.  Ready?  Here goes… why oh why am I buying White Dwarf?

At this point, I’m wondering how many of you are thinking, “What’s he talking about?  I stopped buying ages ago.”  Or is that prejudicial?

Welcome to Tuesday; my name is Brent (“Hi, Brent!“) and today I’m risking the love I know Jervis Johnson has for me by cow-tipping the sacred beastie with a shotgun.  If you haven’t figured it out, this won’t be a pro-magazine editorial…

…this is me giving notice.

As in, notice to my Favorite Local Game Store Owner:  “Larry,” I said, to which he replied, “Brent, thanks for shopping here and kicking up the street cred with your general bloggery superstardom!”  (I am very street, I am.)  He then went on to point out how obviously I would have won the 40K WarGames Con Tournament had a mysterious sickness not laid me low on Saturday.

That, and getting my butt kicked by a girl in Round II… but you’re not interested in that story, surely.

Let’s not repeat the conversation verbatim, being embarrassingly full of flowery compliments as it was.  Eventually, I asked about White Dwarf magazine.

Here’s the deal: he orders 10 magazines every month.  Looking back three months, he sold 3 of last issue, 5 of the issue before that, and 3 of the issue before that – if you’re following the math, he sold a bit over 1/3 of the product, leaving unmovable, leftover stock.

“It has been that way for awhile,” he said, “to the point I’m getting sick of it.  I’ve been carrying it at a loss for awhile, but it’s getting worse.”  Why carry it at a loss?  Larry isn’t a foolish businessman, having run a successful local store in a market geared toward discount internet sales for two decades, so there’s always more than one reason.  He said it was a service to his customers…

…but a business major would call it a loss-leader.  He carries it so his customers don’t go elsewhere.  If a customer wants it bad enough, he might drive across town to the competition.  Profit margins being slim, the possibility of losing even a bit of business is a consideration.  The hypothetical customer might purchase more than just the one magazine, after all.

But if he isn’t as worried now, it begs the question, “Why?”

Why indeed.  Demand is at an all-time low, and it’s very likely I’m the last local holdout who’d even notice if he stopped carrying it.

*insert thoughtful pause*

Sorry to go here, but it’s just not good anymore.

Please understand, it’s taken a long time before I’ve come to this.  I’ve purchased every White Dwarf magazine for two decades, but in a very real way issues older than some of you reading this are currently better than what’s published, currently more interesting.

White Dwarf was once great because the love of the hobby came through in every issue, so much so I could read an article about on a game system I didn’t play and still enjoy it.  It was innovative, a look behind the scenes for gamers, by gamers.  Perhaps most importantly, it was eye-candy.  Sure, you could see the most recent models painted in the Heavy Metal style, but there was no shortage of talented hobbyists featuring their unique creations, challenging one another to greatness.

How many of you remember Dave Taylor and John Shaffer in what I consider the heyday of the magazine?  Besides wondering how they had the time to paint so much, I’d spend hours studying the conversions and painting and composition and… you get the point.  It was different and unique.  It was inspiring.

Heavy Metal features amazing models painted at a high level of skill – but I’ve seen it.  It’s in the Codices / Codexes and the Army Books and so on, and this was before the widespread use of the Internet.

The current magazine is way too commercial.  It’s choked with advertisements not-so-cleverly touted as ‘sneak peeks,’ and… well, the Standard Bearer article.  And the standard Battle Report with the life just shaken out of it.

And I’m paying 10 bucks for the privilege?  It’s like inviting in the old ladies with the Bible tracks and expecting to discuss religion.

Nope.  They’ll discuss their religion.

And I’m paying 10 bucks for the privilege?

Here’s the kicker, folks:

You can get it all online for free.

You can get it all online for free!

*sigh*

I’m going to sell a T-Shirt:  Bloggers Do It Better.

So what can be done?  What would save my hobby dollars?

What Brent Considers Improvements

Cut back on the advertisements.  Cut out the ridiculous list of stores carrying GW products.  Your customers can find it online, no problem.

Expand the content online; you do it already, just simplify the method.  Have a White Dwarf dedicated site with additional material – you can link it back to the ridiculously overdone primary website.

Invite more reader input.  Your customers want to drool over the incredible army Joe Blow in Mississippi did.

The battle reports are a great feature, but they’re getting stale.  Change up the delivery.  Keep it simple in the mag then expand it online.

What happened to the Golden Daemon features?  Bring in worldwide content and, again, expand it online.

Let in-house hobbyists go nuts – give them four pages and free reign.  They know what we want better than we do.

Give us two or more pages of quality fluff each month, or a serial story.

What about a monthly or quarterly narrative including scenarios and units?  Then invite the player base to contribute on their sites.

Let’s end it with this, my wish for Games Workshop: stop fighting the future.  Work with us online, not against us.  Acknowledge our contribution and we’ll be pathetically grateful.  We want to love you, White Dwarf!

It’s sad, really.

Well, here we are boys and girls, Unicorns and children of all ages… the end.

Except it isn’t!  It’s your turn, Oh Faithful Reader.  Do you agree or disagree?  Do you like the magazine?  Am I going too far?  What improvements would you advocate, and why?

Thoughts?  Comments?  Hugs and gropings?

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