Warmachine: Post Press Gangers

It’s been a month since the Press Gang was disbanded, has gaming changed in your area?

Chalkboard here from Chalkboard War, with a brief interruption in my Best of the Best series of articles (you can check out the latest, on Defensive Stats, here). I wanted to take a minute to talk about the news that has swept most Warmachine and Hordes communities: the Press Gang was disbanded. Now that it’s been a bit of time, I wanted to think about the reasoning for the decision and the effects on the community.

While I was a Press Ganger, I certainly don’t have any inside track beyond anyone else. I’ve got my hunches on both why it happened and what the decision means for Warmachine, Hordes, and Privateer Press. Thus, you’ll see that I leverage an inquisitive structure in this, and end with questions for the community at large. And I’ll start with: while it happened quickly, I believe that Privateer Press did what they did with a great deal of courtesy and thankfulness for their group of volunteers and what they did for years for the company.

Any Clarity on Why it Happened?

There’s the official response, which Bell of Lost Souls has already reported. The argument explained to the Press Gang and to retailers was straightforward. Privateer Press said they could no longer support the Press Gang. The memo used a bit of coded language, referring to “individualized attention” being lacking. For a growing company that is still relatively small-sized, having a full-time employee to manage the Press Gang is likely to be a piece of the puzzle behind lacking “individualized attention”. And of course, here’s where we enter the realm of increased speculation. Let’s think through two arguments, both of which may have some merit. I’ll call them the “Cost” hypothesis and the “WoTC Lawsuit” hypothesis.

Cost Hypothesis

I honestly think this is the reasoning that makes the most sense. The Press Gang was expensive to the company, and there are successful models that can get the same effects with less cost. Let’s talk expensive first. There’s the employee labor that supports the program. That’s what the “individualized attention” language seems to point toward, in part. The Press Gang had hundreds of members, and those numbers do mean labor.

That includes organizing PG’s for convention support. They coordinated event reporting and points rewards. And they did troubleshooting, making sure the public face of the company was well-served by the PG’s. There are likely many more tasks we didn’t see. If I think financially, I see the costs of that role. To start with, salary and benefits in the Seatlle area are a hefty amount. A quick aside: hey PP, how about relocating to out here in the Rust Belt where cost of living is much lower?

Beyond that, there’s the simple costs of the program itself. Press Gangers received product as a perk of running events. And that’s where a lot of cost was likely to lie. The organization of “Ex-Press Gangers” on Facebook alone has 330 members. Then think about all the folks who didn’t join, were so upset they didn’t want to continue thinking about running events, or simply were not on social media. I’ve seen a variety of rough estimates of the material cost of the program, which including shipping are not cheap. Six digit estimates have been floated by others, and I tend to agree with that assessment in my own math.

Evidence: Prize Structure Changes

This gets further support by the move that Privateer Press is making to including a prize for organizing events in their prize materials. This is what Fantasy Flight does with their highly successful rewards programs, and it surely seems to reduce costs–at minimum it cuts all of the organizational costs and position. Surely the Press Gang was more critical and worth the costs when Privateer Press was growing. Yet as organizations mature, they have to make decisions about cost and effectiveness. If that were the motivation for this move, I can understand the logic.

WoTC Lawsuit Hypothesis

Okay, so we’ve all heard this one floated as well. Wizards of the Coast was sued by some of their judges for unpaid wages. Given the position of the Press Gang, could Privateer Press have been worried about this as well? There has been the suggestion that they’ll be using employees for convention support now. Whether that’s the reality of having to get tasks performed at conventions, or positioning to prevent a similar lawsuit seems unclear at best to me.

This one seems to fuel a lot of speculation. I honestly think it can simply support the prior hypothesis. If a program carried potential financial risk, a good business would include that in their cost calculations. If the prior hypothesis is correct, that the Press Gang incurred costs that the company was not willing to bear, this would only trend that upward. Estimating retainer fees for legal defense alone could be part of a calculation.

What Next for Warmachine and Hordes?

This question is why I waited about a month to make this consideration, as the first month’s vitriol and hurt feels among some Press Gangers have now had a chance to fade just a bit. I’ll make just one observation, anecdotal as it may be. Every single Press Ganger I’ve talked to personally hasn’t changed their step one bit. Somewhere, some PG’s no doubt have felt this decision changes things. But for many of us, we run events for the same reason before and after the Press Gang: because we enjoy doing so.

I love the game, so if I want a group of regular players in my area, I’ll take some time to develop the community. I don’t need the Press Gang to do so, and in many ways, all I need is a group of like-minded folk to bounce ideas off of about running events. There’s a fair number of ex-PG’s who are doing just that notion, continuing to share ideas and run events. While the Press Gang may be dead, a Revenant Crew simply arises and takes their place.

What Can You Do?

If gaming has dropped in your area because your Press Ganger is now gone, well… then maybe you can step up in helping culture that group of gamers to share a pastime that you love. It’s pretty easy to organize a steamroller, run a journeyman, or just coordinate a “hey, let’s meet on Thursday nights and play some games” series. And now Privateer Press seems to be moving toward supporting anyone that runs one of their events. As the details of that become clear, it may affect things as well. In many ways, we’re all in the role of ambassadors for the games we love, if we want to keep playing them.

~ What do you think about the ending of the Press Gang? Is there a hypothesis that I missed? Is one stronger than the other? And what does this mean for your meta? How are people (former Press Gangers and just players) stepping up to organize in your area? If no one is, well… what’s stopping you? Share in the comments below!

For more hypothesis testing (“Does Zaal1 work?” is my latest), check out Chalkboard’s Warmachine and Hordes blog at:

www.chalkboardwar.com

  • Red_Five_Standing_By

    Press Gangers were largely useless in my area. They never did enough to really justify their existence, IMO. I would much prefer stores and clubs having control rather than some random member of the community.

    Magic, HeroClix and FFG’s Star Wars games are much better at organized play, IMO. PP just needs to copy what they do. Especially Heroclix. I love being able to log into their site and see upcoming events and when/where they are being held.

    • ZeeLobby

      FFG does a great job imo. It’s the only thing I’ve seen approached by as much enthusiasm by stores locally as MtG. Clearly X-Wing is generating tons of sales. Im super excited to see how Runewars does and if they can keep that same level going.

  • Lord of Deeds

    The only press ganger that I ever came across in my area (one of the 10 largest metro areas in the country) was also one of the owners of LGS I was checking out. Note I didn’t include an “F”.

    If the point of the program was to promote Privateer Press to new and perspective players and provide community outreach to help grow and strenghen local gaming communities, then from my perspective it has utterly failed. Of course YMMV

    • Shawn

      That’s unfortunate. When I was heavy into Warmachine, the Press Ganger was always organizing events. It was only in recent years that they gave that up, due to the stress of events and tourney players “whining.” Others that came after weren’t so great.

      It might be an outdated model anyway, and giving awards to anyone who wants to organize events is better. And it will probably be old PGs since they were so gun-ho to become press gangers to begin with.

    • ZeeLobby

      Yeah. Our press gangers here are super active. Of course I still rarely see them cause we mostly game at friends houses but still, it’s very YMMV.

  • Ghoul2

    I can see PGs doing what they had been doing after only one month. A better follow up will be in 6 months and 1 year. After the former PGs fade away, who will take their place with no incentive to take on the responsibility?

  • WildWingZero

    Another big issue for the PG program was that one Quartermaster being overwhelmed. Over a year ago we lost the last PG for our area in a 60 mile radius. I applied and so did one other person to support our FLGS in that time period. The fact we received no response ultimately and that “it was being worked on” while a few other PGs were being approved in other areas frustrated our community to no end. Our last emails that we sent out went unanswered. So yeah, Cost Hypothesis and being overwhelmed are there, but some kind of word would have taken the sting out a bit.

  • ZeeLobby

    Def feel like the WoTC thing was huge. Several other smaller companies revamped some of their volunteer stuff as well.

  • The PGs around here were nearly all store staff EOs anyway, so for most of them nothing has changed. The few that weren’t attached to a particular store have largely fallen silent, however.

  • Bahkara

    Game was already dead at my FLGS by the time this happened