Until recently I wasn't familiar with the acronym FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), but I must admit I was shocked when I found out it is actually a kind of social anxiety.
From the Wikipedia:
It is characterized by a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing. FOMO is also defined as a fear of regret, which may lead to concerns that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience or a profitable investment.
If you're a hobbyist and a GW model colector, I bet you raised a brow when reading that quote.
In recent years we (the hobbyists) were happy because the relentless stream of releases coming from Nottingham meant a nearly infinite number of shiny cool models to build, convert and paint. But at some point some of us started to feel pushed to buy more stuff, post it online, and so on.
Trying to keep up with a company that big is just impossible unless you're rich. And I'm not. I'm not even a completist, but I like conversions more than anything else, and looking for good kits with the best bits always felt like a funny hunt.
I wasn't bothered by what scalpers were doing on release days because I don't buy limited editions, specially books. But that was a problem for the average modeler. And it got worse (Sisters of Battle, Lumineth Realmlords and the already cursed Indomitus box are some of the examples).
Then we saw those Blood Bowl cards and dice fly from the (virtual) shelves and started to think "Sold out? Again? Damn, those guys at GW are bad estimating sales". No, dear Wilbur, they are not.
Even non-limited releases like the Blood Bowl 2020 suffered from this: It took me 2 months to get my copy even ordering it the very Monday the stores received the weekly excel document with prices, 3 weeks before the release date.
Also, do you remember the first Warcry box?
A lot of us thought COVID was responsible for the lack of stock, and Brexit* worsened it by an order of magnitude (my orders from January didn't make it to my country, and I'm writing this on the first of April). But there's something more.
Have you heard about artificial scarcity?
Just in case, read that tweet again, please. And now think about the latest news.
Yeah. I don't think they are sending only a few boxes of Cursed City to the small independent stores because they don't have enough stock. They are faking a "sense of limited edition without being really limited". And I firmly believe this has two main goals:
- Redirect sales from independent sellers to GW sites (with no discount, but maybe you won't miss the item on release date).
- Triggering impulsive purchases because of that fear of missing out. No one wants to pay a big fortune to those eBay scalpers, so it's better to pay a little fortune to the good old James Workshop. Right?
As a friend of mine told me last week, toy companies are very aware of this phenomenon, and sure GW has learned from the action figure and doll market. Even Nintendo is doing that. Why not GW? We call our grey sprues "plastic crack" for a reason.
Add salt to the wound of the European customers who read "You will not pay for Brexit" and then saw a price rise... It felt like a great "fuck you", and you'll understand why some of us are getting off the hype train.
You want us to buy stuff fast? Maybe it will be OOP soon. Maybe we'll get expansions that will get sold out fast as lightning**.
Well, not this guy. I won't buy the Cursed City Box soon and some of my friends won't buy it at all (and that's saying a lot because this was the most anticipated game in years for my group of players and myself).
I like to think that more people will take a minute to reflect on how easy is for the companies to get us hooked, but then: Do you really need to invest all that money every month? 90% of what we buy is covered by dust in our shelves. And it's almost all non-recyclable plastic! This is not sustainable in a lot of ways, and it's obviously bad if you think in the ethics behind that kind of marketing.
This is not a call to action to boycott them, nor asking you not to buy models. Just a line of thought too long for twitter. So here it is.
PS: I'm totally aware that even speaking in those terms, this is free advertising for a company that big.
(*): More on the effect of Brexit and customs mayhem in our orders: Take a look to what happened to my friend this week after ordering from GW in January (read the whole thread).
(**): That's what another friend of mine pointed out this morning: "We, as specialist games collectors, know very well that if they don't sell a lot at launch, won't receive any expansions and will be cancelled in a year". So we buy fast and pray for the best.