Sunday, January 5, 2014

Secondhand, fakes and temptation. What is your position?

The awesomeness that is the "iPed".
*Squeek*

New Year's day has come and gone.

Traditionally, this is a time for reflecting on the past, and thinking about the future...
...but for the moment, let's focus on the past, and one thing that has been bothering me (it will take us a bit of a preamble to get there, so bear with me.)

Over the past year, my collecting gene has really come to the fore, with a pretty much constant acquisition of models. However, there has been one ever-present aspect to this year's purchasing that is in stark contrast to the past. With very few exceptions (Tau Riptide, I'm looking at you) most of the  models I purchased in 2013 were bought on "the 'bay".

On reflection, there are several reasons for this:

1. Time.
I wanted to try a new army (Black Templars) but didn't want to put the hundreds of hours into collecting, assembling and painting them all. Whenever possible on eBay I try to purchase painted or undercoated Black Templar models, and then bring them up a notch with some washes or highlights etc.

2. Money.
I am gainfully employed (hopefully to remain the case) but buying a whole new army from Games Workshop (especially in Tokyo) is a major investment, especially when there are other things tugging at my wallet (before you ask,I mean family things...like paying for the kids education.)

As an example, here in Tokyo, a pack of 5 Stern guard costs 6,500 yen (37.20 GBP) if you pick it up at the store (you need to buy more than 10,000 yen before shipping is free).
Let's see how that compares to other countries:
Japan: 37.2 GBP (JP RRP: 6,500JPY)
UK: 30.00 GBP
USA:  30.15 GBP (US RRP: 50 USD)
Australia: 37.64 GBP (AUD RRP: 70 AUD)
(exchange rates correct at time of writing.)

Let's be clear, this is not a complaint about GW's global pricing structure or their markup. This is about my disposable income! GW are totally within their rights to charge whatever they can for their product. Do I agree with their pricing? That is a different matter, but many industries do this, including of course the one I work in. Bottom line? Let's not forget that GW exists to make money for their shareholders, and they will (and arguably should) charge what they can. 

As you can see though, the prices that they CAN charge in Tokyo make starting a new army from scratch an expensive proposition, especially if aiming to play in the 2,000 point range...

3. Thrills.
Yes, thrills. eBay is actually a lot of fun. It has that "Car Boot Sale" underlying excitement ("Let's have a look over there, who knows what bargain we might find?") as well as the thrill of the chase ("Arggh, I have been outbid! How much more can I afford?") and the kill ("Yesssssss, it is mine - and I saved 30%!")
By the way, if you are ever on the Tokyo subway in the morning and you hear someone say that in English, it is likely to be me. Almost nobody speaks on the Tokyo subway (blessed silence!) and I have never seen anyone else managing a bidding frenzy on eBay on the way in to work...

4. Convenience.
Since GW closed my local store (tiny, passionately-staffed hobby dungeon, how I miss thee!) it just isn't that convenient to shop from the main store in Tokyo, and with my schedule being quite busy, waiting a week or two for an order to arrive from eBay isn't a big deal.

I've blogged about how eBay works well for me before, so I mention these things now because they are connected to what has been bothering me. Which is:
"Should I be contributing more to Games Workshop?" and (more controversially) "Should we all?"

At the back of my mind as I look back on 2013 is a nagging guilt that by not buying more from GW, I am not contributing to the future success of the game and the company producing it. This is exacerbated by the fact that I really like GW models, and I don't want the company to go out of business. Should I feel guilty?

Probably not. 

After all, secondhand sales are a totally legal way to purchase most items (unless they are stolen) and I have plenty of good reasons above for using eBay. In addition, it is not like I don't contribute to the bottom line at all. I purchase paints, hobby supplies and rulebooks throughout the year (a not insignificant amount) and like most customers, have contributed thousands (and thousands?) of dollars over time.

This year there is a new wrinkle though, and that is that I have become aware of the market for "fake" GW items (Yeah I know, where have I been?!)
I personally wasn't really aware of the market for these models until a number of posts where an avid collector lauded the overall quality of the model, and where you can see that a fully painted item is indistinguishable from the original (to amateurs like me at least).

I must admit that I was tempted...
...but only for a second.

GW receives nothing at all at any stage from these sales (although I guess the pirate bought a model on which they make the copy?). Why is this important? When an original model is created there must be a number of people involved - sculptors, designers, technicians etc. and all these people need to be paid before a single model comes off the production line. I'm not the creative sort myself, but through my work I have come to have an enormous respect for people who do create (or are involved in the process of bringing a creation to life and then to the customer), and I am strongly of the opinion that their right to profit from their work should be protected.

I wonder what the scale of the business is? A couple of small knockoff shops (in which case it is probably more trouble than it is worth to worry about them) or a much larger industry? I rarely get a game in here so I am not well connected enough to the larger gaming community to get a sense from other local players. In either case, I have decided not to buy these items. I think it is important to make an informed decision about purchasing and that is mine in this case...
...but is that really different from buying from eBay?

I think so, because at some point, each of the models I have bought on eBay were purchased from GW (again, if they are not fakes).

Let's be very clear, I don't blame or look down on people who DO buy these models, and I don't wish this to be seen to be an attack or a high-handed stance. It is only a step away from secondhand and I understand the desire to find alternative ways to own something when the original is so expensive. 

What do you think about this?
  • Is this a complex question, or is it simple?
  • How big do you think the GW fake industry is?
  • Would you buy fakes? If so why or why not?
  • If you have bought these items, how did you find the quality and service? What is your opinion?
  • Are you a sculptor or artist in the industry? (or any industry?) What do you think?
If you want to contribute in the comments, please do so, but please note that I am seeking opinion, experience and insight, not personal attacks!

Welcome to 2014...

*Squeek*
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