Sunday, May 6, 2012

What's behind the new GW paints

At this point we all know about the new lines of paints GW has released. Not only they have expanded the line with more colors and other additions  (i.e. textured paints, glazes, etc) but the whole look and feel of the line has also been refreshed. All of this while keeping the prices. Emperor bless GW for caring so much about their customers!

Well yeah... that's not exactly true. GW has not changed their paints line to improve the quality, to expand the line, or simply to give it a fresher look. Gosh it doesn't even know from the feedback of their customers (side note: GW is notoriously known for not giving a s*** about what their customers say, and GW's customers are notoriously known for complaining about everything). I digress...

The reason behind the new lines is simply saving costs. Sure yeah, thanks for the article. Well it really is. Large companies usually outsource secondary / complementary lines of their business, for reasons that we don't need to discuss now. It's  fairly simple - GW focuses on their core business which is selling miniatures, and the games in which these minis are based. They can of course also sell you paints, brushes, cases and even orange juices if need be. The simplest way to go about this is to go meet the larger suppliers of these products and send them an RFP (request for proposal). This is basically a document in which they disclose what their looking for (i.e. what type of quality, prices, volumes and guarantees) and they just screw with it the main suppliers, those big enough to support the large volumes GW is going to be asking of them, big enough to be reliable and to respond to unexpected issues, which I can tell you happen often.

So some guy with an expensive suit and a rock hard face sources different suppliers, and closes the deal with the cheapest one. Not the best quality-for-price. Not the one with the most innovative or better product. The cheapest price gets the contract. That's how it goes. Think about it - how many GW customers have actually tried paints other than those that GW sells? and why should them, if GW paints are accessible and easily related to what they want to paint? if someone is actually looking for something different, well they will go to any other brand that focuses on what you're looking for, be it Vallejo for quality, Army Painter to get a couple of platoons ready in Sunday morning... you get the point.

This is the sad, ugly face of business. The new paints are here just because they are cheaper, and once the contract is over (typically 2~4 years) they will look for even a cheaper price. Don't get me wrong, the fact that the whole point is about lowering costs doesn't mean that we users don't get anything out of it. Getting lower costs (and thus improving the margins as the retail prices are kept) means GW could go to market with lower margins in other lines as the paints compensate for it. For example, say the production costs of brushes (of course also outsourced) suddently go up. The higher margin of the paints could help GW to keep the price on the brushes.

Another benefit is that changing the supplier actually helps to redefine the lines, and you fix more easily recurrent problems with the old lines, like the sealing of the pots or certain type of colors that the old supplier could not be getting right. And internally puts the focus in the paint lines and helsp create the appetite to solve other gaps, like that book/video from the 'Eavy Metal team, or the detailed painting guides.

Bottom line is that, even all this is just about money, the users can still get a few good things out of it. Even if GW never considered them.

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