Pay Where You Play – Pitfalls and Perfection
Originally this post was titled ‘The Problem with Pay Where You Play’. I had a problem with it as an idea. Having asked around, done a little research and thought on it some more I think I now fully understand it and appreciate it. But before we tackle all that, let’s do the simple bits first.
What is ‘Pay Where You Play’
Pay Where You Play is a relatively new term for me. As I understand; it’s the idea that wherever you play your hobby then that’s where you should also buy your minis, books and other hobby related items from. So if you play in a Games Workshop store you buy from there. If you play at an independent hobby store you buy via them. If you play at a club then pay the subscription and do all you can to support them. It’s a simple concept and it revolves around the idea that you should support where you play.
Taken at face value it’s a really great idea. If you’re using someone’s space, terrain, boards, staff time, heating and lighting then you should respect and honour their commitment to the hobby by buying from that store.
It’s worth noting here that I am a special case. I play at home due to work and family commitments. It’s hard to get out, with all my stuff at the right times of the week. It’s easier to set up at home. So my Pay Where You Play is the internet, I guess?
For me, the problem with Pay Where You Play was that it doesn’t fit the buying habits of modern day consumers nor does it fit the complex and backward world of our hobby. On paper it makes perfect sense for all the reasons listed above – you should support where you play because they are providing you with a service; a space to play in.
Consumers have never had it so good, the internet means we can shop everywhere and anywhere at the same time. Picking the best prices, postage costs and quality from all over the world. If you don’t want to build or paint your minis then you can buy painted. If you don’t mind compromising on the building experience you can buy second hand pre-built models fairly cheaply. We also have a great selection of accessories and extras for our minis from a variety of suppliers from all over the world. If you want to use a different head, torso, pair of legs, base, weapon or sword then you can easily.
Apply all this to our hobby and I think the stores that provide space for games have an issue. You do not need to buy from them to play, you can buy elsewhere, bring your minis in and play. There isn’t much to stop you, other than a few frowns and blank faces at your cheeky buying habits. But it wouldn’t surprise me if some Games Workshop stores had a policy on this! I mean does this sound impossible in the future;
To play on Games Workshop tables you must provide a receipt for all the miniatures you wish to use on our gaming tables.
Of course I made that up, but other than doing this there is little a store can do to stop you playing with minis bought online or from another high street retailer. They cannot prove you didn’t buy from as the minis are so widely available.
The point here is that Pay Where You Play is not enforceable. The high street is dying; small retailers, independent stores of all types and even supermarkets are feeling the pinch. Hobby stores cannot rely on Pay Where You Play to keep hobbyists coming into their stores and buying from them.
The world of our hobby and especially Games Workshop related games is a strange place. This isn’t me having a go at Games Workshop, I always try and avoid that as it’s not helpful to anyone. But their approach to IP, Social Media, pricing and some other areas has been very strange – they have taken a kicking in the past as I am sure we all know over these issues. I won’t go into all those things but going into a Games Workshop store can be an odd experience. It can feel like a high pressure sales environment, although that hasn’t happened at my local store – it has elsewhere.
Where I’m going with is that some people can’t afford the full price, some people don’t like the Games Workshop stores and some people have given up on the hobby entirely due to their disagreements with Games Workshop’s approach to conducting business. Bearing those things in mind, it means that Games Workshop stores cannot rely on Pay Where You Play. If someone wishes to buy elsewhere then they can very easily.
If you agree or not with the above issues one aspect is true; this hobby is expensive. The most expensive place to buy your miniatures is a high street retailer. So even if we just go on price stores are immediately on the back foot.
But, and this is a big but! We live and love our hobby. We get excited over the roll of a dice, we feel pain/guilt when a mini falls then breaks and we are drawn into a fantasy world that’s depicted by drawings and novels. Our unwavering love and dedication to the cause is borderline religious! When you meet a new gamer, outside of a store, for the first time there’s a sort of unwritten understanding.
It’s this passion that makes Pay Where You Play a perfect mechanism for supporting hobby stores. It’s a perfect mechanism for stores to use and exploit. You don’t have to Pay Where You Play, it’s not enforceable but that really doesn’t matter when the players care so much. You can’t really say that about many other industries, can you?