Thursday, March 8, 2012

A meeting with Games Workshop CEO Mark Wells



I have been a Games Workshop fan since 1998 when my two little nephews made me buy them a set of painted Space Marines from Matt Sabol (of Sabol Army Transport) at DragonCon in Atlanta.  Since then I have been a huge fan and never-ending supporter of GW.  Oh sure the latest round of price increases get me going, but Games Workshop provides me the biggest hobby in my hobby-filled life and I have probably enriched them to the tune of $ 20,000 over the past three years, especially because of Forgeworld!  I love the game and make no secret of it.

So the other day while picking up some Blood Angels Terminator Sanguinary Priests painted by a buddy, I was introduced by James Bell, LA Battle Bunker manager, to Mark Wells, Games Workshop CEO. Now, I would venture that most gamers would not get that opportunity, but I am know how to handle myself with another business professional.  Mr. Wells was over from the UK on one of his regular visits to the US, and was visiting the Bunker with the head of North American Retail.  Despite the fact that I had just left the gym and was in shorts and an Imperial Fist yellow t-shirt, James Bell introduced me to them.

So what was Mr. Wells like?  Well, a total gentleman and a fan of the game.  A man who knows his audience and is a gamer himself.  A father whose two teenage boys play and someone who loves the game.  A person who I would enjoy sitting at a pub and talking the game with.  Not what you expected, eh?  

Old time gamers love to envision a company in Games Workshop that is run by two groups, suits and gamers.  Bean counters and hard core gamers.   That there is a schism between these two groups who fight to control the company.  So it would be a surprise to gamers to find a CEO who genuinely loves and plays the game and who hobbies and plays with his sons.

Now we didn't talk business at all, other than for me to tell him how important Forgeworld and Black Library are to their business, and my experience with 40K, a fact he heartily agreed was important to GW.  (Oh I also told him how great a manager James Bell is...because James truly is the best game store manager in the universe).

We stood in front of the cabinet at the Bunker that holds many of my best Crimson Templar models (and Tom McBride's huge IG Leviathan) and talked the game.  We talked what made the game fun and the nature of gaming.  We chatted about competition vs. fun, and we talked a lot about Apocalypse.

It was a total pleasure, and I feel even better about Games Workshop now that I have gotten to meet its CEO because he understands gamers.  He gets it.  Plus, I think our conversation helped change my understanding of my own thought processes about Games Workshop.  Because recently, after 14 years of being a total GW fanboy I have come to complain about the continuing price increases, Finecast and such.  Now there is a face to the faceless corporate monolith that is Games Workshop, my favorite company in the whole world (yes, more than Apple!).  And that sheds new light on the company and the decisions they make.  I still don't like the price increases, but next time I read GW's quarterly or annual report (which I do every time they come out), and read Mark's words I will have a better feel for them and know the insight that is going into those decisions.

I have had interactions with two previous GW North America CEOs and a bunch of people inside the studio at GW Nottingham, and have always found everyone I meet in GW engaging and passionate.  It's nice to know the CEO is the same.

Alec
 

In case you were interested in Mr. Well's bio, here it is:

Mr. Mark N. Wells has been Chief Executive Officer of Games Workshop Group plc since December 3, 2007. Mr. Wells held various management roles with Next PLC and Boots Group PLC,, including Director of Customer Service, Boots The Chemists and Director of Merchandise and Marketing, Boots Stores, Netherlands. Mr. Wells joined Games Workshop in May 2000 as director of strategy and planning. He has been an Executive Director of Games Workshop Group plc since December 3, 2007. He qualified as a solicitor with Messrs Herbert Smith. Mr. Wells holds M.A. in Law from St Johns College, Cambridge (Exhibition) and, MBA from Sterling University.

11 comments:

CLBenarius said...

Thank you for an interesting read. That sounds like a great experience, made all the more so because of your professional experience. I am pleasently surprised by Mr. Well's background. I must admit to falling prey to negative conclusions on GW's marketing strategy without taking the time to research the CEO's credentials. It is nice to hear he genuinly is a fan himself and i would find it very interesting to know how he balances the love and passion for the hobby and the objective value adding desicion making.

Machinator said...

Uh-oh, I hope nothing else of mine was in that cabinet. I'd hate to get an e-mail saying:

"Hey, Alec showed me all the nice models you make. Unfortunately we're going to have to sue you now." ;)

Son of Dorn said...

Well Tom, I'm sure Nick at CHS could refer you to a good lawyer if worst came to worst ;)

@ Alec: I hope all of this uptalk of GW's CEO isn't coming from a sweet FW discount. :)

Alliance said...

Did you take him over to the rack of the finecast boxes and ask him to pull one out at random to see the complete lack of quality control for himself?... Just kidding. Did you ask him about the finecast debacle?

Loken said...

@Dorn I WISH!!!

@Alliance, the purpose of the chat was to get to know him, not grill him!

Alec

Ghostin said...

Until I see him and his kids *playing* at a major non-GW tournament, I will consider him to only 'get' half the hobby at best. :-)

Loken said...

Well, I don't feel playing in a major non-GW tournament a requirement to "get it." I don't and I get it.

Alec

t-hawk said...

I'm looking forward to meeting James when he starts managing the Factory Store in Memphis. I've heard a lot of good things about him.

The Pirate Viking said...

Jeez Ghostin... I am so sick of the superior attitude of the "tournament scene", you aren't half the hobby. You are more like 20% if that. For every one of you guys there are 8-10 of us playing in our garages and living rooms and never once thinking that this makes us "better" than the tournament scene. Sadly the same cannot be said for you guys.

What is unfortunate is that almost all of the tournament scene has an online presence whereas I don't reckon more than a quarter of garage players are active in the online hobbyist community. This gives a false skewing of importance to the voices of the very few.

To anyone who is cynical. I have also met Mark Wells, both as a staff member and as a "civilian". Every time I have done so he has been a complete gentleman with a love for the hobby that is remarkable for someone in his position. I really think that this is largely because his children are so into it. He has a fathers perspective. GW really isn't some faceless corporation staffed with suits. It is a friendly place filled with people who are feeding their families by selling goblins. If that isn't ace I don't know what is.

This turned into a sort of essay. Oops. Good read Loken and matching my every experiance.

Alliance said...

Yeah, I get it. But the finecast stuff is frankly my only gripe with GW. Funny that Forgeworld now also uses it. I got a bunch of autocannon dread arms and the were finecast. Surprisingly no defect.

David Carnahan said...

I see there are a fair amount of non tournament players posting here. GW does not realize how much the tournament scene has done for their profits since 3rd edition. I am a hobby player and a tournament player. I see most hobby guys buy $100 -200 a year where the tournament guys buy whole new armies and drop upwards of $800 or more a year. I have a buddy right now that just dropped $950 on a new tournament army. I spent over $5000 last year to fill out some of my smaller armies.

GW as a whole do not understand competitive gaming. The tournament players have been the back bone of sales for at least the US. GW will lose those gamers unless they Do something to bring them back. Other companies get the us and want our money. I do not want to have a beer with my buddy after a game, I want to destroy him and make him hate me for a few hours. Then he can come over to my house and have a beer when we are hanging out watching a movie or a game or playing video games.

So when someone says the CEO is a gamer, they are right but also right when they say he does not get most gamers, at least the money spending players.

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