The internet never fails to provide endless affirmations that people have opinions. Strong opinions. So it was no surprise when Games Workshop announced details about their hotly anticipated app, the collective fanbase lost their minds on both fronts. I’ll provide my own unasked-for opinion here, if only to get my views down in writing so I can point to this blog when I get asked the same question for the seventeenth time. So let’s break it down:
What They Told Us
The announcement article billed the app as the “essential digital companion” for players, and that it will become more useful over time. They go on to say that the app itself is free, and that the core game rules are included, as well as a digital version of any physical book you would buy henceforth, placed in a digital library in your new My Warhammer account. This alone is cause for joy, in my opinion, which I’ll get to later.
The paid side of the app, coming in at around $5/month, includes the full rules for the game (things like blast rules, command points, etc), the full library of 8th Edition army books (which will potentially be removed as they are made obsolete), as well as an army builder tool for matched play.
What I Think About All of This
It’s fantastic. Truly. And I barely know how the army builder aspect of it will function. I’m not a mindless sycophant or a Games Workshop apologist, I will happily challenge something if I feel it isn’t worth my time, these are genuine feelings of a typically cynical consumer. So before you make your mind up, read through this and let me know in the comments if you still disagree – I’d be happy to hear differing opinions!
BattleScribe is free, why on earth would I need this? There are a few reasons I can immediately think of, the first is that I want to remind you that, like many of the “free” apps on your phone, BattleScribe is decidedly not free. It is ad-driven, and even has a subscription model (that I have happily been paying for years). We have become so used to these ad-supported apps and their periodic nuisance of an advertisement that we have come to expect this as the norm. How dare a company charge for a product they’ve produced? Why can’t they just load it up with ads like everyone else!
Secondly, the user experience for BattleScribe isn’t exactly pleasant, either. Don’t tell me you haven’t lagged on a loading screen, struggled to find that one wargear option hiding in an overly complex nested menu, or “accidentally” clicked on the strangely-sexy-anime-school-simulator app advertisement when searching for the little “X” on the top right of the screen. Then there’s always the risk of the data just being wiped for no good reason. A paid-for application run by the parent company of the game we are all fans of will have employed UX designers, coders, and teams of people whose sole job it is will be to make it a smooth, user-friendly experience. This isn’t a fan-made app that outsources the actual army-data to innumerable people who interpret and implement the rules as best they can (we’ve all seen mistakes on BattleScribe). That isn’t a knock on BattleScribe, either – they work with what they have, and it gets the job done, but you get what you pay for.
My daughter loves [ANIMATED MOVIE X]. If you’re a parent, you know exactly how important it is to get [ANIMATED MOVIE X] blasting at all hours so the kiddos can watch it for the 3,826th time. I can find some janky Chinese rip-off site to stream the movie for free. Absolutely free. It would cost me nothing to watch it. I just need to boot up the 3rd party device on my TV, sift for hours through dubious lists trying to find the best one, and pray it’s not doing any harm to my devices. Why, then, do I pay for Disney+? I can get it for free elsewhere! Video quality, reliability, and other various ‘extras’ are high on that list of reasons why, and at $70.00 a year? Small price to pay. I can similarly find all of the codex material online for free, flip through hopefully-clear PDFs of materials, and load up BattleScribe (which doesn’t have all of the rules required to play, mind you), but I would happily pay a fee for the convenience, reliability, and professional quality of the material supported by the parent company itself. So when people say, “Battlescribe does it for free!” I can only imagine that they haven’t bought a codex in 17 years.
If Games Workshop would have announced a month ago that they were providing an app for absolutely no cost, that would not only catalog all of your physical books you purchased moving forward – like codexes – on a digital library, and also auto-update them with FAQ / Errata as they come out, the community would be ecstatic.
But people are fixated on the $5/mo payment to unlock the army builder. And that is an argument I am willing to entertain. $5/mo isn’t cheap, its certainly on the pricier side of things. It’s a price I am personally willing to pay for this service, but I can absolutely empathize with those that feel it prices them out.
It’s the manner in which the pricing model is implemented that has caused so much strife, I feel. If the army builder was included on the free side of things, but perhaps restricted to a single saved army list (for free), and didn’t have printing capabilities, or other additional features, it would make more sense. People are upset because the core function of the army builder should be free – it’s the convenience ‘extras’ that I feel should be at a premium, if change was indeed to take place.
I have a lot to think and say about this topic, and I’ll revisit it tonight when the kids aren’t crawling all over me.