A surprising email greeted the Press Gangers, volunteers and community managers for Privateer Press, this morning as they discovered the volunteer-driven program helping new players start out with Warmachine and Hordes was set to be closed down at the end of April by Privateer Press. An official press release has been posted on the Privateer Press website as well.
The email sent to the volunteers was posted on the /r/Warmachine subreddit by user elwombat. The official announcement makes note of the overall size of the Press Ganger program and the amount of manpower required on Privateer Press’ end to keep it running. In the company’s eyes, it appears that both Warmachine and Hordes has grown to the point where maintaining a fully supported volunteer program at that scale simply became unrealistic and thus ended up on the chopping block. The Press Ganger email does note that details regarding the slow winding down of the program will be released shortly, along with all current Press Gangers receiving a farewell package of sorts for their hard work in growing the Warmachine and Hordes community. The company will be focusing more on community support and organized play via retail outlets rather than independent player groups going forward.
This would not be the first time such a step has been taken by a wargaming company. Games Workshop did away with their Outrider program in the early 2000s after determining the game had reached a critical mass and continuing was no longer needed to grow and sustain the player base. The decision, like nearly all of Games Workshop’s decisions, has been hotly debated online ever since.
This move also brings into question the efficacy of volunteer programs like the Press Gangers in today’s modern, digital world. Video sites like YouTube and Twitch make sharing content like tutorials, battle reports, tournaments, and hobby discussions incredibly easy for companies and individuals. Sharing said videos across various social media platforms to potential new players is equally as effortless and requires significantly less company resources and oversight. Perhaps the death of the Press Ganger program is just as much a victim of technology and changing times as it is the success and growth of Warmachine and Hordes.
There is also a great deal of speculation regarding this decision and the ongoing class-action lawsuits between Wizards of the Coast and their volunteer Judges regarding lost wages. While no official statement regarding the lawsuit’s impact on the decision has been made by Privateer Press as of this writing, it’s hard to ignore the possibility of such an impact and the chilling effect it could potentially have on the wargaming community as a whole. Not just in volunteer programs like the Press Gangers or Warcors for Infinity, but also for the level of company support for various national and regional tournaments and events as well. Only time will tell what the effects of the Wizards of the Coast lawsuit will be for the tabletop gaming community as a whole.