Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Hasbro / Wizards of the Coast Buys Games Workshop

The following fax arrived at work, with the familiar GW corporate logo and header at the top of it:

"Good morning,

On April 1st, Hasbro Incorporated, parent company of Wizards of the Coast, purchased a majority share and controlling interest of Games Workshop Group PLC.  This is exciting news for the gaming industry, as the leading manufacturer of role-playing and collectible card games and the leading manufacturer of miniature games have now been consolidated into the same family.

What does this mean for the staff of Games Workshop?  It means that your stores are now able to expand their product ranges to offer more than just Games Workshop products.  Soon, retail staff will be able to demo not only Warhammer games, but also run intro games and tournaments of Magic the Gathering, and Pokémon the Trading Card Game.

By bringing these amazing worlds together, Hasbro / WotC is presented with a whole host of new possibilities... one which the front line sales staff of the existing Games Workshop retail stores are well positioned to deliver.

Let me be the first to say, welcome to the fold!


April Phules
CEO Hasbro Gaming Division"

The GW retail stores on the west coast of Canada (the closest GW stores to the WotC headquarters in Washington State) were the first to receive these faxes.  Corporate memos arrived regularly in this manner, but never had the content been quite so shocking.  Within minutes, the store manager of GW West Vancouver was calling the store manager in Burnaby (the flagship store of the region).  After a heated and outraged rant, he threatened to quit his job if he and his staff were going to be required to run demo games of Pokémon.

More phone calls came in.  The staff of one store was calling the next, asking if they had also received the shocking news.  The store staff then sent a copy of the fax on to the Canadian HQ of GW.

Finally, the area manager (who was out of town at the time) called in to the Burnaby store for a routine check-in.  The store manager then told him about the fax, and read it out aloud to him after setting the phone to speaker mode so that all the staff could hear his reaction.

After the first paragraph had been read aloud, the area manager began muttering, "I've got to call Martin, I've got to call Martin (Martin Perkins was the Retail Manager for GW North America)."  He continued to mumble this repeatedly, even after the last line of the fax was read to him.  It wasn't until he said that he needed to hang up and call GW HQ right away, that the retail staff re-read the name of the "Hasbro CEO" over again and then pointed out the date, that he finally stopped his panicked ramble.

This all happened on my day off while I was a lowly red-shirt (retail salesperson) at the Games Workshop Burnaby store years and years ago... the flagship store of Western Canada.  Sometime after noon, I calmly walked into the store, greeted my co-workers, and asked them how they liked my fax that I had sent them from my home that morning.

One of my co-workers gave me a dumbfounded stare.  "You sent that!?" he exclaimed.  He then ran to the back of the shop, and brought out my boss, the store manager.

The manager then got me to call the area manager.  After a brief, "Ha ha, you got me", I then received a stern warning NEVER to forge an official-looking corporate fax ever again.

Some time later, I was fired from my job at GW. 


  1. To put this in context, the year was 2001. Hasbro had JUST bought Wizards of the Coast not too long before, and WotC had purchased TSR not long before that. Just about everyone I knew that worked at GW was absolutely convinced that we were going to be next. That was a situation I absolutely HAD to try and take advantage of, but it kind of ballooned way beyond my expectations, as I had only faxed my own store, and the two closest to it (West Vancouver and Victoria).

    We regularly received official news and instructions from Missisauga (Canadian HQ) and Baltimore (North American HQ) in this fashion. Most of the time it was to show us the new release schedule for the upcoming period, and the store target sales numbers, but on occasion we got various corporate missives. I simply cut the letterhead off one of them, taped it to a blank sheet, then printed out my own text below it. Then I faxed it from home (I even had an unlisted number, so they couldn't tell it was from me), and sent it on it's merry little way.

    From what I understand, it got re-sent to a few other shops, and even the mail order HQ, and got read by more than the few managers I had expected it to. Once they got over the fact that it was just an April Fools joke, they then realized just how easy it was to mess with their retail operations with just a half-assed forged fax. However, it was kind of like the story about the Emperor's New Clothes... no one wanted to admit just how freaked out and fooled they were, so they downplayed it as much as they could, and let the whole thing get forgotten (although we DID tease the West Van manager for nearly quitting his job out of his intense hatred for Pokemon).

    Funny thing is, since I posted a link to this blog article on Facebook to a few groups, most people never even bothered clicking through the link, and didn't get the point that this was a real life story of one low ranking red shirt inadvertently pissing off several levels of management. Instead, I got a lot of people who just read the header, and dismissed it as a poorly conceived Facebook prank.

    Oh well. I can't blame them much. In this day of mass media induced ADD, I guess it was unrealistic of me to expect anyone to spend more than 20 seconds actually READING anything.

  2. Very cool story! Someone posted it on FB as a real announcement and I skipped over the body until the picture caught my attention and I saw it was a backstory, which I proceeded to read completely :p

    1. Thanks Jose. It wasn't originally intended to be an April Fools joke (altho I guess it read that way). I was just looking for something to write about, and I realized it was almost April 1st. I recalled this event, and thought it would be an interesting insight into what it was like to work at GW right after the Hasbro purchase of WotC.

  3. Great story, thanks for sharing it. It also shows more of how corporate GW is and lost touch with the salespersons who are directly involved with the consumers. For a company that sells "Chaos" products you would think they would be more understandable 8)

    1. GW certainly has turned things around lately though. I think they've found their sense of humour again, which makes this former GW employee (and lifelong customer) very happy indeed.

  4. Funny story, although you "took your life in your own hands." In my experience, corporate big shots don't like being made to look the fool. I am not surprised you got fired. I felt sorry for you though cause that must have been a rotten experience.
    But now, years later, do you feel like you recovered well from that? I hope so.
    I like your work, keep writing or start again!! :)

    1. To be fair (and honest), I'm pretty sure my being let go was completely unrelated to this prank. We used to pull crap like this all the time, and while it sometimes raised eyebrows (Brits are awesome at understated outrage, and Canadians are almost as good), we were rarely punished for it.

      Thanks for the complement. I've got about a dozen half-finished blog articles sitting in the folder at the moment, and never found the time or motivation to finish them. I do need to keep going with this... even though many bloggers seem to be abandoning their blogs for Facebook these days, I always like the blog format... writing articles allows for more depth, more pics, and the posts stick around and keep getting hits LONG after they've been published. Not like FB, where the posts seem to have the permanence of a sandcastle below the tide line.