As I scanned the front page of the Privateer Press Discussion section of the PiP forums this morning, I noted no less than nine separate threads with ‘War Room’ in the title. One of these recent posts was already to eleven pages in its infancy. That is quite impressive, especially for a forum where multi-page threads can be somewhat rare. If you have been anywhere around the Warmachine online universe, you have probably seen the same, speculation and commentary abounds on the unreleased app. As a Software Engineer by trade, and one who knows quite a few mobile app developers, I have watched in simultaneous frustration and amusement at how Privateer Press has handled the War Room release, and I wanted to share a few thoughts before the app comes out and I give it a full review.
What has Privateer Press done well with the War Room release? Well, I think it spoke a great deal about their company that they wanted to produce this application in the first place. The company is doing well, sales are high, and there is generally good relationship with their players. iBodger was a wonderful application for list building and army tracking, and so PiP certainly didn’t need to develop an app. This company has always impressed me with how in control of their world they wanted to be, and stepping into mobile application development is not a task to be taken lightly. Early in the goings, PiP shared a respectable amount of information about what the app would look like; they even setup an FAQ to answer the litany of early questions that surfaced. A lot of good excitement was created, and the community seemed to support the direction the company was taking. Furthermore, when the initial release date was not met, PiP was very forthcoming with the community on the reasons for this delay when they could have hidden behind silence. This too, I respected. And even when a delay would inevitably disappoint the players, PiP reworked the application’s requirements regardless to work in features they deemed important.
Unfortunately, some things were rather poorly handled with War Room. I believe one of the worst mistakes was how early PiP removed their support for iBodger, which hitherto had been the admirable de-facto Warmachine/Hordes list building application. While I completely agree that PiP had every right to follow that course of action (it is their Intellectual Property), I believe it was the first decision that really created animosity amongst the community. While War Room was quite exciting, it wouldn’t be out for some time (there were a few delays), and removing official support for the beloved iBodger irked many of their players. I also think the decision to state a firm release date was ill-founded, and I think sticking with a more vague window would have helped. Finally, while I will wait to see the final application to pass final judgement here, I really believe Privateer Press should provide the mercenaries deck with the purchase of any other Warmachine deck. While Mercenaries are their own playable faction, their inclusion in virtually every competitive Warmachine list suggests to me that any Khador, Retribution, Cygnar, Menoth or Cryx player footing the bill for their faction should get full access to models that will work for them. Perhaps this will be the case in the final release of the app, but their early answers state otherwise.
However, the most egregious error Privateer Press made was in issuing a front page announcement when War Room ‘went gold’ and was submitted for app store approval 2 days before its latest scheduled release date. Anyone remotely related to mobile app development could have told PiP that there was no way Apple (and perhaps Amazon) would approve that app in 2 weekend days. I knew immediately that the app would be late once more. However, since PiP made an official announcement, the forums exploded with anticipation, with some players checking app stores every 10 minutes. Nerd rage was eminent! I believe this was a novice mistake on the part of Privateer Press, and one they will not likely commit again. There are far more responsible ways to handle the timing of a mobile application’s release.
So here we, 5 days after the latest scheduled release date for War Room with no application. I am not angry about this; given the nature of the software development beast, it was inevitable. And I don’t think Privateer Press is a bad company because of it. I think they learned a valuable lesson about software development; especially with the way modern app stores operate. I am excited for War Room, although the deck prices are still leaving me hesitant as to what level I will embrace it. Either way though, the early story of War Room has certainly been exciting.