Games Workshop is Dead! Long Live Games Workshop!

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Games Workshop is Dead! Long Live Games Workshop!

The venerable king of tabletop wargames posted record drops in profit last year, leading critics to loudly cry the death of the creator of crossover IPs Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy. Let's look at the facts.

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A complaint I often hear is that Tom Kirby knows the ship is sinking and is simply attempting to ensure a personal place on a lifeboat with as much money as he can gather from price hikes and employee cutbacks.

I have no desire to see Warhammer 40k end or GW go under, but if getting their asses kicked in the market is the only thing that'll wake them up, so be it. I'm not sure their pricing model is just keeping kids out of the game, it's driving away plenty of older players too. My household has two working adults, no children and no debt and I would say that I cannot afford Wahammer anymore. I bought an all new IG Army when their codex came out, and just the miniatures cost me over $700 US. Contrast that with my Ork army, which is equally hord-y, that I built back in the early 2000's and it cost me less than half of that amount. And the prices have only gone UP since I bought my IG.

When you've priced middle-aged working geeks with no kids and steady employment out of your product, I'm not sure who your market is anymore.

Wow, I didn't know Warhammer was so cheap in the US! That a Tac Squad, Rhino, and 5 paints would cost me $135 here. I can't imagine why anyone in Australia plays the game.

After dumping about $6000 USD on Warhammer 40k, I quit. I had a large scale Chaos army at that time, packed it away in storage and forgot I had it for a few years. A hurricane later and over 2/3 of the army was destroyed. I was mad. A few months afterward I moved in with a friend from work who happened to own a gaming store... Aaaand the wallet cried. I almost started up my 40k army again, then WarMachine came out. After that, fuck Games Workshop. Privateer Press all the way for me.

I don't know that I saw many people say 'I want Games Workshop to crash and burn right off the face of existence' (though maybe I didn't look hard enough), but what I did hear a lot of people say was 'I hope this (and 3d printing, and the import stuff) hurt them badly enough that they panic and have to change drastically'. And frankly, that's exactly what I'm hoping for too: that this is just enough to spook the investors and upper management into reeling in their disgusting business politics.

EDIT: forgot something I meant to say the 1st time about 3d printing: while the article is probably right about it not killing GW, it will absolutely put up competition that they will have to bow to or be left behind, and that is going to hurt their bottom line, even if it isn't lethal (Unless of course they choose not to compete, in which case it'll be a massacre). If that's a threat that can be bandied about to start getting them to try and buy every scrap of customer loyalty they can possibly afford before that happens, then again: awesome.

As critical as I seem, I'd like to point out that I do think this a great and thought-out article. My only criticism is it seems to be painting the scenario as a binary: 'GW will die or it won't die', whereas my prediction is it's going to wind up somewhere in the middle: still existing, but immensely smaller as a corporation

As soon as I saw the words Necron and College together, I realised I was dealing with a new*** (j/k).

As a giant neckbeard, I can only shake my head. It's your generation that paid the prices. When I decided to get back into it, I went via ebay. You can't really cry about people charging whatever people will pay if you are paying it.

The recent profit shortfall is all about the global recession, the new generation of consoles and their changes to internet and "back order" quotas for independent stockists, which is briefly touched upon on the third page. It's always been an expensive hobby. For anyone not living under a rock, 20 years ago 140 per week was a living wage. Now you'd be lucky to pay rent and buy food for that amount, so the market will certainly absorb slightly pricier toy soldiers.

I have actually worked in both retail and business analysis. There are many good articles about Games Workshop and their diminishing profits on the internet. I strongly recommend that people use google to find them.

Barbas:
A complaint I often hear is that Tom Kirby knows the ship is sinking and is simply attempting to ensure a personal place on a lifeboat with as much money as he can gather from price hikes and employee cutbacks.

If you look at recent board appointees, it appears that Mr Kirby may well intend to sell off GW to Hasbro or similar.

It's kind of funny, I don't think I've bought any games that GW directly puts out in ages.

Now, games using licensed IP's from them, like the Fantasy Flight offerings... that's the good stuff. Space Hulk: Death Angel, Chaos in the Old World, Blood Bowl: Team Manager, Warhammer: Diskwars, the RPG's, etc.

I can tell you my local GW is incredibly incompetent and greedy. I absolutely hate going. And let me say that the GW store is about 10 mins away from my apartment. The next nearest hobby store is roughly 45mins away. and i ALWAYS go there because I absolutely hate GW and their staff. For starters they have absolutely terrible hours, and are never open on weekends. I remember I wanted to buy a stompa from my friend who plays orks for Xmas. And they were never, ever open during the season.
Another thing I hate, and this may seem anecdotal, but I went to play a game with a friend at their tables. But I forgot my dice set and I asked the manager if I could borrow the studio set for the game. He laughed and said he'd sell me a set for $8. I told him no way and he asked me to leave the store because I wasn't going to buy anything. Actually asked me to leave.
Also I brought my brother there and he hasn't played since 4th edition and I wanted to show him the new stuff. I asked the clerk if there was a studio army, or at least a play set we could run a quick match. Like for example they had that Dark Angel / Chaos Marine set all assembled and painted on the table. I asked if we could run a few scenarios. He said "No and don't touch those miniatures! Those are for display only!"
Maybe this is not the experience most people have at their local GW, but I see a drop in sales as karma.

But also, its obvious why they're jacking up the price of everything. I too remember when I could get a Chaos Rhino, a chaos squad and can of black spray paint for probably $60, Chaos guys costing a bit more on average. But those are gone and they're not coming back. GW has made a cynical bet that we, the gamers/hobbiest will let them raise their prices. The bull will bear and all that happy crap. What are you going to do? NOT by more Space Marines? Not play anymore? Give up on a hobby that so many of us adore hopelessly? Let you, lets be real here, hundreds of dollars worth of plastic and pewter toys sit on a shelf, collecting dust, only for you to forlornly cast a glance their way and wonder where everything went wrong.
Its been wrong for a very long time. Remember when it was a big deal a tactical squad broke $40?! Now its almost $50! When I started playing $50 was enough for a land raider. Now land raiders are almost as expensive as their forge world counterparts.

It's really hard liking a product made by such a blatantly shitty company.

I've never played a GW game in my life, but reading that article makes me think they certainly deserve to burn. Hell, the whole thing comes off as a letter from an abused lover. Dump their asses; go out into the world and find someone new!

Hey, that's capitalism. If your corporation isn't constantly growing and turning higher and higher profits, then they are dying.

amaranth_dru:
After dumping about $6000 USD on Warhammer 40k, I quit.

I figure I'd paid about $3,000 USD into my 2nd edition Ork army. Was centered around two Shokk Attak Guns, which required a unit of Boarboyz and a unit of Bikerboyz to allow the second Mekboy. Got it assembled and half-way painted when 3rd edition rules were released. The edition that completely homogenized all the armies and removed Shokk Attak Guns entirely.

I tried making a Space Marine army in 3rd. Then a Chaos Cultist army in 4th. But by the time I got the figures together, they would change the rules and completely invalidate my build.

THAT is why I stopped playing 40k.

I did go check out the latest edition end of last year. The rulebook was about $80 USD. I've paid less for college textbooks.

I do still enjoy the novels from the Black Library though. The pricing on their fiction is reasonable, so Dan Abnett has a spot on my bookshelf.

And I have picked up a few GW-licensed games from Steam (Blood Bowl, Dawn of War II, Space Hulk).

If Games Workshop were to close all their retail stores and get out of tabletop gaming entirely, I wouldn't care.

I remember looking at making a Tau army one time and figuring out it was going to cost me 700 dollars, without paints. Nope'd right on out of that decision. Ended up playing Dust Tactics for my table top gaming fix, the most expensive unit in that game right now I could get would cost 28 dollars without shipping, and that's for a pretty big walker.

The prices are unholy. The ethics of the company questionable. But this :

Robert Rath:
Either way, that has a consequence in terms of time. Play a troop-heavy army like infantry-based Guard or swarming Tyranids and it's not unthinkable to take a 45-minute turn. Finishing a game in four hours feels like an accomplishment..

This. The system itself doesn't get enough attention. The glacial pace of the thing says to me that the system is broken. Or, if not broken, can surely be done better by someone else.

I dig the setting. I love the fluff. I like the idea of the scope of the thing. I enjoyed painting! I would be sad to see it all go away.

But the whole damn thing needs to be rehauled with an eye to speed.

When I played, late 80s early 90s (he said, stroking his grognardian neck beard), that was fine because it was a relatively new system. In the intervening _decades_ it should've evolved into something faster. Especially if it's not getting cheaper.

Robert Rath:
What's sad about this is that Games Workshop has published several excellent skirmish games in the past - Necromunda and Mordheim in particular - that provided a lower-cost, faster-playing alternative that also served as an entry point to the hobby. If they wanted to walk that road again, it wouldn't fix things in the long term, but it'd be a start.

I'd like to underscore this great suggestion. I loved Mordheim to pieces. The scale of it was perfectly matched to the scope of its story (competing warbands scavenging a devestated city for Warp McGuffins) and the games were frickin' lightning round fast compared to WH40k battles.

Quasi-related anecdote : I'm a huge DoW fan. After one particularly great game with friends I tried totting up how much the units would've cost me. I still giggle about this from time to time, as though I'd pulled some massive heist from the GW coffers themselves.

One thing that wasn't mentioned in the article is that massive drop in sales for Fantasy Battle models, especially in America and Australia, where GW were trying to make gains. Sales of WFB also fell in Europe and the UK, but not to the extent in America.

It's a crying shame, I always found WFB more interesting than 40k, with all the races being treated equal, unlike in 40k where space marines kill everything and the Eldar and SoB get munched.

MinionJoe:
Hey, that's capitalism. If your corporation isn't constantly growing and turning higher and higher profits, then they are dying.

amaranth_dru:
After dumping about $6000 USD on Warhammer 40k, I quit.

I figure I'd paid about $3,000 USD into my 2nd edition Ork army. Was centered around two Shokk Attak Guns, which required a unit of Boarboyz and a unit of Bikerboyz to allow the second Mekboy. Got it assembled and half-way painted when 3rd edition rules were released. The edition that completely homogenized all the armies and removed Shokk Attak Guns entirely.

I tried making a Space Marine army in 3rd. Then a Chaos Cultist army in 4th. But by the time I got the figures together, they would change the rules and completely invalidate my build.

THAT is why I stopped playing 40k.

I did go check out the latest edition end of last year. The rulebook was about $80 USD. I've paid less for college textbooks.

I do still enjoy the novels from the Black Library though. The pricing on their fiction is reasonable, so Dan Abnett has a spot on my bookshelf.

And I have picked up a few GW-licensed games from Steam (Blood Bowl, Dawn of War II, Space Hulk).

If Games Workshop were to close all their retail stores and get out of tabletop gaming entirely, I wouldn't care.

I forget to factor in all the supplemental books and other materials besides the paint and figures. I think that bumps it up over $8,000 or so. I loved my 40k days, don't get me wrong. I just realized later how much I actually paid to play that game and feel it was quite a stupid investment. At least when I quit Magic: The Gathering, selling the cards made me most of that money back. The 40k pieces were destroyed so I never got to attempt selling them.

It's certainly not looking good for the long term. First post made a good point, I've got a relative with contacts inside GW and the word has been that the Overlord is just riding this train off a cliff and planning on making out like a bandit at the last moment. If I remember right, it was a few years back when the Lord of the Rings license was about to run out, and the stocks were dropping hard. Kirby bought them all up during the panic and then made off with most of the company. I can't remember the details, but I believe he withheld information or something along those lines. The guy isn't stupid.

They're probably seeing the future hurtling towards them and know long term viability just isn't gonna be an option. Video games, the internet, longer work hours, shrinking economy, 3D printing etc etc. There are more ways to amuse yourself for cheap these days and people need to tighten their wallets. 40k and WH Fantasy's settings are looking a little dated these days as well.
They had a real tongue and cheek tone to them years ago, and had a rebellious edge with the anti-religious themes to them. Now that's not even old hat, it's just beating a long long dead horse into the dirt.

Going forward, I'm guessing they're just planning on dropping the idea of getting new players all together and just plan to milk their addicted consumer base for all they're worth until the ship sinks and Kirby can dump all his stocks and go run off to retire on some tropical island. If it does have a future, I'm assuming it will be in either Chinese bootleg imports or selling the IP to make movies/games.

Edit: I forgot to mention the treatment the managers have been getting. Anyone else aware of the "BIIIIIIIG MOONNEEEYYY!!!!" sales training meetings?

My poison of choice was always Battlefleet Gothic, I liked 40k well enough but BFG was my favourite game by GW.

Naturally they dropped all support for it.

I stopped playing Warhammer due to the insane turn lengths and the frankly insulting prices, I play the odd game of Warmachine now and I've got a new toy spaceship game with models easily as nice as BFG and half the price. My complete fleet will probably run me 200.

3d printing is going to put a major dent in the minis market. No more looking through thousands of boxes for your mace/bastard sword dual wielding half elf with shoulder length hair and a hawk companion. You can now make and print your own!

These articles are why I LOVE The Escapist.
I hate that games workshop has been trying to squeeze my wallet, and it's one of the big reasons I've picked up magic the gathering and am looking into MMO's (I can play eve online/WOW/elder scrolls online/etc for years for the price of an army)
but I still hold warhammer close to my heart. I love the game, but hate the environment.
This article clearly is well done and looks at the issues of GW. but comes from a place of enjoyment.

Keep up the good work.

EDIT:
Yeah so I didn't really notice the game lengths until you mentioned it. I remember playing a game of 6th edition and it just draaaaaagged on. we took 4 hours. 4 hours! war I used to play 2500 point WARHAMMER FANTASY games in less time.

EDIT:
I think 3D printing will be less problematic than you think.

I for example do not have any desire to digitally sculpt a min then just print it out...
I'll probably still be the person that buys minis and kit bashes. or hand sculpt.

and I know there are a lot of people like that.

Canadish:
Edit: I forgot to mention the treatment the managers have been getting. Anyone else aware of the "BIIIIIIIG MOONNEEEYYY!!!!" sales training meetings?

I haven't heard any details...

amaranth_dru:
The 40k pieces were destroyed so I never got to attempt selling them.

If it's any consolation, used 40K armies don't seem to sell for much unless they're professionally painted.

If I were to get back into 40k, I'd probably check E-bay for used figs and invest in some plastic-safe paint stripper (carburetor cleaner works really well). But yeah, the books alone would set me back hundreds of dollars.

Still, mother nature is a bitch. Sorry for your loss. :/

ForumSafari:
My poison of choice was always Battlefleet Gothic, I liked 40k well enough but BFG was my favourite game by GW.

Naturally they dropped all support for it.

I stopped playing Warhammer due to the insane turn lengths and the frankly insulting prices, I play the odd game of Warmachine now and I've got a new toy spaceship game with models easily as nice as BFG and half the price. My complete fleet will probably run me 200.

I, too loved BFG. Was gutted when they dropped all support. I get my toy spaceship fix with Firestorm Armada these days. In fact, Spartan Games (The makers of Firestorm amongst some other games) have pretty much replaced GW in my tabletop wargaming life.

I wish they'd remake the old Space Crusade board game. That and Hero Quest are the reasons I got into the hobby and the background and spent hundreds of pounds on Tyranids and Orks. The GW skirmish games were great entry points into the hobby. I saw more than one kid use Necromunda Gangers as Chaos\Genestealer cultists. Hell, I saw people use the Space Marine squads from Space Crusade as tooled-up Veteran Squads.

I think GW will be around for a while longer, although I am a bit of a jaded fan I don't really want to see them burn. I don't play the games or buy the minis anymore, but I do still like GW paints and brushes. Also, I kinda always felt bad for the store staff. Running a store on your own can't be fun.

Well it was pretty obvious games workshop wouldn't die because 1/1000 of its money dropped (Price joke)
Also on the topic of prices, can we complain about something else for once? Such as the lack of a sisters or ork update?
(Even though $50 for tetto'eko is outrageous)

Weaver:
Wow, I didn't know Warhammer was so cheap in the US! That a Tac Squad, Rhino, and 5 paints would cost me $135 here. I can't imagine why anyone in Australia plays the game.

It's been pretty fantastic for my local non-Games Workshop games store, which has been massively pushing Warmachine. A battlebox will cost you less than half what buying that unit combination in 40k will. Literally every 40k player I know has moved into the world of steampunk robots and giant monsters as a result.

Atomic Spy Crab:
$50 for tetto'eko is outrageous

It's a bad deal, but I usually don't care much about how expensive a special character it. It's things that I want to use a lot like commissars that are a problem. $110 Aus for 5 Commissars

dubious_wolf:

I think 3D printing will be less problematic than you think.

I for example do not have any desire to digitally sculpt a min then just print it out...
I'll probably still be the person that buys minis and kit bashes. or hand sculpt.

and I know there are a lot of people like that.

Projects like Hero Forge don't involves sculpting it involves customizing a character with the gear you want, they have a program from flicking between options till you get what you want. I wonder how much GW will charge if they let people order in commanders without any weapons aside form the ones you ordered.

Re: 3D Printing

Last I knew, players in official Games Workshop tournaments could not use any figure or vehicle that was not at least 75% Games Workshop material. Therefore, anyone wanting to participate in sponsored events would not be able to use 3D printed miniatures.

Unofficially... Well, let's just say Micromark has a really good resin casting kit that I've ordered twice in the past 10 years and I needed to stretch my Battlefleet Gothic figures as far as possible.

Azahul:

It's been pretty fantastic for my local non-Games Workshop games store, which has been massively pushing Warmachine. A battlebox will cost you less than half what buying that unit combination in 40k will. Literally every 40k player I know has moved into the world of steampunk robots and giant monsters as a result.

My local store is a mix. Warmachine/Hordes gained a LOT of popularity when it was first released, both with the store and the players. Privateer Press didn't have the bullshit order/retail space restrictions like Games Workshop had and the figures were comparable to GWs but were less than 1/2 the price.

My only complaint about Warmachine is the recent switch to plastic figures. Their whole selling point initially was that their figures were METAL and AFFORDABLE. Then again, their "Play like you got a pair" slogan was a bit ahem.

Atomic Spy Crab:
Well it was pretty obvious games workshop wouldn't die because 1/1000 of its money dropped (Price joke)
Also on the topic of prices, can we complain about something else for once? Such as the lack of a sisters or ork update?
(Even though $50 for tetto'eko is outrageous)

I stopped playing due to lack of support for Orks. I would get seriously ruined by all these other players armies having all this stuff I don't know about and wrecking my shit with it. The prices over here are awful too, around $80-90 (That's NZD) for a pack of just 10 Space Marines? It's a complete rip off.

Aedwynn:

I, too loved BFG. Was gutted when they dropped all support. I get my toy spaceship fix with Firestorm Armada these days. In fact, Spartan Games (The makers of Firestorm amongst some other games) have pretty much replaced GW in my tabletop wargaming life.

Same, I'm currently painting up the starter set and I've tossed a squadron of Murmillos and a Falchion carrier in as well. The Dindrenzi aesthetic is gorgeous but eventually I want one of most of the patrol fleets, the models are insanely good and very well priced. Also gotta love sword shaped ships named after gladiator classes.

I wish they'd remake the old Space Crusade board game. That and Hero Quest are the reasons I got into the hobby and the background and spent hundreds of pounds on Tyranids and Orks.

Hah same here, I loved Heroquest.

Running a store on your own can't be fun.

No they always look run ragged, bet they really hate their job by the end of the week. I used to staff an offie solo and that was no fun, at least there I could read.

The cost for the mass produced plastic figurines has soundly kept me out of this game. I can easily pay the $40+ to buy entire boardgames that my friends play for hours on end over and over again but for figurines I put on a map? Not happening. I remember the first time I got Warhammer starter pack for a steal ($50) and took it home and opened it up but realised it was just figurines and little to nothing else. I sold it right back and bought the comics I would have purchases instead. What a scam. Yeah, the game is fun and it's neat to be able to paint and customize them. But holy hell is it cheap to make those but expensive to buy. Now with the number of high quality boardgames out there that are cheaper than warhammer products, I'm not sure I'd even start playing this when 3D printing becomes a viable household product. I suppose it's close from what I've read.

As for right now, making custom models for cheap seems to be working just fine. Even if every home doesn't have a 3D printer or casting set, someone you know does and is willing to make you a set for much cheaper. The laws of supply and demand is a heartless bitch when the everyman can create the supply side of the equation.

I do not play the game. I buy the books, buy occasional videogames, and am interested in the backstory, because its pretty fun sci fi.

I went to a store in california, and there was nothing for me. No books to speak of, no aquilla stickers, nothing but long tables and the plastic miniatures and painting supplies.

I don't know how much of the business model I represent, relative to the miniatures, but I felt that paying zero attention to it was a major mistake.

Symbio Joe:

Robert Rath:
has continually improved their methods

Finecast.

Yeah, that was a rather key omission that together with other omissions puts this article a bit below the well-researched quality of Rath's usual work. Maybe he was up against a deadline.

Finecast was a severe debacle for GW. It's over now in the sense that rumor has it they're no longer releasing anything in Finecast, but the fact that they had to essentially invent a new kind of putty in order to deal with their own embarassing QC on the Finecast line has hurt their reputation considerably.

The fact is, GW is no longer what I would call "fine quality miniatures". They were in the late 90s, early 2000s maybe. But the market has evolved, and GW has mostly doubled down on their own aesthetic, which is looking increasingly dated. Games like Infinity and miniature companies like Red Box Games offer far higher quality, better-proportioned miniatures at a fraction of the GW price.

Now GW is trying to play the plastics game, convincing people that because plastic figures are easier to assemble and easier to customize, that they're better than metal. But what I find is that since plastic figures aren't often conceptualized as a finished product if they're designed to be modular, then they generally result in finished products that have no sense of motion. Compare the Space Marine Vanguard Veteran squad with Nomad Hellcats. The GW product looks chunky and oddly static for figures who are supposed to be rapid assault drop troops, while the Hellcats not only look more correctly proportioned, they appear to move the way an actual human being would. Rather than having a bunch of random accessories tacked on, the flat spaces are broken up with believable sci-fi combat equipment. And key here, while the Infinity guys are not actually cheaper per figure, they are far, far cheaper per army.

THE TERRIFYING NECRON MENACE OF 3D PRINTING
One day soon, 3D printing is going to wipe Games Workshop off the map. In that golden future, we'll print ready-made miniatures at home, copy Space Marines ad infinitum, babies will weep only diamonds and no one will ever fail an armor save.

At least that's what some disgruntled fans say.

I don't buy it. Look guys, GW execs don't have cotton balls stuffed in their ears. They know all about 3D printing and the Hero Forge Kickstarter. They realize 3D printing could be a business threat. But here's the thing - they could easily launch their own web UI that lets you design and print a custom Space Marine Captain. It wouldn't surprise me if GW's experimenting with it right now, and because they're GW, they'll buy the best printers and find out how to make the best 3D printed models in the business. Say what you will about their policies, but GW has been making high-quality miniatures for three decades and has continually improved their methods and technology. There's no way they'll let a cheaper, more versatile production method undercut their product.

This, right here. I agree wholeheartedly with the writer - GW would be at least preparing for the oncoming of 3D Printers. Not to mention the same system is being experimented with in the Hero Forge Kickstarter, and previously the Proxy War and ArcanEngine, it's spiritual predecessors.

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