Games Workshop on the rise?

Most of you probably noticed the drastic change at Games Workshop in the last few month and it seems that their pace in this "conversion" is quite fast.

Still many people are irritated by the transition of Warhammer Fantasy into Age of Sigmar. You have any reason to be, if you're looking for mass combat with large regiments, Age of Sigmar won't be your choice. But remember what is one of the biggest problems in our hobby. The high barrier of entry. And this high barrier is a reason for many other systems to not succeed.

Age of Sigmar is much smaller than the old edition and more flexible towards the composition of armies. You are more likely to field a few miniatures that you enjoy, instead of grind-painting large regiments. If you wanted to field a shiny monster in the old editions, you had to build around that monster a horde of infantry. This is no longer required. This buy and play what you like approach motivates collectors to participate more and broader, as you have a more likely inner justification to buy that model, you would otherwise only own for the sake of it. Gamewise this might be on an entire other level of strategic sophistication, but that's not the topic here. Beer & Bretzel vs. combat simulation will be discussed some time else.

And then there are Sigmarines or Stormcast Eternals, basicly Fantasy Space Marines. Half of 40k is Space Marines, they are incredibly popular. Bringing them to Fantasy was a logic move. You got "cool", armoured guys, that can belong to different chapters (a broad variety from fluff or your own), are elite infantry and rather easy to paint.

Games Workshop - Marines!

That is what's going on on the Fantasy side. But what's up with the Sci-Fi? Well, 40.000 got things like Kill Team, that lowered the entry barrier as well. You have small, "chewable" portions of wargaming, easy to get into and they support these by a huge load of products. The new starter sets are getting smaller in size and thus cheaper, Kill Team is 50 Bucks and Storm of Sigmar even just 26 Euro. Remember what I wrote in "Oldhammer much?" about my first box, it was Blood Bowl as it was 50 DM cheaper than the others and a closed game for it self, favoring the decision in this direction. These boxes follow similar rules. But you have to keep in mind, nowadays there are far more distractions for people around and close to everything got faster and easier to reach. In times of casual gaming, 24hrs delivery and such, wargaming has to adapt as well.

Games Workshop - Kill Team Games Workshop - Storm of Sigmar

And these decisions lay the fundament for a lot of change in the business. In the last years, Games Workshop caused a lot of fluctuation, having wargamers looking elsewhere for their luck. A lot of companies and systems grew, but growth is something that you have to handle - and many don't scale or handle that well. With the competition tumbling over their now larger feet, Games Workshop started an interesting further development in the last few months.

Beside making it easier for new players to begin with gaming by the lower price entry level products, they extended their reach in a similar way Warlord Games and Mantic did it. Games Workshop teamed up with Revell and got into the model kit stores, and with their return to board games / "closed" miniature games, into toy stores. This gives them the reach, they had in the 90's with their cooperation with MB (Heroquest, Starquest, Battle Masters and so on...).  And this is a clever move.

Games Workshop - Warhammer World Games Workshop - Warhammer World Games Workshop - Warhammer World

So Games Workshop focusses on the (continuing flow of) new players. They did that more or less for the less decade. But now, they keep an keen eye on the "veterans", as satisfied customers are a solid source for revenue and free advertisement. What do I mean by this? Well, take a look at the products they are releasing in the last few month alone. We had this year products like Genestealer Cult (woohoo!), Blood Bowl (yeah, more or less woohoo!), a higher coverage on Blanche and Horus Heresy in plastic. If you were ever into Warhammer, at least one of these topics might be knocking on your door. Yes, these products are pricy, but if you remember them, you're probably old enough to afford them - even if it's just for nostalgia - and it is cheaper than the original stuff second hand.

But they are not stopping there, on social media Games Workshop is going full throttle and I have to say, it is fun to watch. They have a Youtube Channel, WarhammerTV, they don't just gloat about how awesome their produts are, but have a hugh amount of input there. The short painting tutorials are a really interesting thing, as they are easy to understand, you can squeeze on in easily as they are more or less a minute or two long and the product placement is bearable. And then, they combine these with actual activity on facebook and their recent Warhammer Community page. When i heard that for the first time, my first thought was, "oh boy, this is going to be a troll-fest". Like the last time GW did a board / "online community", it became rather fast a pit for price discussion and complaints. And controlling as well as managing a place like that is difficult and costly. But with the new community page, they are even "leaking" infos on upcoming releases, in a controlled but very appealing way. A great decision from their side.

Warhammer TV Warhammer TV Warhammer TV

They even seem to have changed a few things in their employees handbook as the last few visits in a store were less pushing / aggressive, than the years before. So that was a good decision, as there is next to nothing more annoying than such behaviour in trade. In addition, they got more customer focused - but in a good way. Some of the things are rather harsh, like the limited space marine stuff that was sold for crazy prices a few days later, but nice things like a Space Marine pin or the Blood Bowl merchandise they gave the stores to promote the game, is just awesome (flags, pins, even match tickets). They have no ingame value, but are a lovely piece for every collector.

Warhammer World - Rhino

In summary, I like the direction they are heading. It is nice to see, that the company is evolving and adapting. Some of the new products appeal to me and their behaviour / way of doing things is way less "dick-ish" than in some of the past years, so I feel more likely to spend money on their goods. I know I am not alone with this, others, like Tabletop Minions took the time to explain his thoughts on these developments as well. How do you cope with these changes? Did you noticed them? What did you like most? What could they do better?

Posted by Dennis B.

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  1. That’s an interesting review and these changes are reflecting the same changes happening in the wider wargaming community. There is a move away from massed Napoleonic Infantry to smaller skirmish based games which is proving more accessible to new players. If it means we are getting new blood into our hobby that can not be a bad thing.

  2. I think the surge of highly popular miniature-heavy boardgames (the likes of Descent/Cyclades/Kemet/Battlelore/Blood Rage etc..) is also contributing to a new popularity in tabletop gaming, because it bridges the gap between the huge and growing boardgaming market and wargaming. Also, the classical RTS genre that drew stategically minded players towards the PC is at an all time low these days. Many factors, but it’s great to see that GW finally does things right, even though I wont start AoS any time soon. Because as Atom Smasher put it the other day: A tide raises all boats.

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