Scent of a Gamer

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Can Warhammer be saved? Should Warhammer be saved?

To anyone with eyes, the game of Warhammer is in trouble. It is now in long-term decline with no end in sight to the current trend. The evidence is there whether in GW’s own financial reports, or through divining sales elsewhere. At this point you have to be wilfully blind to be unaware of the situation. If this financial direction is to be changed then the game as it is now cannot continue.

This article is not a commentary on the current rumours, more a musing on what the way forward for Warhammer might look like.

Is there a kernel of Warhammer that could be preserved? Could a new game rise from the bloated carcass of the last one? These questions are really asking whether there is anything of value in the fantasy generica that is Warhammer. I think there is. Being generic is a weakness and a strength. People don’t have to be familiar with Warhammer to know what the elves, undead, dwarfs, and orcs are or do. Dwarfs and Orcs in particular are often people’s first army, and this is no coincidence. Having something generically fantasy gives any fantasy fans a hook to get them into the game.

The question then becomes how? What are the actions available to Games Workshop in this hour of wolves and shattered shields?

I see three options:

1. The Privateer Press option: Combine what is now Warhammer Fantasy Battles and Warhammer 40,000 into one game, called Warhammer. This would take surprisingly little tweaking since the rules are already very similar yet currently incompatible. This would also involve culling the fantasy armies back, for practical reasons if nothing else. When even Games Workshop’s own stores can’t carry their current lines, the bloat needs to be reduced.

Pro: One strong brand to unite them all

Cons: …some corporate efforts will need to be made to get this unity to work, at least for a year or two

2. The flamethrower option: just end the game now. It isn’t working. Keep Warhammer 40,000 as is, and let the fantasy side die out.

Pro: throwing good money after bad is rarely a good strategy, and moulds and plastic tooling cost the same whether it is a new unit of high elf weeblespears, or space marines with a new hat, and the latter will sell far more.

Cons: That’s a lot of market space to concede.

3. Reduce, rebuild, re-energise: Trim Warhammer Fantasy back to maybe five armies, and a sixth that crosses through the others in the fashion of the old ‘Dogs of War’ book, as a way to keeping some of the better sellers in unpopular armies around. Build up a new setting for Warhammer battles to take place and work to bring existing players along while attracting lapsed players back into the game.

Pro: Business as usual, just slightly different

Cons: Minimal change of direction probably means minimal change in financial outcome.

There is no option for continuing as though nothing were wrong.

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10 comments on “Can Warhammer be saved? Should Warhammer be saved?

  1. Ruins of Arotha
    January 25, 2015

    Well, seeing the way the game is going through rumours etc, it kinda looks like the third option is in-fact being implemented by them. Unfortunately, the game already wasn’t mega popular, definitely not as popular as Warhammer: Space Marines (40k to the rest of us) and with the price hikes growing ever increasingly larger…it’s doomed basically.

    From what I can tell, all the armies are being condensed, although to what end? I’m not entirely sure how it can save the game from GW’s perspective? I know this is a song that’s been sung for a good 10 years, but I personally think in order to save revenue for both games, not just WHFB, the prices need to be reduced. It’s now become impossible for new players to be able to start the hobby realistically without having to throw a good hundred+ pounds at the game. When you think to start an army you need a codex/army book, a couple of squads to start you off, paints, a rulebook, preferably a gaming mat or board plus terrain (although that’s optional)…well, my point is made. Reduce the prices and WHFB can be saved, as can the slowly declining sales from 40k too.

    • davekay
      January 26, 2015

      I agree, part of getting more people into Warhammer has to be reducing the cost a point of entry as much as possible.

      • Ruins of Arotha
        January 27, 2015

        I saw something quite interesting not too long ago on Miniwargaming’s youtube channel, where Matt was talking about the business side of the company and their financial reports. Basically, to break it down, he said that while GW as a company have managed to make roughly as much as they did the previous few years, their actual sales had decreased by 50%, meaning that the only way they’re staying afloat was to effectively double the prices of their ranges. While this means they stayed out of trouble financially, they only sold half as many units, meaning they’d lost 50% of their customer-base/revenue in a very short space of time. As a public company they have to release their bi-yearly financial reports (something like that, I’m unsure on the terminology etc)

        If I can find the vid I’ll link it, might have to do some digging.

  2. Azazel
    January 25, 2015

    The funny thing is that at this stage I no longer care much. It’ll be a shame that many of their very kits disappear, but only because I occasionally buy them for other games. Sadly everyone else has followed GW’s prices up, usually without following their sculpt quality. Like RoA above, I can’t see anything pulling them out of this slow death spiral at this point. They won’t ever reduce prices, so they’re simply circling the drain until the go under or are (hopefully) bought out. Hopefully by someone like Hasbro who can keep the IP together and provide some real oversight to their management (or a nice purge) rather than having it stripped apart and sold off piecemeal.

    • davekay
      January 26, 2015

      I also don’t care much about Warhammer, which is why this is written from a market perspective rather than a game perspective. Clearly if GW genuinely want to change their direction they must change their behaviour.

      • Azazel
        January 31, 2015

        You’re right in that. I just can;t see them having the will do to so. Even if the most outlandish of the current rumours comes to pass (WHFB being a skirmish game scaling up to a mass battle game) I can’t see them doing it well enough to recover. Rather, I see them screwing that up as well with their pricing model.
        Witness:
        http://www.games-workshop.com/en-AU/The-White-Council

  3. Von
    January 25, 2015

    Instinct says 2 – you’ve screwed the pooch hard enough, now take ‘im round the back and do the right thing.

    Sense says 3 – the game might be salvageable in the medium term through consolidation and merging until it’s in the same sort of state it was when Kirby took over. Some decisions – the fragmenting of Chaos into three armies and Undead into two – are easily reversable. Others – issues like the cat being out of the bag in terms of big kits and whacking great units and alienating players through discontinuations – are not going to be reversible without doing further damage to goodwill.

    • davekay
      January 26, 2015

      3 would be okay, as long as it comes with serious outreach and some easy points of entry to get players to start or return.

      • Von
        January 27, 2015

        Mmm. It’s going to have to be very well managed to get past people who feel that ‘their army’ is no longer what it used to be in some way.

      • Azazel
        January 31, 2015

        If they go the route of discontinuation, then Mantic would do very well to have army lists ready and waiting for Wood Elves and Brettonia, and Skaven, and…

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This entry was posted on January 25, 2015 by in Industry, Miniatures, Tabletop and tagged , , , , .
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