From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.
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.