Scent of a Gamer

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Why Warhammer had to go

In mid-2015 Warhammer, a miniatures wargame that had been going for 25 years, ended. The company that owns Warhammer, Games Workshop, took the game, threw it out, and replaced it with a different title with a vastly different setting.

The question of whether this was the correct decision is one I can only answer with “too soon to tell,” but there were certainly reasons behind Warhammer’s demise.

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It wasn’t selling

This is the big one. Despite its longevity, the game was simply not doing well. Other games were drawing audiences in; Warhammer was busy driving them away. The game tottered for years, but the 8th edition saw sales sink to levels where the company simply couldn’t justify the resources that supporting the game required.

Turning this around may have been possible, but none of their efforts were achieving this effect.

It was too generic

Warhammer Fantasy battles had all the fantasy archetypes. Noble arrogant elves, Arthurian knights in armour, roving bands of orcs, tunnels filled with goblins, and anything else you care to name. The problem with ‘borrowing’ from other sources, in many cases heavily, is that it becomes difficult to create and protect a recognisable IP (Intellectual Property) of your own. In this day of IP protection and exploitation, Games Workshop weren’t in the business of creating demand for other companies to fill with more competitive offerings. If the company wanted to fix its falling sales and move forward, it had to produce lines of miniatures that players could only obtain from them.

The Warhammer setting was not giving them the ability to do this.

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It couldn’t go anywhere

Warhammer was set in the Old World, and ultimately the setting was fixed. The various nation states and races were known as were their allegiances. Catastrophic events weren’t about to be represented through the game. Allow the destruction of Athel Loren, and your Wood Elf players will simply walk away. Since they couldn’t change the setting, they had to change the setting.

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Right or wrong, it is done

What do you think? Were you a Warhammer player who walked away long ago? Or did you watch is despair as your beloved setting went down in flames? Was it inevitable and a long overdue refresh of fantasy wargaming, or did GW make a terrible mistake?

Counterpoint

For another view, read the companion article: Why Warhammer should have stayed.

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11 comments on “Why Warhammer had to go

  1. imperialrebelork
    September 18, 2016

    A good read mate. I was probably one of the very few who was just starting to get into it when they took it away. I was bitterly disappointed as I had some grand plans for conversions. I managed to pick up some Bretonnians, flagellants and empire before it was all extinct.

    • davekay
      September 18, 2016

      The only consolation is that at least it happened before you could get in too deep!

      • imperialrebelork
        September 19, 2016

        That’s looking at it very positively hehe. Thanks man.

    • Ann
      January 30, 2017

      I almost got into lizardmen about 18 months before it went away. The thing that dissuaded me, despite really liking the mini’s, was at the time there wasn’t much interest in Fantasy, and the couple of players, who played on a regular basis, fielded totally unpainted armies, which they weren’t ever going to paint, so I stuck with 40K.

      • imperialrebelork
        January 30, 2017

        I rarely play so for me it’s all about the conversions and model making. I’m also, often, behind the times haha.

  2. Azazel
    September 18, 2016

    While I agree with your first posit, I think the biggest sales issue was simply that of price. Naturally, 40k was always going to outsell fantasy, but as the prices for 40k increased while the models per box continued to shrink, the need for price and model parity between the two games eventually sunk WHFB.

    On the other two, I actually disagree. It was only when the prices went to insanotown that the generic nature of the models – which is otherwise a strength of sorts – became a hinderance as you could buy more from elsewhere for less. The AoS focus is on 40k-sized units, and of course they encourage you to go big, but a unit of normal-sized infantry was never going to be a thing in a game of big blocks of infantry and cavalry, while it can work in AoS’ skirmish setting. Especially with the base sizes bumped up from 20mm or 25mm squares to 32mm rounds. (Fyreslayers say “Hi”)

    There was plenty of space and scope in the background for changes and additions, especially given that the majority of the game was centred on a small chunk of Western Europe with not much more than lip service given to the Americas, West Asia, North Africa or even the British Isles. Never mind SE Asia or Oceana.

    I say all this as someone who walked away from WHFB in finality during 5th edition (Herohammer), doesn’t mind AoS in terms of rules and models and goes with the ethos of “The Old World was flexible and unoriginal enough that I can fit the Sylvaneth and Fyreslayer models into my own version of it”. – As opposed to the typical butthurt grognard who has gone into “bitter ex” mode towards GW over it all.

    • davekay
      September 18, 2016

      I know what you mean, and I felt they could have fixed Warhammer by changing the prices and the products offered to make the game easier and affordable. All the price rises did was create a market for other companies which they have filled very well.

      Like you I’m more philosophical than emotive about the change. I noticed when thinking of for and against arguments that the argument in favour of the change are very market oriented, while arguments in favour of keeping the game are more gamer oriented.

      • Azazel
        September 22, 2016

        To a degree – though having both games (AoS and WHFB) supported would have used more resources and store shelf space, but avoided the alienation of a lot of players that Mantic and others (T9A and all of the companies supporting it like Shieldwolf, AoW, etc) – are readily scooping up. I guess as you said, GW decided that the percentage of players that they would lose came under “acceptable losses.”

      • davekay
        September 22, 2016

        I feel that ultimately GW aren’t prepared to sell miniatures in numbers that would support a fantasy massed battle game. Selling models in 3s and 10s doesn’t cut it when other companies are selling in boxes of 30-40. IMO They decided to change the game to suit the way they want to sell models rather than the other way round.

      • Azazel
        September 22, 2016

        Agreed there. They want to sell you 30-40 per unit in increments of 5 and 10.

  3. Pingback: Why Warhammer should have stayed | Scent of a Gamer

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This entry was posted on September 18, 2016 by in Industry, Miniatures, Tabletop and tagged , , .
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